The moment you and your wife separate and move into separate homes will be the moment you’ll be faced with being a single father. Maybe a full-time single dad. Maybe a part-time single dad but a single father none-the-less. Since every family dynamic is different and every parent brings with them their own understanding of what it means to be a dad (single or not), I’m not going to profess to be an expert on your family. However, the joys of being a single father, after the initial and sometimes repetitive moments of “what have I done?” are many.
There’s this romance about separation and divorce.
For the most part, men know they don’t run their home the way their wives may have. They know the kids… especially the girls… side with their moms more. But there’s still this naive, sweet desire to share ice cream with your children. To take walks in the park or toss a ball with your sons and play with the dogs the way you used to. There are the nighttime rituals with your children you don’t want to give up. It’s a dream that, no matter what age, fathers want to indulge.
There’s also this confidence single dads have that they can parent with integrity and grit.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen and a lot of single dads have a tough time showing up once reality comes around. It usually has to do with a sick child, a temper tantrum, accident or meltdown. Sometimes it occurs when there’s a choice between working and parenting. It also disappears when a new woman shows up at the playground or school meeting. This is where feeding, tucking your children into bed and creating new rituals get tossed aside for the affection of an adult female companion.
As you step into being a single father, one of the perks is the undivided attention you and your kids get to share.
With the big change in your family, you get to create new things to do together that don’t mirror your old life. Then you get to decide altogether the things you want to continue doing. You also get to show them what a good man is… even if, especially if, you were the one who broke up the marriage. Unfortunately, that new woman you may want to date may be fun for you and your needs, but she isn’t fun for your kids.
The benefit of being a single dad is that you’re the one modeling for them what a good man is:
- Your girls need you to show up for them. They need you to be strong and steady and they’re going to be testing you over and over again. There’s a big opportunity to teach your children what a safe, solid guy feels like.
- Your boys need you to show up as a man worthy of their respect. They need you to show them how to be there for girls (their sisters) and how to do what needs to be done in the face of difficulty and novel moments. They’re watching you.
When a new woman comes on the scene, your children need to know they come first.
You’re rebuilding your trust with them.
Even if you were the innocent party in your separation and your kids know all the details. When you create a new home with them without their mom, there’s a negotiation happening. Trust between you and your brood is being re-established. After all, you’re the only parent with them now.
So it’s important to know that. Just like you perhaps, once the family is split up, kids don’t know what adults to trust in their life. If they’ve been living with the same lies you have (whether you told them or not) they will question everyone’s motive. They may pull in. Or they may develop habitual, physical ticks out of stress. Sometimes they may become more reclusive. We know of kids who began hanging out with the wrong crowd or become promiscuous. If you’re not present and in charge, they’re going to go somewhere else where they feel they can control the environment.
The opportunity to rise to the occasion as a single father helps you.
It helps you when you have to show up for them. Especially when you have to give them your undivided attention or when you have to comfort or guide them. There’s a joy in that responsibility if you stay focused on the prize. For a lot of women, it’s a turn on to watch a dad intently focused on his children instead of flirting with them. Your children will feel it too and learn to respect and appreciate you. You’ve got to love that!
The other benefit of being a single dad is the opportunities you get to offer your kids without the fighting inherent in an unhappy union. Dads are typically more adventurous than moms. And even when your daughter may not want to join you at the water park, you get to engage her senses in a way that draws her out of her girlie shell. You get to introduce her to a bigger world… as long as you show up as someone she can feel safe with. You’ve got to make her feel safe.
If you’ve weren’t able to step into your manhood with your wife, now is your chance!
This joy is all yours and teaches your kids what a safe, masculine man is like. That’s a gift every child needs (and wants). The safer your kids feel with you, the better they’ll behave. The more they’ll want to impress you and the more your girls will warm up to you in your new family arrangement.
Will there be the moments you won’t know how to braid her hair or manage his homework, sure! Of course, there will be. But the true joy of being a single dad is putting the fighting behind you so you can show up as the dad you’ve always wanted to be. Leave the new women to when they’re with their other parent!
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of The Better Divorce and doingDivorce™ School – online coaching programs for those ready to shed the pain of breakups. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com.