While hardly an authority figure on much, I have experienced life as a divorced father for many years. Like any aspect of parenting there are no handbooks or manuals on divorce. I have, however, reached some conclusions based on my own experiences and those of people close to me.
1) You have to put your children first. This might seem obvious but there are plenty of divorced parents who sadly make everything about themselves, particularly with future life choices. I am blessed to have remarried a wonderful woman eight years ago but believe me, it was a package deal. She's an amazing step-mom (and mother of my two other children), though I like to say the only steps in our home lead to another floor.
2) Divorce is just a word. In other words, divorce is what you make of it. My former wife and I have what many might call a "model divorce." Some of the most gratifying moments early-on were teachers and counselors who said they wouldn't know we were divorced until we told them. If you decide to trash your former spouse and create drama around your kids that's exactly the "takeaway" the kids will have. I visited with an old friend recently who described his fear of commitment because "I never saw anything redeeming about my parents marriage, or their divorce."
3) You aren't alone, and neither are the kids. It's easy to feel isolated as an adult and critical to recognize the signs in your kids. It's o.k., and cathartic, to be vulnerable around them as a model for their behavior. Life is full of second acts and the ability to live in the moment can do wonders for kids.
4) The world sees divorced men differently than divorced women; deal with it. I believe in the notion that married men are presumed to be attentive, loving fathers until proven otherwise while divorced men are presumed to be deadbeats, absent and distant until proven otherwise. Divorce drama is "what the people want." A lack of drama won't sell newspapers or land me on a silly reality show.
5) Being a good father is a choice, regardless of your marital status. Our society is plagued by absent men who choose to abandon their children. I just caught "The Book of Manning" on ESPN; a film that is about fathers more than about football.
Every day is a new day; an opportunity to do things differently. Kids are resilient, especially with loving, supportive fathers.
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