Single Father Manifesto: I’ll Never Stop Pursuing You

Single Father Manifesto: I’ll Never Stop Pursuing You

I lost the divorce. Of course, it was a collaborative divorce, so there was no fight. But in the end, when the state and my ex-wife had their way I was awarded the dad package: 1. Standard Possession Order; 2. Non-custodial parent (very important in the Attorney General’s world); 3. Large post-tax child support payment; 4. Loss of household.

What I really lost, was 70% of my time with my kids. Today, that is more like 95% of my time. As teenagers, they have chosen to stop the alternating weekend swap in favor of “dad on demand.” But that’s entirely up to me. I get it, teenagers are busy. And separation is part of the maturation process. But my ex-wife, still sees our kids every morning, before school, and every night, before bed. It’s not fair. But fairness never was part of the deal in the divorce. Collaborate if you like, but if you want to be more than a 30% dad, you’re going to have to fight for your full percentage in court.

I didn’t want to fight. I was devastated by the divorce and my loss of everything I held sacred. While my ex-wife and kids carried on in the house as if I were just on a long business trip, I was tossed into the void to find shelter and more income to cover the 2nd place. What my then-wife lost: two weekends a month she got a break from being a parent. It was like mini-vacations for her. And it sort of became like mini-trips for my kids. It’s not easy. But as a non-custodial dad, you’re going to be spending the majority of your time alone.

For me, that was the biggest hardship. I always imagined tucking my kids into bed until they left for college. I always imagined that I would be there for their first dates, their homecoming and prom nights, and all the other family holidays and milestones that happen along the path of a families life. Except, I have not been invited to participate in most of these events. Sure, when the kids were younger it was more of a courtesy for my ex-wife to include me in their lives. As they have grown older, she has revoked the parenting plan in favor of “doing whatever she wants.” She no longer consults me on parenting issues. She is no longer interested in meeting with me to discuss parenting strategies. She’s got her money, she’s got her kids, and she’s now remarried. I’m less of a consideration in her life. It’s too bad. The kids could use the balance of both parents in their lives.

So, as the single father of teens, I struggle to maintain a relationship with kids who have other priorities in their lives. But my pursuit is relentless. I will never give up striving for that continued connection with my kids. And as they grow older, I’m hopeful their father will again become an important comfort in their lives.

Today, I invite them to dinners. I take them on trips when I can afford it. And I ask for any other way I can connect with them. With my son, it’s music, cars, and computers. With my daughter, it’s breakfasts, transportation (she’s getting her driver’s license in three weeks) and visits with my Boston Terrier puppy. That’s what I’ve got.

I’m still the single dad on the outside of the primary family unit. I drop them off at the house that I paid the down payment on over 20-years ago. Imagining we’d grow old with my then-wife, watching from the back porch as our kids grew and flew. My ex-wife got to keep that dream. She has had uninterrupted access to our kids the entire time. My experience, as a dad, has been very different. My connection as a parent has been severely limited by the lack of time I get to spend with my kids.

Again, I’m not whining. My kids are doing well. They seem well-adjusted and are kicking ass in their academics. Emotionally, I wish I had been able to have more proximity to them, to allow my joyful approach to life, to be more of an example for them. But, perhaps that’s just me, and sour grapes. As it stands, my ex-wife did fine as a divorced mom. And today, while she refuses to co-parent with me, she is still doing her best to support our two kids.

I can focus on my relationship with my kids. That’s all I’ve got. Worrying about my ex-wife or lamenting the past doesn’t do much for me or my children. As a positive single-dad, I have learned to keep my focus on them, and I am committed to pursuing that relationship in a positive way as long as any of us are alive.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Wow that was well written. I respect you on ignoring the sour grapes. Something is very wrong when the standard order almost certainly causes someone to lose, and lose not only in money, but with their children. All we can do is pick up the scraps of time we have with our kids and move on without them, although that’s easier said then done.

    1. Thank you, Kevin. That’s all we can do, is continued to move forward as the best parents we can be.

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