single dad divorce

What I Imagined About the Coming Divorce: The Loss Was Worse

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Today, as my kids are teenagers, they have made the decision to live with their mom full-time. It’s okay. It makes their lives easier. Packing and shuttling to my house every-other-weekend was a pain. When the kids were younger, it was essential, it was all I could count on. As they are older, it is just the way it is. I have asked my daughter, a sophomore in high school if she’d like to have a room at my new house. She says, “No, it’s easier to just say at mom’s.”

What I could not have imagined, even as I grieved about the coming divorce, was how much of their lives I would miss. How many of the little things, Halloween nights, Homecoming Games, Prom Dates, that I would miss.

The Standard Possession Order is the package most dads are given in divorce. Every-other-weekend doesn’t sound so bad, right, it sounds somewhat balanced. Except for the weekdays. I have two Thursdays and two Fridays a month. Or I did when my kids were still switching. And my ex-wife got all the other weekdays. All of them. While there is a provision in the SPO for dads to get an entire month during the summer, I have never been able to take advantage of that option. What dads can afford to pick up 24/7 parenting for an entire month? It’s a provision that’s intended for dads who have to move away from their families for work.

So, I got about 30% of the time with my children, by default, by law, by the state of Texas. And in my case, by agreement. I had agreed to a cooperative divorce with my then-wife, to minimize the impact on the kids and the hurtful antagonism between us. I never fought. Today, I think I would’ve been better off going to court to ask for 50/50 parenting. I don’t care about the child support so much, though I do think it is unfair. What I wanted was more time with my kids. More time to be dad.

With teenagers, it’s different. Our relationships are a complicated mix of “do you need something from me?” and “how can I get to see you this week?” The parenting is at-will. I ask for dates and lunches, they agree when it fits their schedule. I get it. Being a teenager is a lot of work. My son is finishing up his college applications. (Applications I had ZERO input on.) He’s also getting a new/used car this week. (Another process I was completely left out of.) Kids do get to determine how they want to interact with you. But as their “not in the house” dad I get to see very little of them. Their mom gets to see them every morning and every night. This is not fair, but very little about divorce is fair.

What I wished is there was a way for divorce to start at 50/50, provided that’s what the parents want. And from there, we can negotiate child support and parenting schedules. As it stands, dads start at 30 – 70 and are handed a monthly support bill that, in my case, is equivalent to a $2,000 a month job.

Cooperative divorce was a convenient cover for my then-wife to get exactly what she wanted without firing a shot. We agreed. I signed the papers. And this is what I get. I’m excluded from a lot of my kids’ fantastic lives. I’ve missed the lion’s share of special events in their growing up. I knew this was coming when my wife asked for the divorce. I’d seen it with my parents. I saw very little of my dad, after the divorce. Of course, my dad was an alcoholic, so it was a desired effect of the split.

I agreed to be a part-time dad. I learned to focus on my own life and rebuilding my hobbies and passions outside of being a parent or a husband. It has been a difficult journey. I celebrate my kids when I can and as best I can, but a huge portion of their lives was given away when I agreed to less than 50/50 parenting.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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