Nobody ever mentions the single dads but they’re out there. My kids have one.
They hardly mention the dads who became moms, or the dad who still sends his ex flowers from their kid on Mother’s Day, or the dad whose love for his kids is stronger than his bitterness towards his ex.
We see post after post on social media about single moms having a harder life than ours. We read about how good a job they’re doing teaching their sons not to be like their deadbeat fathers, and how strong they are for doing this on their own. We see posts entitled “Ten Reasons Single Moms Rock” that claim single moms often juggle everything with no time for themselves or work two jobs to make ends meet. Hats off to these moms.
I respect you because, as a “single mom” myself, I haven’t had to endure that. Which means my kids, who are the most important part of all this, haven’t either.
But what about the moms who are single, but are not alone? They’re not alone because the man they left may have been an unexceptional husband but is an exceptional father. For us, it feels weird to call ourselves “single moms” because we are technically single, but we’re not alone in raising our children.
We’re lucky. We may not say it enough, maybe some of us can’t see it through the bitterness and strain that comes from a divorce or breakup. As strange as it sounds, we’re lucky these are the men we started families with, even though we aren’t a family in the traditional sense.
What about the moms who divorced or left the men who are not-so-perfect husbands but are amazing fathers? The moms who share joint custody and only see their kids 50 percent of the time? It seems like we have it easy, and in some instances, we do.
We know that. We feel lucky, even though when we’re just getting back into a routine with our kids, it’s time for them to go again. It makes us sad that they’re being shuffled between houses, and we selfishly want to be with them 24/7. But we’re happy at the same time because they have a relationship with their dad. The relationship they should have and deserve to have with him.
We’re judged on how often our kids switch homes, but we ignore those judgments because we know how important it is for our kids to maintain a consistent relationship with their dad. It’s important because he is a genuinely great person, focused on making them the best they can possibly be, just as we are.
You single dads may feel stupid for treating an ex-partner well when many men don’t. But you’re not stupid. You’re amazing. It’s hard. It’s really hard. Some people feel that they need to cut all ties when moving out of a relationship, but you can’t do that when you are a parent. At least, not if you’re a good one.
To the ones that stay, I admire you. Thank you for setting an amazing example for your daughters and especially for your sons. Don’t be fooled, they notice how you treat their mother.
You’re awesome that you now feel guilty when there is tension between you and your ex, momentarily forgetting the agonizing tension between the two of you when you were together. You’re not realizing the chaos the boy in the house next door calls life. There, the mom and dad are screaming at each other while their little boy, who they think is sleeping, is in the next room listening. You feel guilty that you’re not in your kids lives 100 percent of the time, but you are in their lives 100 percent of the time, you just don’t realize it. You don’t realize that some fathers, who are physically there all the time, are hurting their children more than helping them by staying.
Hopefully, you’ll one day realize what a great job you’re doing. Just because you didn’t do a great job being married says nothing about how you parent. I promise you’ll one day realize how much what you’re doing affects your kids in a positive way. The way you act in front of them, the way you make decisions based on them and not on your feelings towards their mother, will trickle down and shape them into better people.
I can’t wait to watch these kids grow into wonderful men who treat women with respect and beautiful daughters who know that they’re deserving of respect. This is because of you.
It’s hard to remember this in the hard times. Even though you may have exchanged some hurtful words two days ago in a text message, you learn to let it go. For them. You learn to let go of the things she does that drive you nuts and remind you why you couldn’t be with her. But your kids will never notice because you treat her with nothing but respect when they’re around.
That’s not easy. There are reasons why you separated.
It’s not easy going to the park with your children as a single dad, knowing everyone there suspects you are letting mommy have some me-time. In reality, when the fun is over, you still have to bring them home, cook dinner, do potty time, and give baths, all while they’re tugging at your leg to play Spiderman.
Eventually, you realize that the fact you aren’t together anymore isn’t worth being angry over. Although it makes you sad that your family is no longer together, I hope you realize how happy you make your children when you drop them off and say hi to their mom instead of avoiding eye contact with her and slamming the door.
I know it makes you sad every single time you watch her walk away with them after a long weekend. It makes you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut, like you should be walking alongside them. But I hope you know how happy you make your children when they excitedly lose their first tooth, and you say, “I’ll send mommy a picture.” It’s amazing they aren’t afraid to speak about their mom with you when so many other kids are.
You can never know what that possibly means to them – knowing that you and their mom are still a team, that you still love them together, even though you may not love one another.
You deserve some recognition. You deserve to know that you are amazing.
I wish all fathers were like you. You make us better mothers, and you’re molding your kids into the kind of people this world needs most.
This article was previously published on the HuffingPost