I have a lot to say about single fatherhood, divorce, dating, and midlife realizations. I have written journals for years, but this is my first time sharing any of my feelings publicly. When it came down to deciding what would be my first post, I went with the first thing that came to mind: The challenges of dating as a single dad. In future posts I will write more about experiences I have had, the choices single parents make, and the significant impact it can all have on one's children.
At this stage of life, friendship and romance both hang in the balance of one's custody schedule. I enjoy the artistic expression of actor/comedian Louis CK. Part of what I like about him is that he's also a single dad, and I identify with much of what he portrays on his TV show. I think he's one of the funniest comics in the business. I imagine Louis and I could be great friends, and I'm sure many guys in my situation feel the same about him. But the point I want to make about custody schedules is that if Louis and I were actually friends we'd only be able to hang out if our custody schedules aligned. With friendship, not unlike dating as as single dad, you might as well be living on opposite ends of the country if the custody schedules don't line up.
I've been a dad for 11 years, and a single dad for almost seven of them. Just below the surface of everything else that I feel in my daily life is the realization that having only 35 percent custody often makes me feel like a 35 percent dad, and it can often be a painful and unnatural state of being. Aside from the paternal paradox of it, there's also the challenge of creating a fulfilling personal life around my custody schedule, and trying to always remember that my primary responsibility is to my kids.
What I want is to be coupled once more. I have learned (and re-learned several times) that finding a life partner is not a simple thing to accomplish with two kids, partial custody, and a career that has me traveling nationwide practically every other week.
I'll make an analogy for my experience dating as single parent:
Imagine two jigsaw puzzles of the exact same photograph, but each cut differently by the jigsaw. Then imagine taking every other piece from one puzzle and replacing it with the similarly positioned piece from the other. Whether it's a 25 piece puzzle like the ones my kids used to put together, or a 500 piece puzzle, there will most certainly be gaps, misfits, and some pieces (or people) will probably get bent out of shape. What matters most is to be able to see past the flaws and imperfections, and to be able to appreciate the essence of the original photograph. Because just like the puzzle, no two lives will fit perfectly together.
Having said all that, I must emphasize that its not all bad. Dating at this stage of life is also in many ways a time of growth, discovery and exploration that I would hope happily married people resign themselves to never experience, although they may fantasize. The process can be exciting. Each time a date has gone really well, and I found that "click" with a woman whom I barely knew just hours before, it has been exciting. The compelling vulnerability that two people at this stage of life readily reveal so soon after meeting, and sometimes even on a very first date, can be so freeing. It's because we know ourselves so much better at this stage of life, and when it feels right, it's like we're 20 years old again but without the insecurities and naivete of our youth. We can open up entirely, seeming to have nothing to lose.
Single fatherhood is something no man expects or wishes for, but like all of life's changes, it is something that we who are living through it must learn from, and grow from. In future posts I will share candid experiences, admit to mistakes I have made, and express things that I hope will resonate with other single parents.