Divorce carries with it a stigma, a harrowing possibility that life will never be as good as it was. Especially for the fathers, because so often the children are court bound to spend the majority of their time in the mother's care. This leaves fathers scrambling to adjust schedules and get home from their business trips quicker. But divorce does not always have to be this way, and leave that mark on everyone-at least that is what I decided. I committed to my children and to my secret self that it would not be that way for us. I would make every effort every day to make time for us, if only for a few minutes some days. Although life as a divorced father has presented me with a number of challenges, I found ways to make it work. Several of these challenges took me by complete surprise, and a couple of them simply left me dumbfounded. But there you go. Life is what happens. It is a defensive game. You have to be prepared for anything to happen, because anything can happen. Like divorce. Who gets married expecting that to happen.
So here are some of the truths that were most life changing to me, once I joined the club and became a divorced dad--
Over Is Over. Once a woman is done loving a man, that's it, there is no going back. She probably gave lots of opportunities to stay together, and whatever happened has happened, and now it's over. Once that point is reached, forget about it. There is nothing to go back to, and nothing to do to change her mind once it is made up. This is one of the fundamental differences between women and men.
Home Is Where The Mommy Is. You read about families breaking up and the kids staying at one house for a few days or the weekend, and then at the other house for a few days, and so on. I could tell where my boys were happiest. They wanted to stay in the house they grew up in, where their mom lived, where they had always lived. So I let that happen. They would stay with me on occasion but not on a schedule. This worked out better for everyone and avoided the problem of two homes, two sets of rules, two bedtimes, and so forth.
There Is No Such Thing As Quality Time. Children measure how much you love them by how much time you spend with them. Quality Time is nonsense, there is only Quantity Time. Once divorced, I visited with my boys every day. Yes, you read that correctly, every day. Sometimes it was only to drive them to school or run a soccer practice, but they saw my face every single day. If I was away on a trip, I called them to let them know what I was doing and that I was always thinking of them.
Have to Be Nice to The Ex. A divorce is not an excuse to finally tell the mother of your children what you really think of her. Nor is an excuse to remove your filter and say whatever the **** you want, whenever you want. It is actually exactly the opposite. If you want peace in your life, accept that it will only happen if you keep your mouth shut, and keep your critical thoughts to yourself. I strictly followed the old Irish rule of good conversation: If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.
Have to Be Nice To The Next. Undoubtedly the ex moves on, and finds someone new. This is part of the circle of life. She will and so will you. As awkward as it will be at first, the divorced father has to get used to a new presence...in his ex-'s life, in his children's life, and in his own life. No time for jealousy, no reason to be unkind, and no purpose in harboring a ship full of what might have been's. When the marriage is over, and it is time to move on, move on. And let the ex do the same, with your blessings.
Divorce is one of the sad things life throws at us. Is it worse than burying people you love, or going bankrupt, or realizing that your best friend has become an alcoholic? It is probably about equally sad, frankly, and just as hard to get over. But given enough time and patience with his own heart, and lots of time with his own children, the divorced dad finds a way and the divorce becomes just another memory.
I live by the strength of the words of Maya Angelou: "The past is the past and the future is perfect."