Originally published by me in Your Teen Magazine (at their request): Coping with Divorce, Personal Stories / Winter 2012 issue, page 15
With divorce, most dads are not the custodial parent, and therefore, the dad has little or no control over the daily decisions. For many reasons, dads may allow the mom to be the custodial parent, including financial necessity, lack of comfort with being a pseudo full-time dad or lack of desire. Often attorneys and psychologists advise this traditional route.
I believe that dads should do whatever it takes to get full joint legal and custodial custody, even if equal splitting of time means not having a “primary” home. Many psychologists advise against this and recommend that the child should have a primary residence, but I disagree. Don’t be left out of your kids’ lives. Step up and commit to being available for your children right from the beginning. Be a steady influence in their lives so that when they are teens, and they pull away for their own reasons, you remain a constant enduring presence.
I learned that no matter what it took, I needed to stay involved and be a steady presence. Because my 14- and 16-year-old daughters lost the simple feeling of, “I love my Daddy,” parenting became much more difficult. But, no matter what, I stayed present. Now, when they ask why they have to be at my house when all they do is stay in their rooms or watch TV in the den (while doing their best to ignore me), I tell them that just their presence is important to me.
Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions with my daughters. Although I do social media for a living, I never communicate with them through social media. I occasionally check Facebook to see what they are doing, but the last thing they want is their dad communicating with them in a visible format. When necessary, I send texts and phone calls. Although they rarely check email, I always send one before I fly to tell them I love them (just in case), so they will always know. Our most important moments are face-to-face, when I am truly paying attention and being involved in what they do.
Due to my work in social media marketing, I’ve built deep, rewarding relationships with many Mom Bloggers. Because I reveal my status as a divorced dad of teenage girls, the moms share valuable advice that I hope has made me a better, more sensitive and insightful dad. I have been asked, “If I had just one hour with my girls, what would I do?” At this point, I would choose anything that would be doing “with” them. When they were young, and I had a real choice, I would choose swimming because it was so interactive. Now, I make myself available when opportunites present themselves..
Being an involved dad has changed my life. Everything I do is all about what I can do for my kids and how I can make the world and their lives better. In business, I preach about the importance of relationships. I hope to pass this legacy on to my girls: It’s All About Relationships.
My dreams have changed because of being a dad. My dream day now is skiing (or doing anything together) with my girls and them truly wanting to be there with me… just like when they were young and we enjoyed those very special ski days. I want my daughters to know that I love them unconditionally, and to make a difference in the lives of others… even if only with a smile and kindness.