Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making the Most of Your Time as a Single Dad

Since I started the Upbeat Dad blog last October, I’ve developed a running list of ideas to write about. Ideas come to me at different points throughout the day or night and I simply take out my Blackberry and add to the list.
A couple of months ago my 12 year old daughter said to me, “Daddy, I have an idea of a blog post that you can write.” She proceeded to tell me something quite profound. I wrote the post the next day and it was well received by our audience. Since then, she’s amazed me with some of the most innovative ideas for writing – so much so that I’ve developed a separate list of blog ideas from her. Today’s post is such an idea.
She recently reminded me of our life when it was just the two of us – after my divorce and before my new marriage. That was a 7 year period and though it certainly was not what I had planned for when I got married to her mom, it was a situation that was presented to us and we just had to make the most of it.
The 7 year period came in two distinct phases – parenting from a distance and parenting full-time. After the divorce, she lived with her mom primarily but came to me frequently. But when her mom moved back to her home state, I became a long distance dad. After a few years, she came to live with me primarily so I then became a fulltime daily dad. Through it all, we have cultivated such a close and loving bond that it just thrills me to speak of her.
This post is written from the heart and I know that any dad who is or has ever been single can benefit from some of the issues I’ll address. I encourage you to read and share with those whom you believe would benefit.
When my marriage ended in the early 2000s, my biggest concern was our daughter and her well-being. We had accumulated material things but to me, none of that mattered – our daughter was the only important consideration. As it turned out, I lost practically everything – the house and its effects and much more. Again, none of that mattered.

Our daughter was and still is the best result of that marriage. That’s why, despite the many challenges that we went through during the marriage and the legal ending of the marriage, I will always say that I’m so glad that I married my former wife because without her, my daughter would not be here today. She made the entire process worth it.
She and I have always been close. I joke with her that I was the first person she ever saw (since I was in the delivery room). During her first 3 years, while our then family was together, she bonded with both my former wife and me. When the marriage ended, it was very important for each of us to maintain that bond.
As a new divorcee, I had to adjust quite readily to the life of a single dad. Since my daughter wasn’t with me all the time, I needed to maximize each moment with her. Initially, the time we spent together was meager, at best – a day here or there; then overnight; then the weekend; and so on and so on. But however little or much time we were together, it was time well spent.
When her mom relocated to her home state, I wasn’t a happy camper at all. It certainly wasn’t my desire but I just had to deal with what the legal system allowed. I committed to being the best long distance dad I could be. And you know what? I thought it was such a bad thing at first but in hindsight, I think that solidified our relationship. What do I mean by that? Well, from a distance, I chose to become even more involved in every aspect of her life.
You see, from a distance, we could easily have seen the manifestation of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” So I really had to be proactive. I called her school and introduced myself to the school officials. I visited when I could. I went over her homework on the phone each day. I was just a dad – though at a distance. And that brought us closer.
The really cool thing to me was that when she was with me, it was no longer for a couple days – it was for extended periods. She spent the entire summer with me. And every break from school –Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, etc – she was with me. When her mom lived locally, one thing that happened quite a bit with her was separation anxiety. As she left one of us to go to the other, she’d often cry. With us living in different cities, as difficult as that was, on the one hand, it minimized the times when she had to experience the apparent discomfort of going from one parent to the other.
The times we spent together during those days were truly special. She reminded me today of a trip we took to Disney World. We got up early in the morning and made the 3 ½ hour drive to Orlando. And it was a day of magic at the Magic Kingdom. That’s something we will never forget – just a dad and daughter at the place where wishes come true, having the time of their lives.
When she came to live with me primarily (approximately 4 years after the divorce), it took my parenting to another level. As I wrote about in the post, The Story of My Blended Family By The Upbeat Dad, being a single dad of a child who is with you during the fun times in the summer is much different from being a fulltime dad.

So developing a regular schedule was now of great importance. There was school to deal with. Along with homework, there were teacher conferences; there were appointments with her tutor; there were piano lessons. Oh and by the way, I had a new business to run. My 24 hour life was consumed with being a dad – but believe me, I loved every minute of it.

I was fortunate to have a good support system – my sister and her family and so many other relatives and friends. Without them, I’m not sure how I would’ve managed. I couldn’t exactly take my young child to every business meeting that I had. Plus, though I’m good at many things, I can’t really do girls’ hair all that well. Family helped with that quite a bit. The expression “it takes a village to raise a child” is very true. I was a single dad but I certainly wasn’t alone.
I did have the need for companionship – a need that was fulfilled when I met my wife. But throughout the 7 years of being a single dad, I can honestly say that I didn’t feel as if I wasn’t missing out on anything. I often hear single parents speak of the need for companionship to the extent that they cannot seem to be content with just being parents to their kids. I saw it differently – I didn’t seek to become a single dad but since the situation presented itself, I chose to embrace it and made the best of it.
By the way, check out the post Dating 101 for the Divorced Dad. I share some tips on just how to make the most of the dating experience while protecting your kids and their emotions in the process.

I hope that this post has been enlightening in some ways and encouraging in other ways. Regardless of the circumstances that lead to single parenthood, I strongly encourage both men and women to embrace the role of nurturing and caring for the young, innocent children when relationships don't quite work out. Children from so-called broken relationships should not have to miss out on the best things in life.

Today I’m happily married with a wonderful wife and two kids (we have an 8 month old son). But I strongly believe that, had I not chosen to embrace my life as a single dad, things wouldn’t be as they are today. For all current and former single parents, I believe that if we just love our kids, in time – perhaps sooner than we think – we’ll have the ideal life that we think and dream about.

If you’re a single dad – whether or not your kids are with you primarily – I encourage you to learn from some of these tips. Carve out time in your busy schedule to let your kids know they are loved and they’re your top priority. It might take some juggling on your part but through it all, if you make the investment in your kids’ lives, it will reap huge dividends as time passes along.
I thank my daughter for suggesting that I write on this topic. It’s quite timely and a very necessary subject matter. I hope you’ve benefited greatly from it.
Rodrick with daughter after awards ceremony during time as a single dad
Have yourself a wonderful day!
The Upbeat Dad


  1. This is really touching, and you've done an amazing job. Love your attitude, and I hope lots of single dads out there can learn from you!

  2. always appreciate your optimism