How to Fill the Absences of Shared Custody


Leda and the Swan by Cy Twombly

Divorced dad Scott Deetz would rather clean up anything than be without his children


Silence sets in. The sounds of little voices and happy giggles no longer fill my car. I look in the rearview at their empty car seats and my eyes begin to well up. It’s going to be a long week without them. Saying goodbye to my children for a whole week is the result of choices I’ve made. Questions arise and self-doubt creeps in.

“Did I do the right thing by ending it?”
“Could I have done anything differently?”
“How are my kids handling everything?”

There’s an emotional storm brewing on the horizon. No matter how upbeat or positive you are, the days that your children are with their mother are some of the most challenging you will face as a single father. I’d take the wall drawings, spilled box of cheerios, stepping on hot wheels cars, wetting the bed, watching Dora and Thomas 400 times, and even temper tantrums over the emptiness and loneliness I feel when the kids are not around.

That’s right I’d even rather clean up poop! I say this jokingly because my two year old girl just had an accident last week and I got to perform this honorable duty (no pun intended). That being said, surely there must be a way to ease the pain and bring back the sunshine when the storm clouds roll in. Below I’ve compiled a short list of dos and don’ts to help make the days without your children go by smoother.

• DON’T play the “what if” game. Once you’ve made that terribly difficult decision to get a divorce, don’t look back and re-think it. Instead, assure yourself you made the choice for all the right reasons, and you will be a better father because of it. When you find the urge to feel sorry for yourself and play the “what if” game, look forward to your future. You have dreams and aspirations and nobody to hold you back from accomplishing them. Envision those dreams and goals, stomp your foot on the accelerator! Full speed ahead!

• DO take many pictures and make memories when you spend time with your children. Time flies and the moments you do get with them are short lived. However, when they are away, you can look at the pictures, smile, and think about the good times. Choose a picture of them for the wallpaper on your computer or phone. You might even attach wallet sized photos of them to your dash or center console of your vehicle.

• DO appreciate the little moments. These little morsels of happiness are everywhere. You just have to learn how to identify and appreciate them. The other day my son asked me if I was his buddy. And before I could answer yes, my daughter asked me if she was my cupcake. Those little moments make your heart melt. It can be as simple as them wrapping their little arms around you and giving you a big hug.

• DON’T clean up the wall drawings. You may be thinking “Whoa now Scott! You are crazy; I can’t have crayon all over my walls!” Here’s my reasoning: my children have only colored on my walls twice and both times it happened on a Sunday morning (the day they go to their Mom’s). They both know better than to color on the walls and most recently I caught my little girl with a purple crayon scribbling on the wall. I spotted her in mid-drawing and told her to stop but all she did was look at me, smile, and finished a few more colorful strokes. I find symbolism in these “wall drawings”. What if they color on the walls on purpose for me to remember them when they’re away? Call me crazy but actions speak louder than words. When I look at these drawings I see Love, not disobedience, and that brings a smile to my face.

By following these simple guidelines you can bring some sunshine and happiness back into your world when the storm clouds roll in. Your kids may not be physically with you all the time but they can always be with you in spirit!

—photo by JamesKidsArt/Flickr

About Scott Deetz

Scott Deetz is a father of two young children (son Landon age 4 and daughter Scottie age 2), a college student, and commissioned salesperson. It is his mission to share stories of triumph and heartbreak with young single parents everywhere and let them know they’re not alone, and whatever life throws your way, you can overcome it. You can learn more about Scott on Facebook or twitter @sdeetzauthor

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