Despite a difficult divorce, this dad vowed to be in his kids lives no matter what. Here’s how he fulfilled that promise.
As I received the touching Fathers Day messages this weekend from my three children, I was reminded of a friend of mine who told me that he never received them from his children, because of his divorce.
I’ve met a lot of fathers who are divorced and there are many who tell me that divorce has ruined their relationship with their children. That they are no longer close, or that they no longer see or speak with their children.
They blame divorce for having made them bad fathers and for the lack of any relationship with their children.
But this is something that I just don’t accept because we define our relationships with our children through how we act, treat and support them. It’s not divorce that makes us bad fathers, it’s how we react to it and how we interact with our children.
Now, I know and accept that in some divorces our estranged partners can become psycho, and I am also pretty sure for some women it feels their men become the same. But, unless there are court orders blocking out interaction, we still have the opportunities to build healthy relationships.
I left my wife when my children were only 6, 3 and 6-month-old respectively. As I left for another woman, it wasn’t the smoothest of break-ups and my ex did look to make things difficult.
But I resolved that I had left her, and although I didn’t love her anymore, I did love my children. And, that whilst I would no longer live with them, I was still going to be the best dad that I could be.
I needed a plan of action to ensure that I had the best relationship possible with my children and I came up with these five simple principles that I looked to live by.
- I was going to see them as much as I could.
- Support them financially and not play games over money.
- Make them feel loved by me.
- Let them see that while I had left their mother, it had nothing to do with them.
- Be there for them when they needed me.
Has it been easy to do all those things? No, it hasn’t.
Sometimes my ex made things difficult. Sometimes my new partner made things difficult for me, but I own the relationship with my children, not them, not my divorce, but me, and by the actions I take.
So I continued to try and achieve all those things in spite of what life has thrown up at me.
It worked for me even though after two years of divorce, I have not lived in the same country as my children. I first moved to Holland and then the Czech Republic but I still saw them every other weekend. When things got a bit harder and my job moved me to the U.S., I still managed to visit and see them every 4-6 weeks.
By this time my children were older and could understand that I was still doing my best to come and see them, Due to distances and cost every two weeks was impossible. But, we tried to make that up by spending three weeks together in the summer.
Throughout, I did my best and they felt that they could see I was trying to be the best dad I could be under the circumstances.
My relationship with my children today, 16 years after I left, is still very strong, I don’t see them as much as I did before, this is partly because I live in the US. Also because they are now 22, 18 and 16 and have lives of their own, but I am still there for them.
I am still in regular contact with them–thank you Facebook–even with the difference in time zones, and I still support them emotionally and financially.
To make the strong relationship we have to separate how we think about and maybe even treat our ex-spouses how we treat them.
We need to invest in the relationship with our children. We can’t wait and leave it until later and hope that all of a sudden our children, as adults will look to develop relationships with is, it doesn’t work like that.
What we put in when they are young and need us; is what we will get back when they are older and they don’t need us! Divorce doesn’t make us bad dads, it’s what we do when we divorce that determines that!
Photo: Flickr/ Christopher Lucka