Any divorced father will tell you how hard it can be to live away from their kids. The feelings of failure, inadequacy and isolation can be suffocating. Trust me, I know from experience. So how do we overcome these feelings and be the best dads possible?
I wrote about these feelings before and had quite a few guys in similar situations contact me to let me know how much they resonated with what I wrote. In my effort to let others know they were not alone, my own struggles were eased because I finally knew I wasn’t alone either. And boy did I need that brotherhood! The Uncle Dad post came during a time when I was struggling with my situation as a divorced dad that isn’t a part of his children’s daily lives. The support was good, but I was stuck in the hopeless feeling of the situation.
One particular day, I began searching articles on the internet that could speak into my situation, but I was not prepared for what I would find.
An article on AllProDad.com titled A Committed, Divorced Father Story caught my attention, so I clicked on it. It was an inspirational story of a father of 7 kids, some of which were from his first marriage. He describes having to work through a long distance relationship with his kids and the impact that made on them. It reaffirmed the things I’ve committed myself to over the years, but the thing that really changed my perspective was a comment on the article. This particular comment was from a 51 year old divorced dad who was also the product of a broken home as a kid. He described how his dad’s shame in the shadow of divorce was so overwhelming, he wasn’t around much. The commenter began to punch me repeatedly in the kidneys with his tough love approach. In a nutshell, he said that kids need their dad to be active in their lives no matter how the living arrangements are and that they didn’t ask for this situation but they still want their dad’s attention. So suck it up and stop feeling sorry for yourself! It was the exact thing I needed to hear and feel.
What I’ve learned through this process is that the situation doesn’t have to control me, and the label doesn’t have to own me. Two specifics thing have helped me stop feeling like an Uncle Dad:
- I learned to share my struggles with other people that can relate. The moment I started receiving feedback from other divorced dads, I stopped feeling alone. Finally, someone else could put into words what no one else around me could understand. Those feelings of failure that I was wrestling with were a normal part of the situation and others felt it to. It’s not a brotherhood anyone wants or seeks out, but it’s been healing for me to know I’m not the only one.
- I learned that I needed to stop focusing on what I didn’t have and concentrate on what I do have. Perspective is a major part of the battle. Tell me your perspective on almost any trial or struggle and I could come pretty close to predicting the outcome. Our thoughts and feelings lead us astray so much. For me, the punch in the face was that I was focusing on what I didn’t have and wanted rather than on what I do have. I have a great relationship with my four kids and I’m not going to let my lack of perceived lack of time with them screw that up!
The emotions will still be a roller coaster at times for me, but I’ve learned two important action steps I can take to combat them. Community and perspective. I’m so glad I did! I’m their dad and nothing will ever change that.
What have you learned to help you combat the roller coaster emotions of being a divorced dad?