It's been one hell of a roller coaster ride, having to raise my kids alone. But it's a life I wouldn't trade for anything, especially for the lessons it taught me.
There are moments when I feel like I'm messing everything up with my kids. Whether it's saying the wrong thing to them or scolding them for something, there are times I just don't know if I'm cut out to be a single dad. Then I remind myself that it's a learning process and we all have to work together to keep the family sane.
When my kids were young, their mom and I split up. I know it wasn't an easy adjustment for them, knowing that mom and dad weren't going to be together. But when I got full custody, I was ecstatic. After all, I loved my kids and I would do anything to protect them (not that their mom wouldn't). So when I feel like I messed up with them, it always hit me hard and made me question myself a lot. That didn't stop me from being a dad. I would still take Mark out for fishing, sit down for a tea party with Kayla and listen as Cassie babbled about some new thing she learned that day.
I wanted them to feel happy when they were with me and to know that they could come to me for anything. Not an easy task, because balancing the line between father and friend as well as work and home took Herculean effort. Not to mention, I had to ensure they didn't feel the absence of their mom while they were with me. But I managed it... I think.
However, being a single dad wasn't just about attending PTAs, ensuring my kids were on time for school, figuring out what to make for dinner that night, finding a babysitter when work kept me late, and a lot more. There were a ton of lessons I learned.
For one, I learned that I had to deal with my ex being in my life even after the divorce. We had been together nine years and given that she was the mother of my children, I couldn't just cut her out of my life. It was tough interacting with her but somehow, we managed, though we still have things to figure out.
I learned that dating again was pretty weird. I suffered internal debates on whether I needed to introduce myself as a single dad. After all, not everyone was okay with a partner having a ready-made family. Plus, I had to try to work out how to keep my dating life from interfering with my relationship with my kids. Not to mention, the doubt I faced about whether I was betraying my kids by being in a relationship with someone other than their mother tended to eat me up. Until Kayla came up to me one day and told me to get a life and stop worrying about them (not in so many words, of course, but she sure doesn't mince her words, that one).
In the first few years of my single fatherhood, I had no choice but to face everyone's unsolicited advice on how to raise my three children. Some of them were parents themselves but some of them had never even interacted with a child before. Also the constant credit my ex got for their good behavior was jarring, as if I wasn't the one doing everything for them. And while single moms deserve their superhero status, is it too much to ask to be appreciated for my efforts? But every smile or cuddle from my kids made me forget about all that.
Another lesson that hit me was just how much I missed my kids when they were with their mom. Sure, I enjoyed a bit of alone time, but my thoughts never strayed far from my three angels. I may be exhausted taking care of all of them, but it's oh so worth it. It's then that I wish they would come back as quickly as possible.
But perhaps one of the biggest lessons I learned as a single dad and one that remains true even today, is that I cherish the moments I have with my kids. Remembering when Kayla walked into her first day of school, when Cassie said her first words, when Mark glowed after an intense baseball session and so many more memories, still bring tears to my eyes. I don't know how long I have with them before they become their own people and drift away into their own lives, so I try my hardest to make sure we have many happy moments together. I am trying to raise them to be good, smart, and kind young people, ones who can always lean on me when they need me.
Obviously, there's still a lot more I have to learn, not just on my own but from my kids and the people around me. But I will never regret stepping on this journey of fatherhood and raising my kids as a single dad.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here belong to the writer.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Thanasis Zovoilis