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What I have learnt so far…

simplify your lifeI have been a separated dad for over 25 years, twice over. Its something I am not proud of but I am proud of being a good dad. I have had two very different experiences. My first child was every second weekend, I did everything I could to be in her life – as much as I was allowed or welcomed.

My second experience is what every dad deserves, 50% shared parenting. It really is full parenting because it is only you that cares for them when you have them. In some cases you are providing more parenting duties than if you were not separated as the mums in some families take on more of the everyday care. 50/50 is a complete parenting relationship.

It is also an emotional roller coaster and I would not wish it on anyone if at all avoidable. The grief, the tears, the worry, the distraction, the lack of money, the joy and happiness all mixed into one and it feels like it is never ending.

I started thinking about what have I learned so far travelling this road for 25 years.

I have listed some of them below…

  • Allow an extra 20 minutes in the morning if you have girls so they can spend time on their hair. If you don’t there will be an upset!
  • I am the brekky king!  I believe it is an important meal of the day for us.  I get up early to ensure there is no rush.
  • I enjoy being active on weekends,  I plan activities but also plan down time i.e. time to lounge around and watch a DVD.
  • I have always had more fruit at home than sweets.
  • Yes more water than lemonade too.
  • We have been to McDonalds once in the last 12 months.
  • I’ve always put my children’s needs first when balancing time – because time flys.
  • I’m house proud and want a clean and tidy home for my children to come home to.
  • Reading before bed has served two purposes 1. Calms and relaxes 2. Quality time together
  • I cook 90% more than buy takeaway when I’m parenting.
  • Teaching the kids to value and look after their teeth is big at my place.
  • Over time I have collected a range of puzzle books and games to play at home on those rainy days.
  • I love to cook because its cheaper and healthier and I like to find different recipes the kids might like and experiment with different simple meals.
  • I learned early that our mental and physical well-being is paramount to being able to cope with everything that is going on. So I have always spent time on my own personal mental and physical  health with mediation, reading, walking, running and or gym. I reckon it has saved me!
  • I treat myself every now and then with something that make me happy for doing a good job with parenting. It’s a little like patting yourself on the back.
  • Being involved in parent teacher interviews have been great and keep me up to date on how the kids are tracking at school both academically and socially.
  • When going through separation, I simplified my life as much as possible, I didn’t take on new debt or change jobs – Bunkering down helps.
  • I’ve enjoyed travelling both overseas and locally with my kids, it connects us with fond memories and is fun to plan and wait for the holiday to come around.
  • Having the mind set that you have an equal share in parenting duties.  That means helping your child’s mother like taking extra time off work to help with school holidays and the student free days.  It just makes life easier for everyone and hopefully it’s reciprocated.
  • Generally I have found that a social life with other parents is pretty non-existent because there seems to be a stigma attached to a single dad!! But I have been able with some parents to Invite their children over for play dates and I have prepared lunch for the kids etc.  I always Invite the parents inside when they drop off so they see that it is a good environment to leave their children and that there kids are safe and well catered for.
  • Its not the army but I find kids operate much better and are happier with routine.  So, I have always tried to keep simple routine in place I.e. bed and meal times, reading, showering and arriving at school on time etc
  • I’ve tried to keep in touch with extended family, keeping family connections alive. If you don’t it can be a bit of a solo life, family are always there and friends are not.
  • There has been some fun and enjoyable moments which involved the kids cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner and even cleaning and shopping – I’ve tried to involve them in my day to day life.
  • Teach the kids to conserve energy and value the planet.
  • Be a good role model by not swearing or speaking badly of their mother in front of them if that is your situation. Don’t be afraid to fight behind the scenes for 50/50 parenting if you have to.
  • Be consistent in your moods around them. If you’re having a bad day relax and be present with the kids it really helps to keep things in perspective.
  • Remember whilst your kids are growing up they love you unconditionally.
  • Listen 70% and ask questions 30%
  • Be involved in your child’s life, they need you more than any materialistic item you could buy them. Make them a priority.
  • I always ended the night with a cuddle
  • You will find love again.

Doing the best you can does not always guarantee the love of your children when they get older. However, it does give you peace of mind that you have done the best your could, with what you were given.