Guess what, divorced dad, as much as you wish your ex would disappear off the face of the earth, let me tell you a little secret…she isn’t! You are more than likely getting the minimum custody because your child isn’t old enough to decide for themselves. Some judge who has never met you, listens to arguments from attorneys (assuming you can afford one) and could give two shits about you or your situation. You are more than likely going to be on the wrong side of custody unless mommy is a kleptomaniac and had developed a meth habit. It’s time to adjust, deal with it, and be the best damn dad you can be!
Unfortunately for me, I got wiped out fighting for custody of my only child. A game of Risk was less complicated than the two-year saga I went through. I would fortify my position as a dad, thinking I was doing good and then my baby mama would outflank me because she had more money and I was reeling from another court order because I’m a blogger and learned the hard way family law is far from black and white. Long story short, time to accept it.
I wish my daughter lived in the same town as me, but she doesn’t and a clueless judge figured distance wasn’t a factor. Worth mentioning my daughter lives 90 minutes away and that is assuming I’m not held up by some tractor on a desolate Kentucky highway. I get to rewrite the rules of fun with her every two weeks during the school year, it only involves a 3.5-hour round trip drive on a Sunday evening when I must return her home. It sucks worse than a D-list celebrity trying to act, but it is what it is.
Welcome to Co-Parenting, dad. It usually involves dealing with a narcissist who would prefer you got launched with the next rocket that NASA tests. I’m here to tell you it sucks, but you are a dad and you bet your ass you need to #DadUp for the sake of your children. The divorced dad stereotype needs to be tweaked and unless you are willing to do the work, it isn’t going to get altered anytime soon.
You lost the custody battle, good chance you were never going to win. Sure, a lawyer probably strung you along for a bit to keep the meter running, but they knew all along. False hope is a painful lesson I had to learn. An expensive lesson, but you are blinded by your love for your child(ren), so you get a pass with me if you went this route. Time to mobilize once your baby mama decides she found a new car to drive instead of you. With the way family law is set up, she gets a fully loaded S.U.V. to accommodate the kids and you are left shopping for a vehicle at Big Jake’s Salvage Yard.
Losing a custody battle will literally zap your will to live at times, it will take time to recover from it but dad you will recover. Your daughter has three softball games a week 100 miles away? Unless you lost an appendage in a car accident you better be there if you can. There is nothing more rewarding than driving out of your way to see your child for an hour. The monster size hug you get will at times have you misty-eyed.
Your child just got named Student of the Month and you only found out about it a day before? You tell your employer what is up, and if they won’t give you the time off, you let me know! You claim to be an involved dad, but you must prove it. Showing up unexpectedly will do two things: Make you proud to see your child being rewarded for her generosity and piss your baby mama off. Outperforming your baby mama in the parenting department is considered a dad win. You didn’t choose this war, but you can do your best to win it. That doesn’t mean blowing up your child’s mom, actions speak louder than words. Trust me!
Unless you live in North Korea, any school/extracurricular activity is considered “neutral” for dads. Take full advantage of it, don’t settle for the “weekend warrior” dad moniker. Traveling three to four hours a week sucks, especially during a work week, but you have to do it! Your child depends on you, it is a must that you never miss any opportunity to spend with your child.
The nasty knot you got in your stomach once you learned that you were going to be Mr. Every Other Weekend dad goes away over time. It isn’t a fun process to get over, but eventually you will. Regroup, refocus, and reenergize all your bitterness and use it to make you a better father. People notice, and more importantly your child(ren) will!
Gary Mathews is divorced father of the “most beautiful girl in the world.” He started blogging in July 2014 upon learning the news of my impending divorce that he never saw coming. Blogging helped him cope but turned into a passion. You can find lots of self-reflection, dealing with custody issues, ex-wife issues, and just life issues in general from Gary at http://skipahsrealm.com.