What is a Weekend Dad? Popularized by Millhouse on the Simpsons, and speaking in general terms, Weekend Dad refers to a father who has "visitation" rights with their kids mostly on the weekends, while the mother has them on the weekdays.
But not all Weekend Dads are divorced or separated. Many hard-working dads, who may have long commutes for their jobs, leave and return home in a way that eliminates any time with their kids during the week. Weekends are the time when many dads can truly be present with their kids.
Personally speaking, from the perspective of a Weekend Dad, this form of father/child relationship is not always ideal. One second you're watching your kids grow daily; the next you're picking them up on Friday afternoons, only to return them on Sunday night. For many, it creates anxiety, depression, and potentially fear, as the mother brings new father-like "replacements" into the children's lives.
As good fathers, we don't want to be away from our kids. Unfortunately, things such as divorce and custody rights create the concept of a "Weekend Dad." However, there are many things you can do to make the most of your time and the best of your relationship.
To achieve this, you need to step up to the plate and become pro-active.
Take care of yourself again.
Back From the Point of No Return is the first story of my book, Confessions of a Weekend Dad, that involves an intense experience during my separation. I took a suicidal swim at Buntzen Lake, near Vancouver, British Columbia. However, at a crucial point, I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized I had to be there for my children and myself. I discovered my all-important purpose—to be the best dad possible. If you've been struggling with this new lifestyle, I'm not suggesting you consider suicide to force a discovery. I'm saying, avoid that as an option and consider the role and responsibility you have to your children. Think of why you wanted them in the first place.
To be clear, you're not alone. It's quite normal to feel stressed, depressed, and overwhelmed. You're grieving, and it's nothing you have to be ashamed of. It doesn't make you less of a man. When the darkness hovers around, remember one thing; there's a reason you are divorced. Consciously or subconsciously, you probably have been living an unhappy, conflict-filled life with your ex, and that negativity may well have rained its acid on your kid(s) too. It's not good for your physical and mental health either.
Use this alone time (welcomed or not) to re-evaluate who you were and who you want to be. Post-divorce is a great opportunity to start with a blank slate. Think of it as a second chance, and hit that internal reset button. Once again, you get to take care of yourself, rediscover all the goals you had once desired to achieve, and set the game plan to achieve them. Remember, in order to take care of others, you have to take care of yourself first.
Maximize time with your kids.
One of the biggest downsides of being a Weekend Dad is that you essentially can only see your kids two days a week. However, to take advantage of more time, talk to your ex and ask if you're able to pick your child up from school or for an activity on certain days. Not only may your ex say yes, as this helps free up time for her, but it breaks up the five-day waiting gap.
It may improve your child's self-esteem to know that his or her dad wants to be involved or to know more about school life and/or extra-curriculum activities such as sports. It's an opportunity to see more and experience more. Make the most of ANY time with them.
Take advantage of technology.
We live in a world where, unfortunately, when families are sitting around the dinner table, most are not even conversing, but rather playing and texting on their phones. Personally, I totally disagree with allowing this to happen. It sets a poor precedent, and becomes a bad habit. An upside of the phone, however, is that they can come in handy when you're a Weekend Dad, or constantly separated by circumstance.
With the magic of cell phones, distance is no longer an obstacle, but an opportunity to connect. Why not set aside specific times to converse with your kids on a regular basis? You might not be able to tuck them in at bedtime, or read them a bedtime story, or kiss them good night, but you can do so digitally in real time! Imagine setting up a video call where you read your child a bedtime story while he or she watches your expressions, the pages of the book, and most importantly, you. Use technology to your advantage.
Make the extra effort to check-in.
After having talked with many other Weekend Dads and some children, I have come to the conclusion that a great way to bridge the long-distance gap in the relationship is to put in that extra effort to check-in with your loved one throughout the day. Call your kids after school and ask how school went. If you can't make it to their sporting events, call them prior to, and wish them luck; then ring afterward to see how it went and how they did.
While you don't want to invade their breathing room, in particular as they get older, you do want them to know that you're constantly thinking about them, available for them—and no matter the situation, that you'll always love them.
Invite your children's friends.
As kids get older, they want to spend more and more time with their friends. Accordingly, weekends can become a downer for the kids if they're being pulled away from their social lives just when the school week has come to an end. To overcome this challenging rise in independence, invite your kid's friends to join you. That way, your child gets to spend time with their friends and you, while you get to spend time with your child, meet their friends, and maybe their friends’ parents. It’s a win-win situation.
Remember, you are not a victim unless you allow yourself to be. The biggest thing to remember is that it wasn't the kids' choice to no longer live with you; so no matter what your relationship is with your ex, it's the relationship with your kids that matters.