I have had the opportunity and it has been a great pleasure getting to know a gentleman who is a single father of two now grown daughters. I will refer to him as John. I was taken with John’s story, and want to share his story as I believe a benefit can be found to other parents in knowing that you are not alone in your struggles as a single parent.
John has been divorced for several years. In the divorce, he was granted sole legal and physical custody of his two daughters. After the divorce, John’s former spouse became an absent parent, failing to have any contact with the parties’ daughters for over 10 years. John was left to raise and support his daughters on his own.
I am impressed with John’s ability to set aside any anger he may have harbored from the divorce to raise two very successful young women. The following is John’s story.
How do you reconcile raising children on your own, receiving no assistance from the other parent, as they are absent in the children’s lives?
John stated that when you are a single parent, you take on the role of both parents. One of the challenges John discussed was that when you are going it alone, it’s about planning. You don’t have a partner to assist, so you need to be prepared and well organized. Shuttling children back and forth to the myriad of events they have requires planning.
Being a single parent can present its share of challenges. John had to address uncomfortable questions and issues that naturally arise in girls lives that would have been easier for a mother to address. Throughout their young lives, John’s girls lacked the ability to gain the female perspective. When his girls wanted to attend homecoming, he had to take on the role of mom and go dress shopping! But John did the best and pushed through his girls’ childhood events, wearing the hat of both parents. John also thanked his family, stating that he relied on his family to get him through some tough times.
John also discussed the financial struggles that come from being a single parent. John received no financial assistance from his former spouse. John and his daughters went from living an upper middle-class life to a very different lifestyle after the divorce. John reflected on the fact that when he and his wife were married, they had the children in extra-curricular activities. After the divorce, money was tight. However, he knew the importance of these activities in the children’s lives, and wanted to do everything he could to make sure the children had the same experiences they had during the marriage. John stated that he swallowed his pride and asked people to reduce their enrollment fees so that the girls could continue with their extracurricular activities. John was happy when people came through, going above and beyond to work with him to ensure his daughters could continue to participate. John stated there are times you just have to ask, and people will help.
How do you set aside whatever anger or disappointment you have with the failed marriage/relationship, or with the perceived transgressions the other party may have made against you to allow the children to have a relationship with the other parent, if and when the decide to do so?
John stated that the failure of the relationship was not the children’s fault. John has always put the children’s needs first. John told me that you have to ask yourself from the moment the marriage ends what can I do to make my children’s lives the best that it can be.
John believes that children grow up and make decisions on their own. However, if they are raised with a specific narrative such as the other parent is bad, a deadbeat, didn’t want you, doesn’t care about you, they have a difficult time moving past years of disparaging remarks to develop a relationship with the other parent. John wanted to leave it open for the children to make their own decisions about what (if any) relationship thy would have with their mother.
John stated that your entire focus needs to remain on the children; you need to put the children first. And you need to realize that the sacrifices you make now will pay off when you see your children be successful and happy.
How did you raise the children so that they are free from guilt to have a relationship with the other parent?
John stated that he left the door open for his children; and kept an avenue open for his former spouse to approach the children. No matter what happened in the divorce, his former spouse was still the mother of these two girls, and would always be their parent. He never disparaged his former spouse to the children, nor did he force the girls to contact her. He assumed that when his former spouse was ready to resume a relationship with the girls, she would step forward.
John knew that he could not erase years of anger and disappointment he may have felt because his former spouse failed to take any role in the children’s lives. But John knew that he could smooth it over for his daughters, wanting the best for his daughters. John knew that he would have to compartmentalize his feelings about the divorce and the lack of assistance he received from his former spouse for the sake of raising happy children.
John summarized that raising two girls on his own was life altering for him and his daughters, and that the changes to their lives was immeasurable. Good news…after ten years, John’s former spouse has now reconciled with their daughters, and is working to rebuild a relationship with them. John’s daughters are now grown, married and have started families of their own. John and his former spouse, realizing the importance of family, have worked through their issues and are able to hold and attend family functions together with their adult daughters and their families.
I wanted to share John’s story so that you would know you are not alone in this endeavor and that you can successfully raise healthy and happy children as a single parent.
For assistance with your divorce, contact Schmitt Law, PLLC to schedule an appointment.