Childrearing

Splitsville: How Does An Absent Father Re-Establish His Relationship?

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Here at Splitsville, I try to give an honest take on my co-parenting struggles and the issues that face parents who have divorced or separated. It’s a difficult journey that forces parents to work together even after an emotional break-up. They have to work past their own struggles and try to do what’s best for their kids.

In my pieces, I normally speak from the point-of-view of a custodial parent. My daughter only sees her father once or twice month, so I don’t have a lot of experience on the other side of the fence. I rarely have to miss all those growing up “firsts.” I get to tuck my daughter in every night and greet her every morning. So it’s hard for me to write about time constraints and “fitting it all in.”

So often, the parent who isn’t doing the lion’s share of the work is looked down upon. Their seen as secondary parents, who never know the size of their kid’s clothes or when the parent-teacher conference is. We snub our noses at these moms and dads who often are still trying to do what’s best with their kids.

Recently, a reader named John* emailed me about his custody set-up and the questions he would love to ask his ex, if he felt comfortable. I thought a long time about John’s email and what to tell him. Finally, I decided that the best thing to do what present it to the site, and with John’s blessing, open up it for comments. How would you guys direct this dad whose trying to get more involved in his kid’s lives.

“Hi there. Ive read your pieces about sharing custody. A friend of mine sent me to the site. I wanted to know what you would say to a guy in my position.

My kids mom and I never married. We dated for 4 yrs, had 2 kids really quick and then figured out that we werent going to work. Not going to lie, I just wasnt ready to grow up yet. I mean dont get me wrong, I love my kids. I just didnt know how to be a dad at that time.

So yea, flash forward a couple years. We have a 3 yr old and a 4 yr old. Ive finally found a real job and Im able to provide better for my family. And I know that I want to be more involved in my kids life. But my ex just isnt interested in hearing about it. Shes mad that I havent been there from the start and I know that she has a right to be. But I really do want to see my kids more and help out more. I mean, I get normal visits. But I want to be there for my little girls dance recitals. I want her to tell me when that stuff is. I want to help plan birthday parties instead of hearing my kids chatter on about them the weekend after. Im trying. But how do I tell my ex that Im really serious now?

I dont wanna go to court and mess things up. Im not mad at her. Shes just doing what she thinks is best. But I want to start doing more. What can a dad in my position do?

It’s really easy to demonize parents who don’t grow up the minute that their child is born. To be honest, I think I’ve done it myself. So often, mothers don’t have a choice but to mature quickly and take responsibility. There’s a lot of animosity for dads who don’t do the same thing.

However, at what point do mothers have to move past that old anger? Is there a way that a possibly absent father can make up for the time they’ve lost? And how do they regain the trust of their children and their children’s other parent? I’m not sure there’s an easy answer.

I’m interested in hearing what our readers think. How would you help John to prove himself to his kids and his ex? Next week, I’ll share my input on the best ways to re-establish trust. For this week, what do you think?