Friday, May 2, 2008

Fathers, Don't Wait Until Divorce to Get Involved With Your Children

Recently, I heard a similar comment from two different fathers. One dad was talking about issues that have come up with his children since his divorce a few years ago; the other was talking about parenting issues with his pending divorce.

Both of these fathers saw divorce as an opportunity to spend more time with their children, not less. After all of my years working with families during and after divorce, this didn't surprise me one bit, though I'd never heard a father actually say it.

What these two fathers were talking about was quality time. Because even though the actual number of hours and minutes in the same house with the children was less than before separation, it meant much, much more.

After reflecting on the idea that separation and divorce could actually enhance a father's relationship with the children, I began to realize how many fathers feel unequipped to parent.

It's only natural; Moms tend to spend lots more time caring for the children when they are babies. In addition, Mom often stays home with the children, even if it's just maternity leave from her job, while Dad goes back to work after just a few days.

I think everybody just gets in the habit of Mom being the caretaker and Dad being more of an observer than a participant. The habit, then, is reinforced when Mom won't say she needs or wants help. When Dad does try to do some of the child-rearing, his initial attempts can be clumsy and unwelcome by Mom.

Consequently, many mothers complain about fathers who are totally uninterested in doing anything with the children. At the same time, fathers often feel like they are prevented from fully participating in their children's care because Mom does it all or doesn't like the way they do it.

Unfortunately, by the time the family faces divorce, fathers often end up with less parenting time based upon their lack of involvement with the children during the marriage.

It's no wonder that some fathers feel they are actually spending more time with their children after separation than they were before. The time they now have with the children is unhampered by Mom's tendency to do everything. Instead of feeling like they're in the way, dads can use their parenting time to become fully involved and present with their children.

Dads, don't wait to be asked! Get involved in your children's care now. Moms, if you see Dad trying to help, let him. While it might be tricky at first to work out the differences between your styles, the whole family will benefit.

© 2008, Mary Wollard, J.D., Family Solutions Center,

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