We Dads are all the same, right? I mean, there’s not much diversity between us, we all have a wife who does much of the work of parenting while we work, hang out with our mates and watch football. Occasionally we interact with our spawn, but begrudge the experience.
No? That seems to the prevalent view of TV script writers and commercial producers, at least. But it’s completely false. For every guy like that, there are two men who are thrilled to be fathers and dote on their children. And for every guy with a wife at home, there are many other men who live a range of diverse lifestyles. But does diversity breed difficulty? Well, maybe kinda. To learn more, I asked a few friends in the Dad community to share their own life situations and experiences. There’re great dads – and great men – all.
What’s your familial situation with your children? How old are they?
Creed Anthony: My children are 6 (daughter) and 2 (son). I am 37 have been married to their mother for 11 years.. I’m a “seasonal stay at home dad”, as I call it, since I have the summers off (I’m a teacher).
Brent Almond: A1: I’m 44, my partner Nick is 46, our son is 4 years old.
Kenny Bodanis: My wife and I have been married for 11.5 years. We have a 9-year-old son, and a 6-year-old daughter.
Mark Garcia: I have full custody of my daughter. She is 18 now and I have had her since she was 6. I am 48. No small feat for a single dad to get sole custody of a child in the very liberal family courts. It wasn’t a vindictive thing or anything like that, it was just during and after my divorce I made a very conscious decision to have my daughter with me full time. I had heard WAY too many horror stories about daughters, divorce and the whole “mommy has a new boyfriend who makes me feel uncomfortable” issues.
The media portrays”proper”families as mom + dad with the kids, a picket fence, etc. How divergent is your situation?
Creed: Well, we don’t have a picket fence, but, I guess on paper, we do fit the equation. What makes us “different”? We are a multiracial family – I’m black, her parents are white and Middle-Eastern. Which means that our children have a diverse cultural heritage.
Brent: We have a picket fence (though not white), a lovely home covered in chocolate brown shingles, and an adorable dog (Portuguese Water Dog, white with black spots). We diverge in that our son is adopted and we are 2 gay dads.
Our son was adopted domestically; we were there the night of his birth, and he’s been with us ever since. We have an open adoption, so visit his birth parents about once a year. He also has a biological brother who has a different set of adopted parents, as well as 2 siblings. We also visit with them.
We’ve been a couple for 16 years, and are getting legally married in April in our home, and our son will be very involved in the ceremony.
Kenny: We are right in the middle of the “Typical Family” bell curve (except for the picket fence. Therewas one of the chain-link variety, but that has recently been dismantled). Our lifestyle is somewhat unusual in that our work schedules can have unstable hours. My wife and I often find ourselves tag-teaming, and rotating which of us is mono-parenting for a good portion of an afternoon or weekend.
We also seem to have developed a groove vis à vis the division of household chores: I prefer cooking, and she’ll get the kids ready for bed while I clean up and make lunches. She maintains exterior landscapes, I handle renos on the house itself. She’ll actually clean, vacuum and dust, I’ll do laundry and ‘tidy’. (I HATE dusting.)
Mark: The one accomplishment I can proudly boast about, is the fact that I have made it a point over the years to incorporate my daughter’s mother into her life as much as possible. We are now labeled the Bruce and Demi Moore of divorced couples. Heck, I even invited my ex-wife and her then husband to come on Christmas vacation with us to Maui.
Kids are remarkably flexible: how are yours doing with the situation? Do they ever complain or express regrets?
Brent: Too young to complain for express regret, at least about the makeup of our family. He seems to be fine otherwise, very sociable, well-liked, very take-charge with friends at school. However, he is constantly bombarded with “mom & dad” as the family norm in books, tv, movies, other kids’ families, but we’ve “trained” him to always throw a “papa” in there (we are “Daddy” and “Papa”). Sometimes though, when he’s playing make-believe, he’ll default to a mom/dad/baby scenario.
Mark: I think every kiddo, no matter what the age secretly hopes that Mom and Dad get back together. My daughter Lexy, seems to be doing very well with the situation. As I mentioned above, I have really made it a point to involve her mother and step-brother (he calls me Uncle Mark) in Lexy’s life and tried to steer clear of any drama during the holidays, birthdays, special events. etc. While we are not a perfect family, we are a family nonetheless.
Kenny: Because our works hours fluctuate so much, we rely on family and friends to help with the kids. We realize how fortunate we are to have such a rich network. That being said, the kids will sometimes grow weary of the shuffling, and really look forward to having a stretch where “neither mummy or daddy is working”.
When we are both busy for an extended period, we feel for the kids as well. Overall though, thanks to the “babysitters” being so closely connected to us, the kids deal with it pretty well.
Creed: We don’t view it as a “situation”. There have been no complaints, regrets, or issues.
If you could, would you change anything about your situation? And if so, what?
Kenny: I often wonder how I would deal with working from home. At the moment it’s not an option, but it is something I would like to try. Because we so often turn to our support system to help us out due to our work schedules, we are reluctant to call on them for personal reasons. As a result, my wife and I have very little time to ourselves (other than trying to stay awake after the kids go to sleep). That is definitely an area we would both like to improve.
Other than that, I realize how fortunate we are. Our household overall is very stable, with two well-adjusted, happy kids. I’m careful to not make long lists of things I’d like to change, lest I fall into the trap of believing ‘the grass in greener’.
Creed: We wouldn’t change anything.
Mark: If I could change anything it would be the fact that my ex never really had a time after the divorce where she was just focused on our daughter and spent time being a single Mom. Her mom married and divorced two times after we broke up. (One of my many fears and the big reason I wanted and got full custody). Since Mom is still a role model in a girls life, I wished that her Mom showed her that she could be strong on her own and didn’t need a man in her life to survive. Even now as she has just divorced a couple of months ago, she is in another relationship and just got engaged!
Brent: I wish we’d started sooner trying to adopt, so we’d be young enough to handle a sibling for our son. And because I’m more worried about how being an OLD dad will affect my son than I am being a GAY dad. Other than that, I’m proud of our divergent little family.
Mark also added this closing note: As a single dad of a young girl and now a young lady, I have had to do lots of things that I never thought I would have to deal with as a parent. The media and our pop culture often depict Fathers of daughters as bumbling idiots. I have had to deal with puberty, menstrual cycles, boys, body image issues, hair braids, dresses, clothing style, emotional ups and downs and all that go along with a teenager. It has been a wild ride and there was no manual or training guide. I think I did ok because anyone that is around my daughter and I for five minutes can tell the kind of special relationship and bond we have.
I’ll second what Mark said here. I’ve been doing the single father journey for almost seven years now (do the math, my kids are 17, 13, and 9) and it’s been quite a ride. Has it been easy? Sporadically, perhaps, but it’s been darn difficult just as frequently and we’ve had our moments. But those moments of difficulty would have arisen even if I were still married. Parenting’s hard work. But what all we fathers have in common is that we have that magic ingredient that makes it work: love.