As a single mother, you make countless sacrifices. I can’t remember the last time I went out on a date, got a manicure””let alone a massage””drank more than one alcoholic beverage or took a vacation that didn’t involve staying at a kiddie themed resort. I do recall bouncing checks, draining snot and getting peed on in a new outfit.
One sacrifice really hit hard. It decreased the time I spent with my daughter. Recently, I suggested that my daughter’s father and I create a more equitable visitation plan. That meant, I would have to give up something (my time) to get something in return (a solid father-daughter bond for my child). I always wanted her dad to have a presence in her life don’t get me wrong. But when both sides focus on past relationship problems, broken promises, and the need to be right, those things blur the bigger picture””what matters most, your child. My daughter’s father and I may never be on the same page, or even in the same book for that matter. We may never be friends or even like each other again. But one day, we will realize that each of us bring something so essential to our daughter’s life. Although we didn’t make countless sacrifices for each other as significant others, maybe we can do so in our new capacity as co-parents.
I wrote this intro after interviewing divorced dad Henry Brown. His words helped me see things from a different perspective. I think both Baby C’s father and I can learn a lot from this article. I’ve learned that you can’t change others. But fortunately, you can change yourself. I’m proud to share a story that’s often untold””one of a Black man raising a daughter and not complaining about child support but rather celebrating their bond.
What is the hardest part about being a divorced dad? What is the best?
The hardest part about being a divorced dad is no longer having someone to share the responsibility with each day. So, if you don’t have routine in place, you can easily get overwhelmed. For instance, after I pick my daughter, Kennedi, up from before and afterschool care, I help her with her homework, get dinner started, throw some clothes in the washing machine, eat dinner and get her ready for bed. In between, I do housework and get in some daddy daughter time. Once Kennedi’s tucked into bed, I have to get ready for the next day and do some things around the house. There are a lot of late nights, but if I didn’t have a schedule, I would be a mess.
I’ve been raising Kennedi since she was born, so being a divorced dad didn’t change much at home, other than hiring a babysitter when I wanted to go to the gym. I didn’t mean to sound cruel, but it’s the only way I could state it.
The best thing about being a father is watching a beautiful child grow, change, learn and love unconditionally. Hearing the words “Daddy” and “I love you” all the time make it all worth it
What misconceptions do people have about single fathers?
I am not sure if I consider myself a single father, because Kennedi’s mom is a figure in her life. We have a shared custody agreement. I really wanted to make sure that we both had a big impact our daughter’s life and that we never went a week without one of us seeing her.
A lot of people are very surprised and have made comments like, “It’s rare to see a father want to be so involved in a child’s life.” I must always have a strong presence in her life. I do her hair, take her to doctor’s appointments, cook real food and shop with/for her. We also pray and play together.
How did you become a divorced dad?
Things just didn’t work out between my daughter’s mother and I. No one cheated or anything like that; it just didn’t work out. Her mother and I get along great now, but at first it was little rough during the separation and legal battle. But all in all, it’s about Kennedi and nothing else. Whatever issues her mother and I had/have between each other meant nothing to me when it came to my child. It’s irrelevant, and I will never bash my ex. She is my daughter’s mother, and we are doing the best we can for our child.
As a divorced dad, how and when do/did you start dating?
Good question, my dating life or lack thereof. I put my child’s needs before my own, so I haven’t brought anyone home to meet her. To be honest, I don’t date that much, but the few dates I have gone on have never progressed to the point of meeting my child. I need to know for certain that the person I am dating is stable, accountable and most of all going to be in my life for the long haul, even if we don’t work out relationship wise. I can’t put a time on when you should introduce a woman to your child, but I will say it has to at least be a few months in my book. That’s just me.
I think it’s equally challenging dating as a single man and as a single woman. My hardship is not dating the weeks I have my daughter. If I do meet someone, they must accept my schedule, at least in the beginning. Once I am ready to introduce a woman to my daughter, then we will be able to spend more time together. Some women don’t understand that. I dated someone once who complained about my arrangement and told me it was ridiculous. Needless to say I am not dating her!
What can moms provide that dads can’t? What can dads provide that moms can’t?
Moms are softer, gentler and more nurturing. Dads provide children with protection, security and strength. There is one very distinct difference though. A man is always looked upon as a leader, the head of the family. You can’t replace that. Not to say women shouldn’t do their best to take on that role, but it’s still something in each of us that looks to that in dads.
How do you stick to a budget? What sacrifices must you make?
You have to be diligent and sacrifice some things, but you just do it. You can’t go out and splurge and expect to pay daycare and child support. I know some dads who fear child support, but I don’t know why. They are looking at it from the wrong perspective. Who cares what your baby momma’s doing with the money. If your child is happy, healthy, loved and taken care of, then that’s all that matters. Yeah, child support can hurt your finances, but your joy is in your child’s face.
How do you create a co-parenting plan?
You have to put yourself in other person’s shoes with the child being foundation of all decisions. Don’t be selfish.
What advice do you have to give other divorced dads?
Keep your head up and remember the most important thing is not money. It’s spending time with your children and being there for them.
Hey BMWK family, for those of you who are single parents, how do you successfully parent under different roofs?