You’ll find yourself doing a lot of things you didn’t ever expect to be doing on your own as a newly divorced dad. Packing school lunches, doing your daughter’s hair, scheduling parent-teacher conferences, unsure whether it’s wise to attend at the same time as your ex.
When my wife and I divorced, our co-parenting relationship was fairly contentious. People are people, and we all have different philosophies. But, I will say that for me, navigating the amount of things that escalated – who owed who money, whose day it was with the kids, who said what when – that got really hard. And the stakes are high: there can be major repercussions for not tracking the right information, which could alter the course of your and your children’s lives.
For the first few years after our divorce, I was so worried about tracking receipts, keeping daily logs and tracking pick-up and drop-off times, all to be accused (on more than one occasion) of making them up. I think back now at how stressed out I was. I was so focused on tracking everything, all the time, that I wasn’t being present for my kids.
Today, my ex and I both use Fayr. It’s a co-parenting app that I developed primarily as a result of not being able to find any kind of tool that could help me manage the sheer amount of recordkeeping that was starting to overtake my life. It’s an all-in-one tool that lets you record receipts, keep permanent records of messages between you and your ex, use geographical check-ins to track your exact location at any given time, manage a shared calendar, and so much more.
These days, there are fewer misunderstandings and disagreements, which has resulted in a much longer cease fire than before. Things are just clearer now for both of us. The app has really helped our overall quality of life, and now my kids live with a much better version of me.
But along the way, there were a few things I realized that I think might be useful to you if you’re a dad starting out in a new co-parenting relationship.
Be present. You’ll never get these years back.
I wish I hadn’t spent so much time in such an anxious state of mind after my divorce. I can’t get those years back that I wasn’t emotionally present in every moment for my kids. I regret that. Especially in their young years, I wish I had shown more patience and not stressed so much. I’m glad that I was able to create a solution to tracking receipts, daily logs and to proving things like picking my kids up at the time I said I would, and I hope Fayr can help you in that way, too, so you get that time back with your family that I now have with mine.
You might be tempted to go on a spending spree. Don’t.
When you become single, maybe for the first time in a long time, it might be the first opportunity you’ve had to focus just on yourself. That’s okay. It’s okay to take this time to work on areas of your life you’ve been wanting to focus on. Self-care is important. Finally committing to a new workout routine, looking inward and practicing meditation, taking a new class or scheduling a regular golf game with the guys – that’s all great.
I sometimes see newly single dads feel the need to spend extra money on things they had never thought of previously, like a new sports car or even plastic surgery. Remember that many times you are going from a two-income household to a single income producing household. It’s important to remain financially responsible as you transition to this next chapter of life and of fatherhood, so make sure you’re keeping those “me” opportunities in check.
No success in life will ever compensate for being a failure as a parent. You only get one shot at this. Do it right. Those kids matter more than a flashy car.
Be the best co-parent you can be, even if your ex doesn’t deserve it.
Kids are very astute about verbal and non-verbal communication cues. Even children as young as two or three can tell when parents are in conflict. Silence speaks volumes, too. If you never mention your ex, your children may feel they can’t openly speak to you about how they’re spending half or more of their lives with your ex. They may withhold information, and this could cause an irreparable rift in later years.
Instead, if you make a point to say kind things about your ex – even a tiny, offhand remark, your kids will understand that your home is a safe place for them to discuss their full lives. Something simple like, “Oh, your dad loves this show!” or “Your mom has always had such a great sense of humor,” also serves to validate your kids themselves, who will see part of their own personalities and selves in both of you.
And remember: your kids are always watching and learning. Your words and actions will help them learn how to respect other people whom they may not like or agree with in the future.
Finally, I will also share this: your co-parenting relationship will evolve over time. It’s hard work. It might always be hard work. But if you stay focused on being the best dad you can be and on keeping a relationship as civil and respectful as possible with your ex, you’ll get into a rhythm. You’ll figure it out. And when you look back one day at the amazing human beings your children have become, you’ll know that all of that hard work was so worth it.