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Second Time Single Dad Makes the Most of a Bad Situation

Being a single dad can be very challenging all on its own. With added problems, parenting and life in general can get even more interesting.

Becoming a father is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me, but sadly, his mother and I weren’t meant to be together and split shortly before his 2nd birthday.

At the time, I counted myself lucky that we weren’t legally bound in matrimony, getting away with a “clean break” to a small studio home that was just big enough for me and my son. And seeing how he was still an infant, he literally grew up not knowing any different.

single-dad

Over time, I began dating again, but nothing too serious, until I met the happiest, most bubbly lady I ever met. At the time, I knew that she smoked marijuana recreationally and I didn’t think much of it, but I had no idea that it was a means of escaping something much more sinister and painful: post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from past abusive relationships.

Her father was a verbally and physically abusive drug addict as was her previous husband, from whom she’d been divorced from for 3 years by the time we met each other. During the course of our 5 year relationship and marriage that fell just shy of 2 years, she would quit and relapse, succumbing to crippling anxiety. After she began attending Narcotics Anonymous, we both grimly understood that our relationship may not last through her journey to sobriety as painful memories came to light.

As a last ditch effort, we even attempted marriage counseling to curb the apparent death spiral of our relationship. In the end, with her facing decades-old problems, my own growing frustration at being unable to bridge the growing gap between us and my poor son bearing painful witness to it all, I ultimately had no choice but to ask for a divorce. Where some may view this as counterproductive and even damaging, it made the most sense for us, if anything for her to focus solely on her sobriety, and for my son and me to work on our own relationship.

The Aftermath

After 7 years, my son and now ex-wife had grown very close, and he was understandably very upset. Even with it being 5 months later, he still finds himself missing her from time to time. My own loneliness can feel crushing at times, but if there’s one thing I have control over as an adult and a parent is the type of environment that I raise my son in.

To this end, I decided to do something that not even my own parents were willing to do: maintain an open dialogue. Where my parents would be hush-hush about certain subjects (including each other), I decided to simply let my son talk about what he wanted and in return, I’d be candid and truthful in my responses. As hard as it was at times to emotionally remove myself before responding, I feel that it was an important step in re-establishing myself as a parental figure that he can rely on to be strong in his time of need.

Of course, in order for me to be that strong parent he needs, I have to make my own well-being a priority. This includes maintaining a healthy work-life balance, pursuing my hobbies and of course, having some fellow adults to talk to. Another approach that my parents took when I was growing up was taking the role of the martyr, and for my own son, I didn’t see the benefit of acting like I didn’t have needs of my own, like alone time or an adult social life.

So how do I stay positive during these difficult times? Simple. I stay busy and let my son tell me exactly what’s on his mind without “shushing” him. I went in telling myself that if we’re going to suffer, we’re going to do it together, but through it, we give each other strength and every day feels a little easier than the one before it.

Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad is a former Business student who graduated alone and as a new father. An occasional writer and mentor for at-risk youth, he can either be found playing old video games, sharing a pizza with his awesome son, or both.

24 comments

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  • This is an amazing story. I love how unselfish you really are with you ex-wife and the same goes for her too. I mean this with no disrespect but, she can’t give her whole self if she does know who she is yet. You are truly doing the right thing for you and your son in keeping communications open with him. It is so important to not forget about ourselves with the me time when we are single parents. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Rebecca. Asking for the divorce was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, even though deep down I knew that the romance had been dead for awhile and our distance would only grow as she worked through her old issues. And not to mention the close relationship that her and my son had forged.

      I’ve sat in on enough NA meetings with friends and family to know what’s enabling behavior and what isn’t, and I couldn’t pretend that my silent acceptance of the situation certainly qualified. I like to think that all three of us are better off now, and my son has definitely been smiling more, which tells me that we’re on the right path. 🙂

      Thanks for reading, Rebecca!

    • Agreed! Every once in awhile, I’ll see my son’s eyes widen when I broach certain subjects, but it’s an openness that I wouldn’t trade for the world because he actually feels empowered to respond truthfully! 🙂

  • What a sad story however this proves that not only moms suffer in their parenting path, fathers also go through difficult times. I will pray that this difficult time solves the best way for the wellbeing of the child.

    • Thanks, Adriana! It means a lot! Parenting is definitely not the easiest job I’ve ever had, but every time I look at him and see how much he grows day by day, I’d say that it’s definitely worth it. 🙂

    • Thanks, Liz! I wouldn’t want him to think that it’s his responsibility to fix others, which is something I’m still getting flak for from the other side. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for someone is to let them go so that they can find themselves.

      I still hold that the divorce and the request for no-contact are two of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but felt that they were necessary for not only his health, but mine as well. Thanks for reading! 🙂

    • Thanks, Mardene. I’m pleased to report that each day gets a little easier where my son understandably missing her is concerned. I even busted him one time trying to contact her behind my back. Instead of freaking out, I decided to tell him the bare truth: contacting her would not help her on her journey to sobriety and wouldn’t do anything to help heal him.

      I’m sure there will be a time where I’ll have to step aside and let him figure it out for himself, but for now, it seems more productive for him to be focusing on getting stronger. So far, so good! 🙂

    • I couldn’t agree more, Mardene! I’m pleased to report that it’s getting easier day by day; the hardest part was starting and maintaining the forward motion! 🙂

  • Regardless of what’s happening we should all maintain an open communication with our kids. It’s important that we show them that we’re also listening to them, just as much as we want them to listen to us.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Elizabeth. I was raised in a much more staunch environment where certain things shouldn’t be spoken (even if you’re a kid). In many ways, it’s still like that between my parents and myself, but with my own child, open communication seems to be much more effective, even if it cuts to the bone at times. Definitely therapeutic! 🙂

  • My kids dad and I split when our kids were 3 and the other was only a few months old. We get along better now than we did when we were married.

    • Haha! I’ve heard this more often than not, Robin. A few of my friends who got married right out of high school would grow to despise their spouse after having a couple of kids, but then rekindle their platonic friendship shortly after their divorces were finalized. None of mine went that well, but I’m totally aware that I was the common denominator in all of those breaks, so for now, I’m thinking the little man and I are going to make some new memories, just the two of us!

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • I am sorry to hear about everything you have been through but you are doing an amazing job as your sons father. I am glad you have still kept a relationship with your ex wife, is she better now?

    • I have hope that she’ll get there soon, Ana. I did what I could to be her support coach after she started attending NA, but in the end, the anxiety and past problems were way too strong. Having a child to worry about hanging around wasn’t helping that anxiety sadly, but with her now out on her own, I hope to hear that she’s staying sober and focused on self-improvement here in the near future.

      I’m still rooting for her, only from afar and with my own eyes wide open. 🙂

    • I agree, Tara. Some of the things that come out of that boy’s mouth would have left my parents in an horrified puddle on the ground, but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. I would certainly hope that he’d continue open communication with his own children when the day comes.

      Parenting in general can be difficult, but for me, being a single parent allows me to focus on what my son’s telling me without the internal/external noise that a significant other would add to my own thoughts. In many ways, I find it easier. Thanks for reading, Tara. 🙂

    • You should have seen the look on my mom’s face sometimes when we’re simply talking to each other! I didn’t have even a fraction of the freedom my own son enjoys. I like to think that it’ll only get stronger over time and will continue on! 🙂

      Thanks for reading, Michelle!



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