As a single mom, I don’t date a lot. There’s not time, I belong to a tiny human, and I’m tired of finding corn flakes. For any non-Dolly Parton fans, that’s a reference from the movie Straight Talk.
However, I find myself following a habit of dating divorced dads. There’s no justification for this, but the idea is appealing. He’s divorced, we’ll have that in common. He has kids, we’ll have that in common. He’s been married before, so longevity is clearly on his side.
Single Mom meets Single Dad, harmony, butterflies, sunshine, lollipops.
Except, what I am coming to realize is “divorced” dad does NOT equal “single” dad. There’s a syndrome in the mindset of some divorced dads, and for the life of me, I cannot relate. If divorced mom equals single mom, why doesn’t divorced dad equal single dad?
Ay, there’s the rub.
So, I’m going to break down what I am defining as Divorced Dad Syndrome.
1) He loves his kids, but not as much as he loves to socialize.
In the world of divorced parenting, there’s this thing called visitation schedules. In the great state of Texas, normal visitation is every first, third, and fifth weekend, and one day during the week. Which means every two to three weekends out of a month, the divorced dad has his children, and once a week, he gets to see his child for a few hours, or overnight. That is six to nine days out of a month, if a fifth weekend is involved.
Right now I’m not including holidays and summer visitation.
As the single mom, I get the rest of the days. As much as 25, and as little as 21 days out of the month are mine to spend with my tiny human (and that’s if I can do math …). So, if I want “free time” to socialize, hang out with friends, go on a date, fix my hair, paint my toenails, dye my hair, or pick my nose, I do it during those six to nine days when Tiny Tot is not around.
Because, my time with my child is the number one, most important thing on my To Do List.
What I have come to find is that divorced dads get into this mindset where having their child around seems to “cramp” their style. “No, sorry Tim, I can’t hang out tonight, I have my kids. Wait? There’s an epic party going on where? I’m calling my parents to come over and watch them.”
It seems that six to nine days out of the month, or two to three weekends, is just too much time for this single dad, especially when there are better things he could be doing.
This is a major part of Divorced Dad Syndrome.
2) His parents take over most of the time.
Who needs a babysitter when parents are around? They don’t mind watching the tiny humans. They’re grandparents. They enjoy every minute they can with their grandbabies. Does it matter that it’s 10 PM, and he just got invited to an epic party with “the old gang” that he sees every weekend? No! His parents don’t mind, they long for these precious moments they can spend with their … sleeping … grandchildren.
This has become my turn around and walk away cue. Any parent who is under the thumb of their adult male son is a parent I don’t want to know. Grandparent or not.
Now, again, maybe I’m old-fashioned, or out of the loop. Out of 21-25 days in a month Tiny Tot goes to preschool. Tiny Tot gets picked up from preschool. If I am working late, I call his dad first. If his dad has plans, I call my parents. If my parents can’t do it, I call my sister. Out of one of the four, someone can watch my child until I can get there to take him home. Because I am working, and someone has to pay the bills in order to afford preschool.
There are anomalies. My sister wanted to go see Bruno Mars, and my mom offered to watch both her child and mine. I took a good friend out to a birthday dinner, so I had a late night daycare watch baby boy for a few hours. I’ve been a single mom for close to four years, and have only upset my tiny human’s routine a couple of times.
So, why do some divorced dads pawn off their children so easily?
Another aspect of Divorced Dad Syndrome.
3) They complain about paying child support.
My ex-husband even does this–to me. But I do get cheesed when I hear about it from divorced dads. Somehow they seem to think that child support equates to “money the mom gets for free.”
That damn ex-wife.
Let’s do the math: Mom has kids 21-25 days out of the month, Dad has kids 6-9 days out of the month. Well, … the dad has him less if he’s of the “pawn my kid off so I can go party” mentality.
Kids cost money. The court system set up child support, because–apparently–if it were up to this type of divorced dad, he wouldn’t freely help pay for anything.
Clothes, daycare, preschool, food, a roof over the child’s head, a method for the dad to reach the child, medical bills, medicine, school supplies, shoes, hair cuts. Sorry, I was listing off things that children need in life. Things that are unrelated to an ex-wife.
Child support is support for the child. This particular aspect of Divorced Dad Syndrome drives me nuts! Can anyone tell?
4) They insult their ex-wife, in front of the kids.
I don’t know that this even needs explanation. He doesn’t like his ex-wife, I get it. He’s exed for a reason, I get it. Depending on how long he’s been divorced, the sound of her voice could drive him into a fit of anger … I get it.
But, please, not around the tiny humans!
I admit, sometimes I slip. I’m human. We’re all human. But the second my radar goes off (the, “oh crap, Tiny is in the room, and I have a rule about not talking about his dad in a negative light” radar), I shut it down.
Daddy is daddy. Mommy is mommy. Talking negative about an ex-spouse in front of the kids should be a minimal rarity.
And when, or if, it happens, give the ex an off-the-wall nickname.
I like to go with “George.”
5) Video games are a weekend activity.
And by weekend, I mean babysitter. Sit down, shut up, play the video game.
I don’t know if it is intentional, or if it’s become habit, but when this divorced dad has his child for six to nine days out of a month, most of those days wasted zoned out on a video game.
Tiny and I do crafts, we go to parks, we occasionally plan a family outing. We play, and play, and play. Together.
Interaction is love.
6) Pizza, Sprite, Candy … whatever pleases my child makes me a great dad!
Maybe it’s because of the six to nine days a month, but a lot of divorced dads allow their children free reign to what I consider novelty foods. Sprite is the kicker for me. I don’t know why, but it drives me bonkers when a tiny human sits down at a table and immediately demands a Sprite, like it’s common place.
Whatever happened to milk, water, juice? When did those stop being normal choices?
To quote the words of my beloved Tiny Tot, “I drink water or mo (milk) at my mommy’s, and Sprite at my daddy’s. I want to be a grown up so I can drink Sprite all the time.”
There is something that is hilarious about this particular aspect of Divorced Dad Syndrome: most of these dads do not drink Sprite. A lot of them are anti-soda.
7) He might have flaws, but his ex-wife made him that way.
He can’t be blamed for any of his behaviors. None. His ex-wife turned him into the cynical, bitter, anti-woman man that somehow other women are supposed to tolerate. That’s her fault, not his–get used to it.
Nice try, Bucko.
Now, not all divorced dads are this way. That’s why I call it a Divorced Dad Syndrome. But I cannot count the number of times I hear, “I know I can come across as angry/disillusioned/bitter, but it’s not my fault. My ex-wife really screwed me up.”
Okay, coming from the shit end of the marriage stick, I never–once–have used that line. And man-o-man do I have stories. Hell, I wrote a book about my stories, and changed all the names. Am I blaming my ex for being a lazy parent? Am I forcing a man to tolerate a bitter, angry, shrew of a woman? No.
Mostly because it isn’t in my character. We’re all built to have certain personalities. If this man blames his bad behavior on his ex-wife, run. The only person responsible for personal choice is the person behind the choice.
As for me, I’m a parent. I signed up for this gig. It was my choice.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of divorced dads struggling with Divorced Dad Syndrome. I seem to meet every last one. Yay, me!
Still, they need to suck it up, be a man, and focus on their main job–being a dad.