One of the main goals of Daddy Brain is to help build community with other dads. Part of this process includes giving dads who don’t have a blog the chance to be heard. It’s always a great honor when a dad agrees to carve out some time in his schedule to share his story with us.
Derek and I have known each other for about two years now, and over the past year or so we’ve become pretty good friends. He’s a divorced dad with two kids (5 & 7 years old), and he’s been divorced since June of 2007. Derek has been kind enough to answer some questions about being a modern day divorced dad. This is his story…
Daddy Brain: Can you describe to me what it was like after you and your ex-wife decided to get divorced?
Derek: It was a relief for me mentally to finally have made the decision…well at that point it was a mutual decision. Every week was different as far as the emotions that I went through, and I second-guessed it all. I wondered if I could do everything on my own and be a good dad.
We set up a schedule for the kids to come see me, every other weekend. The first couple of months, when I would pick up the kids, my ex wife was very angry with me — sometimes yelling or saying certain things about the situation. Of course this made the kids (2 and 4) upset and made for some long rides home by myself with them.
But I stuck with it, almost having to prove to her that I was serious about things and that this was the way it was going to be. I wasn’t going to give in. I made the best of the situation, knowing that someday all of this was going to be well worth it for everyone.
DB: What transpired with the kids? How did you explain what was happening to them? How did your ex-wife handle it?
Derek: The first couple months I traveled up to where they had move to with their Mom, 2 ½ hours away. I decided that they needed to start coming to my place so we set up a schedule and a half way-meeting place for the drop off.
It didn’t go over well with my ex wife but about four months later things were very routine. She handled it awful at first, being very rude with me, making me feel guilty about everything I had done, but over time it got better.
My daughter, 2 1/2 at the time didn’t understand any of it, which I thought was good. But my son understood it all, and asked a lot of questions — but seemed to accept it.
I explained that mommy and daddy loved them both very much but we just couldn’t live in the same house together anymore. I don’t know if he got what I was telling him or not…or if it was the right thing to say, but looking at both my kids now I’m certain that they know mommy and daddy love them a lot despite the fact that we don’t live together.
DB: Do you think you got a raw deal with the divorce proceedings because you’re a man? I have another friend that’s divorced, and he has told me that he felt taken advantage of — both by the system, and his own lawyer!
Derek: My divorce went on forever! One and a half years later I sat in the court room listening to some bullhead judge tell me what was going to happen from here on out…I had 3 different lawyers throughout the whole process because no one would work with me to go after what I wanted for custody for my kids.
The whole process was unfair and so twisted that it makes me sick to think about it right now! Basically my lawyer did as little as he had too to help me because he knew that the judge wouldn’t go for anything I wanted.
My lawyer told me that to my face and told me that no matter what lawyer I would get it would make no difference.
I fought everyday to try to make 50/50 custody work but in the end I got what most dad’s get: an every other weekend schedule, paying an ass-load of child support, and giving her half of your retirement.
Every case isn’t the same. But some dads deserve more than the “standard ruling” (which some fathers seem just fine with) of being an every other weekend dad!
In the end I figured out, piecing things together that were said from my lawyer and my ex wife, that I was a little puppet from the start and they had all been working together to get this case off their desk and put money in their pockets.
DB: Do you feel that you’re treated differently (by teachers, coworkers, whomever) when it comes to your kids? Are you updated by the kids’ schools?
Derek: Well, I feel that some people are going to have their stereotypes about divorced families in general and there is no changing that.
For instance, one of my daughters pre-school teachers had an ugly divorce 20 years ago; she was also good friends with my ex wife’s mother. She would never talk or make eye contact with me. I thought it was unprofessional but what was I going to do about the way that she felt? Nothing. I know that sometimes people will treat me differently but I know what kind of dad I am.
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I’d like to thank Derek for sharing, and you for reading. Click the link below if you’d like to read Part 2 of this interview.
And remember, you are not alone…