I’ve been a father for four years. I have a four year old son and a two year old daughter. Everyone I know that has children has told me, “this age… it’s the hardest time.” I’m still in it so all I know is it’s hard now. Hardest on patience, on time, sleep and most of all on the marriage. And this is where I begin.
Two weeks ago, as of this writing, my divorce was made final. My wife of seven years decided she could no longer do it. Without getting into the details of our breakdown, I’ll just say there wasn’t anything serious or damaging – no infidelity, no abuse, no drug addiction… nothing that dramatic.
Our relationship was just broken. I wanted to work it out, she did not. We were tired, financially strained, and our friendship was nowhere to be found.
Some Things Remain…
Now I’m a single dad with joint custody. My kids are with me Monday through Wednesday and alternating Thursdays and Saturdays (confused? I know, right?). Surprisingly, not much has changed in the routine. We still play games, color, go for walks and I try to maintain my confusing role in endlessly-changing pretend narratives scripted by a power hungry man-child (my 4 year old son). We eat dinner, they get a bath, I tell some stories and they hit the sack.
Every night this is what happens. This is also what happened before “the breakup” (as my son calls it, frequently with tears).
What has changed is that every step of the way I am without my partner. I have no team member. Nobody to balance the “play with us” while dinner is being made (because dinner needs to be made). No one to help remember the medicine, help get the bedtime bottle warmed up, brush teeth for one child while I make sure the other gets her pull-ups and pj’s on before she pees on the carpet.
I have to do it all. And it f!cking sucks. I will say that I’m capable and the job gets done, but it’s not pretty.
The Suicide Hours
I get to be with my kids during the hardest time of the day. My own mom (who raised four sons) calls the time between 4pm and bedtime “the suicide hours” and it’s no joke. Kids are tired, hungry, they’ve been at preschool and with babysitters all day. They may wake up in one house and go to bed in another.
This is DEFCON 5, people.
Dad is tired and trying to not burn dinner and answer 137 questions and guess what… we are going to be lucky if we get through it without any barking, mumbling f-bombs, or stepping on sharp toys while trying to find a crying little girl her stuffed tiger (“no daddy not that one.. .the OTHER tiger”).
I’m going to screw this up. I’m going to yell at my kids. I’m going to be impatient and maybe even make one cry from drying their hair too aggressively. By the time I shut the door and say goodnight, I’m thinking to myself: “I’m not doing good enough. I’m totally screwing it up.”
How To Win This
And so here it is… As my counselor recently pointed out (and if you are going through divorce I recommend losing the pride and seeing someone to help you cope):
“Your ‘good enough’ is sometimes just good enough and that’s okay.”
If you think you have to be awesome all the time you are setting yourself up for failure (and whiskey; and cheap whiskey at that). There is nobody on the planet that can do all the things a parent has to do with a partner, let alone by yourself, and think it will be done with humor, grace and smiles all the time. Some days you’ll be lucky if it’s even that way 50% of the time.
And this is how I know my ‘good enough’ is good enough. No matter what I do wrong, at some point in the evening my son will still say, “Dad I just love you. You’re the best”. To which I humbly reply, “Thanks bud, I love you too.”
Kids are amazing at loving you back despite your faults. They live in the moment and as long as you’re not crazy or really blowing it in a serious/illegal way, they just want to know that you are there no matter what.
And so that is what I do. Be there no matter what, be honest, be as present as possible, apologize when I need to and always always always tell them something you like about them.
Gotta go. Someone is totally peeing on the bathroom floor.
About The Author: Courtney Stubbert (@getpunched) is an insightful, capable, and extremely hilarious father of two. He’s an amazing graphic designer and has some killer shirts you should check out at www.ThisYearsModel.net. Support The Cause!