Perceptions of divorced dads are often mistaken. If they are the non-custodial parent, some men, go through feeble motions of being there for their kids, according to some experts. Many dads are minimally involved and some 20% lose contact with their children altogether.
But a closer look reveals how real dads find a viable role with their kids. Simon Baker, a London-based divorced father of twins, age 5, was determined to have a positive relationship with his son and daughter. His wife moved 300 miles away and when the weekly trip became too difficult, he quit his job and moved to the same town where his ex lives.
Baker has the children every other weekend, Friday-Monday and one or two nights during the week. The children receive 100% of his attention when they are with him; there's no business talk and the mobile phone is off. He has written a book, How to Be A Great Divorced Dad, in which he provides some practical advice:
1. For older children, make a contract with them and list your fatherly responsibilities.
2. Recognize and work on your weaknesses as a parent.
3. Make the children understand that they were not the reason for the divorce.
4. Make quality time for the kids but establish routines and house rules.
5. Display respect for the kids' mother. Never argue with her in front of the children.
6. Expect the unexpected, but ask for help when you're not sure about what to do.
The book offers excellent advice for dads. However, Baker may be a rare person who has risen above the acrimony of divorce. Not many men, who I have met, meet this standard after a split. Since three out of four divorced men remarry or enter another relationship, the children of the first marriage are often neglected. A new spouse may resent the time and attention devoted to the other kids. This is a tough balancing act requiring great skill. Regardless, the children of the first marriage are entitled to the presence, caring and love of their father.