March 30, 2009 in Features

Mr. Dad: With divorced father, kids will always be part of the package

Armin Brott
 

Dear Mr. Dad: I am dating a divorced father of two. I am having trouble communicating to him that being a good father does not exempt him from being a good partner. How can I get him to see my point of view without putting him on the defensive?

A: In a perfect world, you’re right – being a good father wouldn’t exempt your boyfriend from being a good partner. But I have to tell you that most single dads would make the same choice. Their priority is their children – giving them stability and protecting them from going through another breakup.

When dating a divorced dad you have to understand that his kids are part of the package. You can’t have one without the other. And if you ever put him in a situation where he feels he has to choose between the kids and you, he’ll go with them every time.

This isn’t to say, however, that your boyfriend can’t become a better partner. In fact, it’s possible that his lack of partnership skills contributed to his getting a divorce from his kids’ mother. But even if he puts his heart and soul into building a relationship with you, his focus will still be on his kids.

You’ll both need to be patient and keep your expectations low. Even after you get over the initial hurdles with your boyfriend, you’ll still have to build relationships with his children. Depending on the kids’ ages, that may happen slowly or not at all.

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is 11 weeks pregnant and driving me nuts. She’s worried constantly about our financial situation, her time off work, child care, you name it. She’s mad at me one minute, sad the next, and happy the one after that. Frankly, I’m not really buying the whole “emotional roller coaster” thing. Is she using her pregnancy as an excuse to act this way?

A: Well, there’s good news and bad news. The bad is that the pregnancy roller coaster does exist and your wife’s hormones really are responsible for most of her erratic behavior.

The good news is that the ride typically ends early in the second trimester, which you’re just about to start. Until then, try to be as understanding as can be – she’s probably not any happier with her behavior than you are and is finding the whole thing confusing and frightening.

Next, start paying attention to how the pregnancy is affecting you. You’re in deep provider/ protector mode and are focusing your attention on your wife – and that’s perfectly appropriate. However, if you can take a few steps back, you’ll find that you’re just as worried as she is about finances, child care, family leave, and a lot more.

Talk with her about this. A lot of expectant dads don’t want to bother their wife with their own issues. But she’s likely to find it very reassuring to hear that she’s not the only one feeling the way she does.

Finally, take advantage of the fact that you’re not pregnant and you’re not being bombarded by hormones and give yourself an occasional break. Find a friend to commiserate with, get some exercise, or just take a nap. But resist the urge to spend a lot of extra time at work as a way of avoiding conflict with your wife.

Armin Brott is an Oakland, Calif.-based author of six best-selling books on fatherhood. Find resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com.


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