better dad after divorce

I’ve heard it time and again:

While they they were married, he worked a bazillion hours, rarely helped around the house, barely made time for the kids and spent any free time or money doing whatever the eff he wanted.

She was overwhelmed, angry, felt abandoned and worried – and the kids felt abandoned by him, too.

That is the mom's version of the story. 

Every story has at least two sides. 

Here is the man's version:

While they were married they both assumed gender-typical roles:

He worked and earned most of the money. She took on most of the house and child duties. 

Even if she worked and earned — even a lot — she still was the lead when it came to parenting.

In fact, he says she was the boss at home — and research finds time and again that despite all the successes in achieving gender equality in the public sphere, women do more work at home. She insisted that she knew best when it came to raising kids, and he just followed her lead. After all, parenting is hard, it is overwhelming and it is hard to know what to do most of the time.

He got that she did most of the work at home, but she insisted on doing a lot of parenting, all the time, and had to have things her way. She yelled and criticized, so he just naturally became smaller as a parent. He didn't even realize it, he just stepped back.

So, as his effort to contribute to the family, the dad worked a lot more. He didn't feel helpful or useful or appreciated at home, but at work or with his friends he felt more comfortable.

Here is where these stories converge:

When they split up, he changed. Now, thanks to a court- or separation-agreement order, he spends fixed times with the kids. She gets a break. He gets a break. The kids see their dad regularly and often.

These trends are new, and changing quickly.

A recent study by Kathleen Gerson, professor of sociology at New York University and author of The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America, found that the percentage of non-residential fathers being involved with their children more than tripled from 8 percent in the 1970's to 26 percent in 2000's.

One mom told me:

“I almost can’t believe what a better dad he is now, after the divorce,” one mom told me. She is happier about the arrangement on all fronts, even if it cost her the marriage. “I don’t want to be married to him any more, and if it took divorce to snap him into being a good father, then it was worth it.”

Why 50/50 shared parenting is good for moms, dads, kids and society

Why are men better dads after they divorce or break up from the moms?

Studies find that divorced dads with shared custody can spend more time, and more quality time with their children than married fathers. But, why?

It's easier to be an involved, confident dad if you're not constantly criticized

Fact: Women are groomed since birth to be mothers, given dolls to play with, urged to prioritize family over career, and typically men are not.

While parenting skills and the ability to bond with a child are gender-neutral, our culture tells women they are the better parent, and tells men they are the inferior parent. Golden uterus complexes develop, and men can follow along.

This dad told the Huffington Post:

“In my marriage, I was always walking on eggshells and getting criticized. Recently after I made dinner, my son shook his chocolate milk and it went flying everywhere. I could say, just relax it's nothing a paper towel won't pick up. It's okay to make a mistake and fix it.”

Men are better dads after divorce out of appreciation of the kids

It is often the horrible shock of facing that his family is falling apart to make him realize how much he took his kids for granted. Moms in shared parenting arrangements feel the same.

When family life is constantly buzzing in the background, it can feel like it is an all-consuming presence, even if in reality you spend little actual — not to mention quality — time with those you love most. When you’re sitting at the edge of a naked mattress, staring at your flatscreen TV with bunk beds barely assembled in the next room and leftover Seamless containers in the fridge, the pain of loneliness can be very real.

This dad of three wrote about his new take on parenting in Fatherly:

“I only have limited time with kids, so I make the most of it. No sitting around the house being bored. No kids in one room and me in the living room. We eat together. We play together. We dance, wrestle, play board games, and hug. I don’t miss things because of work. The little things became more important. My two oldest and I text and I call them on days I don’t see them. I have a different but closer relationship with them now than before. And I don’t take the daily stuff for granted.”

Single dads are better dads out of basic necessity

If you don't have to do the boring, annoying part of parenting, you don't. But when you do, it can be fulfilling — if not just part of adulthood. This dad shared:

“After my marriage ended, I realized that just doing whatever your wife tells you is leaving responsibilities to her. Becoming a single parent made me a better father as it forced me to step forward and take responsibility for dealing with situations that in the past I probably would have just left for my wife to handle or to tell me what to do.”

Social pressure makes men step up to be more involved fathers

Shame is a powerful motivator. While risking scrutiny of family court judges, highly paid lawyers, and friends and neighbors peering over the proverbial fence to see if he will be a negligent, deadbeat dad, peer pressure inspires him to step up.

From the moms’ perspective, there is often another emotion at play: A sense of triumph. “I admit that I sometimes gloat when we discuss the hours he will spend with the kids,” one mom confessed. “For so many years he insisted that he was doing enough, but the divorce lawyers, the couples therapist and his family all made him feel bad for not spending enough time with them. I hate to say it, but I get off on the fact that he knows I was right, and he was wrong.”

A dad explains: Why I don't see my child

This mom shared that her ex's transformation means that divorce was a true gift to her kids:

“Although I will always feel bad for my kids because they are children of divorce, I am pleased for them that they finally have a father who is more attentive to their needs, involved in their lives, and carrying his share of our family’s load. They deserved more than just a lump on the couch who was more interested in the fictional characters inside an electric box than the people right in the same room sharing his life! My ex’s transformation is just one more way that my children have ultimately benefited from our divorce. They may not have the two of us in one home, but they have two parents who are stronger and in a better position to focus on their needs.”

Smugness aside, there is something to be said about the value of divorce in these cases. While we all want the divorce rate to be lower than it is, see clear evidence of the financial, physical and emotional benefits to marriage, sometimes a marital split is better for the whole family. After all, if divorce means that one partner gets the parenting support she needs, the kids get more time with the previously negligent parent, and that negligent parent steps up to fulfill his potential as a father, isn’t the net sum of this equation positive?

Tips for how to be a good dad

To be a good dad, you have to recognize how important you are

Thankfully, there are scores of scientific studies that conclude that children fare better when they have both parents actively involved in their lives, and children without a present and active dad are at higher risk of drug abuse, incarceration, early sexual activity and STDs, lower academic performance and achievement, and unemployment as adults.

Perhaps you feel not up to parenting after the trauma of divorce or a breakup. Maybe you did not have a strong father figure as a child. Maybe emotional, financial or mental health issues left you unsure of yourself as a father.

You join many men in this challenge. Seek out a support group. Online communities can be helpful, as can therapy.

Online therapy is rising in popularity. Leading online counseling app BetterHelp offers plans of unlimited text, phone, email or video sessions starting at $35/week — plus a 10% discount for new users. Better Business Bureau A+ rating and 9,000 of licensed, certified therapists to choose from, anonymously. Check out BetterHelp now >>

Being a good father means prioritizing co-parenting

Easier said than done. I get it.

First, a low-conflict, amicable divorce focused on equally shared, 50/50 custody and parenting responsibility.

Read my 29 rules for successful co-parenting — even with the most toxic ex.

Then, follow all the rules, including:

Sharing happy stories about your kids’ dad (and a tribute to my ex-husband’s hairy back)

Good parents create space for kids

Space may include a home and car big enough for your children, but space also includes time and emotional bandwidth. While both mothers and fathers spend far more hours with their children than generations past, it is important to show up to pick up the kids on time when you are supposed to, show up for sports and music events, and show up emotionally. While you don't need to be at kids' beck and call, devote an hour each day to really talking with them.

Good dads trust their instincts

Despite common assumptions, studies find that fathers have the same capacity to bond with their children. You already have most of the tools to be a good dad — but you have to learn to trust your instincts. This may mean rejecting previous criticisms from your kids' mom, assumptions that fathers are inferior parents, and other, human self-doubting that plague the human species.

One mom helped her ex be a better dad after divorce

Here is an excellent example of a single mom who helped her ex be a better dad, and had remarkable results for the whole family. Excerpt from my #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin):

It took more than five years, but I am proud to say that today my ex and I can enjoy family dinners, discuss discipline challenges, and have even mentioned vacationing together in the future. A big part of this was our shift away from me seeing myself as the primary parent and both of us embracing equal roles in our kids’ lives.

There are many ways you can do this, but in Valerie’s case, she actively reached out to her ex and explicitly supported him in being a better father. It worked:

The best advice after my divorce was from a counselor. I was complaining about the burden of having my kids most of the time because my ex (going through a period of self-loathing, pity, and guilt) was not taking the time to be with them.

She told me that my kids needed me to be 100 percent of the mom I could be to them, but being 150 percent of the mom they needed would not compensate for their dad being anything less than 100 percent of the dad they needed. I would be better off investing that extra 50 percent helping him be a better dad.

Something clicked in me and really shifted my perspective. It began with a discussion I had with their dad: “Our kids need more time with you. Our kids need you more involved in the day-to-day of their lives. Our kids need you to be 100 percent of the dad you can be. How can I help you?”

And I kept asking. Finally, one day he asked me to help him move furniture into his apartment so he could make it more of a home for them. I packed up some toys and clothes (and even dishes and cups the kids liked using) and took them to his apartment. I encouraged him to coach our son’s baseball team and I helped with its administration. I encouraged him to take one of the kids to dinner to spend time one-on-one with them while I kept the other two. He became more confident as a parent.

Once I started to give, he started to give.

That was more than five years ago. Our co-parenting relationship is balanced and in a very good place. It has been for a long time now—sometimes I forget it wasn’t always.

If you are a single mom, here are three things you can do right now to encourage your kids' dad to be an equal co-parent:

  1. Back the eff off. Assuming your kids' dad has not been proven to be unfit in any way, you get no say about what happens at his house. Bedtime, meals, toys played with and adults in their company are up to the dad. This includes any of his romantic interests. If the situation does indeed sound scary, take it to court. Otherwise, he is free to parent as he sees fit. It may take him some time to find his groove, find a rhythm and routine that works for him. Give him space to be the dad he is capable of.
  2. Reach out to him in a genuine expression of collaboration. “I know you are a good dad, how can I support you?” Say that. Mean it. Recognize the wonderful benefits that the fruits of this gesture can have for your children, and you! After all, what if you no longer fought with him all the time, worried about whether he sees the kids, or stressed over micromanaging the visit? What if he were a more involved, collaborative partner who assumed taking kids when they are sick, and together you gang up on the kids when discipline problems arise. You could get more time to yourself, fewer stressful days of full-on parenting, and a calmer, warmer relationship with the only person who loves your kids as much as you do.
  3. Say three nice things about your kids' dad to them every day. This is as much about letting your children know that you support their father, as it is healing of your own wounds around the relationship, and reframes him in a more positive light in your own mind. Tell them a funny story about when you were dating. Highlight a physical attribute, personality trait that you admire, or tell them that their dad shares your values around sharing, lying or chores (if it is true).

Thomas Matlack wrote on the New York Times' Motherlode blog about how hitting rock bottom and losing his marriage made him stop drinking and be a better dad.

I've seen many times how divorce has made men better fathers – including in my own family. One of this blog's commenters named Kirsten wrote that limiting the time her ex spends with their kids makes him appreciate them much more than when he lived with them full-time:

I saved my ex-husband’s relationship with his kids by getting his angry self out of here. He couldn’t handle being selfless everyday but he can do a decent job every other weekend. While I want nothing to do with him, my kids now have a dad who is happy to see them and he’s not yelling and screaming and scaring the crap out of them.

Again, a rather extreme example. Mine is also extreme – my husband and I separated while he was recovering from a brain injury, and he was in no state to be a co-parent. But gradually, thanks to the structure that a visitation schedule provided, he has become a more reliable presence in our kids' lives.

But more than these tragedies, I've heard from everyday guys going through garden-variety divorces who thrive in their new, part-time parenting schedules. Several report that their ex-wives dominated domestic decisions and habits, and the men consciously or unconsciously acquiesced to her way of parenting while married. Now, left to their own devices, they've flourished in their new roles as independent parents. (Hear that ladies? Control freaks make men bad dads!)

Other stories are simply about men no longer taking for granted their time with their children and role as fathers. Some so cherish their visits that they find themselves more present and focused during those hours, when compared with when they lived full-time in the same home as their kids. Other dads struggle with guilt over not being around as much, worried their kids will one day have memories of the “weekend dad” — and do all they can to be involved and available.

I was recently chatting with a colleague contemplating divorce, and he said, “I owe it to my 3-year-old daughter to make it work.” That is certainly a noble and common notion, but I challenged him. A loveless marriage is no gift to any child. And there are so many examples of parents of both genders finding their groove after divorce — to the betterment of everyone involved.

More moms comment on “Does your ex spend MORE time with the kids post-divorce?”

Its interesting, this article is very true but slightly different for me. Yes my ex does spend more time with our kids post divorce but its the way that he spends his time with them that surprised me. See, I know that there are so many times where he would take them to the playground or the mall and just lets them run around without really spending time with them, which is what I totally expected from him. Getting in the hours but not the quality of getting to know our kids and being a part of their lives at all. But after three years apart I’m starting to see my ex become more “in to” our kids. He’s getting to know them as people, he listens to them as people (their 5 & 7 so little people), hears their stories about camp and games they play and learns what they want to do. My son has been asking to go on a zip line so he found a place to take him and do that. My daughter wants to only sing songs and dance and he comes over to do that with her only. I have to say that I’m so happy for both my kids and him. If we had stayed together (which would have been disastrous for all) he would never have branched out in this way with them. Sense he and I have an amicable divorce and get along, I feel with this new facet of connection with our kids we have created a new version of family where we are all happy. And yes, mommy gets to catch up on all her DVR’d shows during the down time!

– Effie

This article rings true on so many levels ! My ex definitely spends more quality with the kids since the divorce than when we were married. The kids are benefitting and I am finally getting the break that I need when they are with him.

– Danielle

Sadly, my ex spends very little with my daughter post-divorce. It wasn’t a priority when we were married, and it’s a very low priority now. Also, he seems to need to plan an activity to do anything with her -movie, swimming, etc. Otherwise he doesn’t want to take her because “I don’t know what we’re going to do.” I’m thinking – hey, you’re her dad. Spend time with her!

– Tasha

About Emma Johnson founder  Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.


  1. Are single dads better dads? Often, yes. Here’s why … | The Next Chapter on January 15, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    […] post Are single dads better dads? Often, yes. Here’s why … appeared first on Emma […]

  2. […] are some interesting posts here and here on how dads, in particular, fare much better when mum backs off and lets him be a dad of […]

  3. […] You don’t want them interfering with yours, back off, and don’t interfere with theirs. If you stop trying to control and impose your will, you’ll find they become a much better parent. […]

  4. marktwainish on January 28, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    And people say I’m crazy when I say male pregnancy would be a godsend… I wonder when they’ll start experimenting womb transplantation on men.

    Can you imagine how much less hassle and impediments to a full paternity ther’ll be when a father can do it on his own???

  5. Valerie on January 27, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    I might be judged for this, but my baby of 2 months has not seen her father for one month. I definitely believe a girl benefits from a loving relationship with her dad. I am proof of what happens when you do not. He is constantly threatening to take her away from me that a judge will agree with him. I do not know what a judge will think, but his threats have boxed me into a scared corner where I just want to avoid him. I am scared to let the baby go with him if he does not bring her back. He is legally entitled to keep her. We do not get along so hanging out in private at each others places is not a good idea right now. He is offended by public meetings. He has nothing with which to take care of a baby at his place. He refuses to pay child support says he will move to another country and not be a dad if I make him pay. I am extremely low income. I am providing for this baby with welfare and charity. He works two jobs lots of over time. Despite Mt resentment of the situation I am positive once we find a groove that he and I will both be wonderful parents to this girl. How do we get there without going to court? Without either of us having to feel like we lost our daughter?

    • Emma on January 29, 2017 at 7:25 pm

      You need to go to family court and get a custody agreement ASAP. You are right, he can legally keep her at any time.

  6. Peter Laurie on August 6, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    So many men getting their fatherhood undermined… better getting a womb transplant and do it yourself

  7. John Dearman on September 21, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    What should be the utmost priority in any divorce is the children. I’m an old guy divorced and she won custody of the kids, 60/40. She was controlling and I was a somewhat involved dad. We were fighting all the time after the divorce, and we wasted so much money in court. I finally joined a support group for divorced dads. That helped me put things in perspective and I realized that we were both being selfish and the kids were not our priority.

    The kids were upset about the 60/40 schedule for a very long time and kept saying that it was not fair. After 2 years she agreed to 50/50. She didn’t do it for me but for the kids that kept telling her that they felt stuck in the middle and didn’t like the long period of time without seeing their dad. I’m so glad that she listened to them! My son and daughter are now out of the house with good jobs, married, and a baby on the way. I can say that I had many conversations with them since they moved out of the house, and they both said that the 50/50 schedule made such a big difference. For a judge, 60/40 might be almost like a 50/50 but for a kid it’s simply unfair and that force them to answer questions from friends, other parents, and teachers on why the schedule is like that and not 50/50. For them it was the permanent cycle of being stuck in their parents’ divorce. We both didn’t thought about that when we were fighting, but we were hurting our kids.

    Once we adopted a 50/50 schedule, they felt heard and mostly they felt that they still had a family even if we lived in two different households (my ex and I were not talking at all when the schedule was 60/40). We were able to be more flexible to their needs, sometimes I would give an extra day, sometimes she would. I’ve seen so many times the parent with less custodial time being inflexible (I was one of them) because they end up seeing the kids all at once, then nothing for a week or more, except if the ex is willing to throw an extra day. Otherwise, it’s not fair to the kids and the other parent will not compromise, why would he/she?

    After many years of witnessing countless divorces, I can say I believe in Karma. If you prevent your kids from spending more time with their other parent just out of spite or for revenge, if you ignore your kids when they tell you that they miss mom or dad, then don’t be surprise when your kids have built so much anger and resentment that they don’t want to have anything to do with you by the time they turn 18. If you’re unwilling to listen to them at this age when they bring up such an important topic because you’re too focused on getting back to your ex, they will very quickly learn to not bother and not bring any concerns to your attention.

    I’m not saying that all parents should have 50/50 but if both are capable of being good and dedicated parents, then you are just hurting your kids if you just forced a split that is unfair to them. It’s not about winning. You both lost the day you separated. Listen to your kids, put them FIRST, and then you can say that you’re a good parent. Without it, your kids will constantly feel caught in the middle. Let go of your anger (it can be blinding) and cooperate. Be the smarter one, make the first move, offer an extra day, and Karma will be on your side and once the kids are out of the house your relationship will be stronger than ever. Again, you and your spouse divorced, the kids did not. If you love them, do the right thing.

  8. debi9kids on December 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    My soon-to-be-ex is now an awful dad to our children (but apparently a wonderful dad to his “new” love child from his affair 4 years ago (that I forgave him for, only to discover they cheated AGAIN last year).
    He only sees the kids every other week and doesn’t call or contact the kids at all during the 12 days he doesn’t have them.
    When he’s here, he spends half his time playing Xbox with the kids and half on the phone texting his girlfriend.

    It’s awful for my kids.
    They are heartbroken.

  9. scott on November 23, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    i think times are changing when my daughter was born i wanted to be a hands on dad do my part everything but for some reason my ex partner did not appreciate this she turned abusive and made destructive comments towards me on a personnel level used to snatch her of me when i was trying to settle her for a nap and stuff not like i did not let her take part at times as well she caused a very nasty break up and is actively alienating me from my child she has been very nasty and abusive and turned me in to a bag of nerves with my daughter actively smashing my confidence how is that in a child’s best interest its not its selfish i think she broke up with me so she could maintain more control then the lies started omg! going to court i hope they see what is happening and help me i did want a family 2 children but i am terrified of the same thing happening again it feels like your child is being snatched from you and there is nothing you can do!

  10. Danny on August 26, 2014 at 12:30 am

    I moved to Arizona with my gf of 4 years so she could get promoted for her job with Starbucks, I didn’t have a job for first 3 months we were there because economy was bad and I picked up a job at spring training and rode a bike to work just to help with whatever it was until I found a regular good full time job making better money. I finally found a job making 70,000.00 a year and her sister moved down to be our nanny and her sister partied all the time so I said this is not right. I said we can’t have random people over here at 1-3am when our son is an infant and you get up at 330am for work (Starbucks) she decided to move out with her sister and left me with all bills and took my son and that lasted 3 months because the problem of her sister followed her and so she decided to take off with my son back to Seattle and I had to quit my good job to follow so I could be with my son and now that we are back she has full control I still have not been able to have my son overnight and he is 2 tomorrow. I am far from unfit I gave up drinking for her over 9 months ago I go to counseling because I am so hurt, if you don’t love me anymore move on and stop controlling me and let me be the great father I am, it’s sick that the only person that gets hurt is the child and the unselfish parent who made a change and fought to keep their family together. I filed court papers for parenting plan on her and had a guardian a litem appointed and she is telling me until I drop G.A.L then she will not think about trying again. It’s all control. My family has never had my son on weekend, instead dad has to stay at work and not see his son while mom is out on her parents boat and on vacation for 2 weeks, her father died when she was very young and he overdosed on drugs and she calls him the sperm donor. So the woman who don’t see the father of their chil busting their ass to change their life and do what’s best for kids is heart breaking. She has no clue what it’s like to not have our son one night because she never has. It’s sad and I am not dropping guardian a litem because I will prevail and fight to have my son have his father in his life as I did not. If people knew the control it’s crazy people say I have no idea how you put up with it? Well sometimes you can’t make a person love you . We all make mistakes but my son doesn’t deserve to be taken from his dad who is an absolute great father. I told her move on with your life as I will because when you really love someone you stick it out and figure it out as a partnership. It takes two to tango. -Danny

  11. Ashley on August 21, 2014 at 2:15 am

    Honestly the women on this site make me sick! You never even think about how the men feel. I am a male and was the stay at home parent for 6 years. I will soon be an every other weekend parent thanks to our ridiculous legal system that doesn’t value fathers as anything other than a monthly check. It is impossible to have a meaningful relationship with children when you see them 6 days a month. Shame on you women who think this is just fine. You are harming your children by being so selfish. To you women who fight hard to restrict the men from seeing the thing they love most in this world go to hell. Emma honestly you divorced your husband when he was recovering from brain surgery? Lovely! If brain surgery and recovery weren’t hard enough you then divorce him in the midst of that and then try to restrict how much he sees his kids. Couldn’t you have waited until he was healed to try and destroy the man. Selfish and self centered!

  12. Virgil B on March 31, 2014 at 2:00 am

    I’m not to sure where to go from here… my ex (2 year relationship) is currently pregnant with my son (my 1st child)(she already has two kids with a different father) and she is doing everything she can to block me out of her life because she feels like I judge her by cleaning up her place and helping her understand that her 2 kids run her over. What can I do? She even threatens to disappear to Mexico and/or not let me sign the birth certificate. We are due in August possible September. I really love her and the unborn child and would give up anything just to make it work. I would hate to know that my son is going to be fatherless.

    I hope this is not too off topic

  13. Bella on January 13, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Giving kudos to part-time dads should be given more thought by the women that have posted on the site. You have to also realize that the agreements that you will make with the dad consistently make it so they are considered part time and not truly a 50/50 partner in co-parenting. My boyfriend is currently experiencing being an every other weekend and every Wednesday father, because his ex-wife would not allow and every other week co-parenting plan. She is too selfish and would not give up any more time and was too worried about her child support and how much she wouldn’t get. She also made it so the children would have to split every single major holiday instead of doing every other holiday. I am not sure how this was to be beneficial for any child to interrupt every major holiday because she couldn’t do without seeing them. In this situation my boyfriend doesn’t have a choice but to be an every other weekend every Wednesday parent. Even with him living five minutes away from their school, his ex-wife still does not feel that he should get additional time and that the additional time will be him being able to attend more of their activities, which may not even be true because he does work. Neither the mother nor the father should be applauded for taking care of their children after a divorce, it’s something that you should be doing anyway and no one deserves to get a pat on the ass just because one feels they do it more than the other because one is a woman. When the ex-wife keeps the children from the father, for selfish reasons, she shouldn’t be patted on the back for anything. Fathers nurture their children different than mothers, that’s a fact. It doesn’t mean that fathers don’t nurture their children at all… Get a grip ladies, just because you gave birth to these children doesn’t mean that you know what’s best for them, that’s why it takes two to make them in the first place.

    • Emma on January 13, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks for this Bella. Lots of great points to support my arguement. It’s a tough situation – lots of times parents (both of them) need to be flexible and open minded in allowing the other to grow and change. For example, when I first split with my ex — who was barely recovering from a brain injury at the time — I was terrified of leaving the kids alone with him and fought very hard to keep him from having overnight visits. But as he’s worked through his recovery he has proven to be a really great dad and I have no reason to do anything but encourage his relationship with his kids. In less dramatic situations, sometimes one parent checks out for a period and is not an involved father or mother, or maybe there is even an alarming incident. But they should be given the chance to redeem themselves — especially if they fight for the chance to do so.

  14. Rebecca on April 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Emma – yes I agree, there is a silver lining for the kids. They often get a “better dad” than they had pre-divorce. But I resent that the dads get such kudos for their part-time efforts, I resent that the kids end up idolising the “fun, quality time” parent over the one who has to do all the hard slog, and I resent the notion that “control freak” mums make men bad dads. I resent taking all the blame AND all the responsibility. These part time dads step up, not because they suddenly have the freedom to parent according to their own rules, but because they have no choice. When the children are in their care, they are forced, probably for the first time, to be present and responsible instead of allowing someone else to step in and take care of everything. It’s just a shame someone can’t teach them this before they destroy their families, even if we all end up happier apart than we were together.

    • anthony on November 19, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      I don’t believe Rebecca understands how this conversation happened! Fathers who were great fathers and the one to take care of the kids, take them to sports, dance classes, seen them walk,talk and a father who is hands on with there children should have the same power the woman or mothers have in courts, there are so many fathers who are so much better parents than the mothers, and we too decided to bring these innocent children who deserved two parents into the world. Its a shame that many woman don’t believe in there wedding vows, that leaving or jumping ship is better than fixing the one there in. As a father of two young children, i miss them everyday and had the full responsibility when i lived with them and would give my left arm just like many other Dads to continue to be able to still read them bed time stories, do there home work and reports,projects etc. Being a part time dad is harder than you full time Moms can understand, give your kids to your ex-husbands that want them for a year, see your kids every other weekend then speak for us men. Until then i would stop with the woman do everything crap, Because the only thing my ex- did more than me was carry them. i was there in the delivery room!

      • Emma on November 20, 2013 at 10:09 am

        Anthony, stories like yours are heartbreaking. While fathers are by and far more involved than ever before, there is still a lot to do to bridge the gap between how much childcare women and men do. Sadly, while these issues should be considered on a case-by-case basis, overriding trends dictate what courts decide. Hang in there. Wishing you and your family the best.

    • Tony Jackson on April 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Chicks like rebbecca just dont get it. Im in the same boat as Anthony except me and my sons mom never married. Its the truth, the more controlling mom is, dad usually wont put up with the additional stress. There is NO DOUBT I am the better parent for my son, im the one who can spend that one on one time with him that he is usually too busy with other things. However when dealing with the majority of women these days its not about being a parent its all about control. So let me get this correct, I have the responsibility for him money wise but no say so in his education, child care and how hes raised on a everyday basis and if I disagree then mom might get in her feelings and start playin I have to go BACK to court, pay more money to a scumbag lawyer who wont represent me properly(instead of that money going to my kid)headaches, stress, anger for what a couple of days a week? I choose to work at a daycare as a cook for the hope of my son attending so we could spend time and I could raise him as best I could. But for some reason his mom is more worried about control than my kids best interest. After discussing this and other things in a calm adult manner and still gettin the run around (ive been through alot behind this). Ive decided to just back away. Because I truly am tired of jumping through hoops, arguments,csb,childish behavior or just straight up bullshit (sons car seat reeked of weed) I love my son to death and have sacrificed alot for him but at the end of the day im not going to keep trying to beat a dead horse, loose my insanity or frankly wind up doing something stupid. Women like rebbecca have this attitude like they impregnated them selves and for the dads that choose to be involved they get told over and over again “mommy knows best”. I have nothing against mothers, but I get sick of hearing about a dad that has to deal with all that insanity AND deal with the kids. If a father is doing what he can and being responsible why cant he have custody? Especially bsince the only reason it hasent fell apart all the way is because she can run home and play the “poor me” card. If the situation was reversed I would hope if my son needed to live with her because I couldn’t give him what he needs then it wouldn’t be taken personally but for his best interest. But hey if she wanna burn herself and her mother out because she wants to be greedy then by all means.

  15. Rebecca on April 7, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I’m sorry but are we supposed to pat these men on the back for being able to thrive as part-time parents? For being able to cope with their own children for a day and a half twice a month? I have a news flash for you – almost anyone can be a good parent a day or two at a time. The hard work, the real work of being a parent, is being able to do it day in, day out without fail. Of being able to clean up yet another mess and resolve yet another fight, knowing you’re going to have to get up and do it all again tomorrow. Knowing you’re going to have to do it even if you’ve had a crap day at work or a sleepless night or a splitting headache. And what about childcare? As a single parent now working full time, I have to think about childcare pretty much ALL THE TIME. Every holiday, every time they’re sick, every in service day – I have to make sure I know who is going to be with my children. Their dad might offer to “help” on some of these occasions…but if he can’t, I doesn’t matter. Because he knows full well that I will sort it out.

    So yes, it’s great that the kids feel closer to him and get more of his attention when they are with him. And it’s great that he gets a tiny taste of what it’s like to actually have to take responsibility for his children. But it’s just that – a taste. I fully and wholeheartedly congratulate those dads who have taken on full or even 50/50 responsibility for their children after a divorce, but for those part-time dads, frankly I think they are getting their getting to have their cake and eat it too while they leave us, the full-time carers to still do all the hard work.

    • Emma on April 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      Hi Rebecca. I 100% hear you, and it sounds like your experience mirrors mine. I’m not suggesting dads get a high-five for their parttime parenting efforts. I’m saying that in many cases there is an upside to divorce, in that men DO come to appreciate what it takes to parent, and yes, thrive because their time with their kids can be limited, less stressed and ultimately, less responsibility. You are correct — the bulk of the responsibility often does fall on the mother (ahem, like you and me), and that may not be fair. But there is a silver lining.

    • Bob Giantonio on March 23, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Rebecca, as is typically the case with blogs such as these, a person’s opinion usually mirrors their own experience. For me, as a single Dad with primary custody of my twin boys, my perspective is entirely different than the picture you presented. My ex was an average Mom when we were married. She loved them, but complained about everything she was dealt with to anyone who would listen. She returned to the work force when they were just a few months old, she utilized pre-school, as soon as it was available, and she liked to go out on the weekends. She eventually moved out to pursue “other things,” and when I filed for divorce, she came back wanting an 85/15 residential schedule and all that went with it. I ultimately won 60/40 time, and 3 years later, she still gripes to anyone who’ll listen about how unfairly she was treated. About how the marriage was emotionally abusive. About how the legal process screwed her over….Blah, blah, blah. She rejected a 50/50 offer, pushed it to trial, and lost. In other words, strong enough to goto trial, but not strong enough to be mature about the result. Back to topic…I am a much better Dad today than I was when we were married. Why? Because getting out from under the bad marriage enabled me to parent my kids without her around. Because I CHOSE to reshuffle the deck when we separated and got a job close to home and I stepped up when she stepped out. When you’re in a bad marriage, BOTH parents deserve the right to, as I said, reshuffle the deck. If Dad made all the money and worked 60 hours a week, and Mom did all the childcare, that doesn’t mean that Dad should be sentenced to a life of 80/20. Spousal maintenance exists to help a stay at home parent get on their feet and reshape their financial lives. The same should be true for the breadwinner. Dads should be allowed to reshape their lives to provide more care for their children. The arrangement you had during marriage is gone, and more and more, Dad’s are stepping up and fighting back. The courts are taking notice too.

  16. Olivia Andersson on April 7, 2013 at 6:18 am

    My boyfriend has a son, from a relationship where they broke up just after the son was born, so this doesn’t connect fully to your divorce hypothesis.

    However, he had him only weekends in the beginning but now (at the age of 7) they take care of him every second week, so it’s a 50/50 cooperation. He sometimes tells me about how he could truly be there for his son all the time when spending only weekends with him, and how he feels that now he is more a “regular and boring” father who sometimes needs to work and do other everyday things while his son is here with us. So in that way I agree with your story, this is how he himself experiences it as a father. He would, however, never give up the chance to take care of his son 50% of the time, although this might mean his son finds him less “fun”, less “adventure”.

    What makes me upset with your text is the perspective that the actions and choices of the woman makes the man a better/worse father. “Control freaks make men bad dads”? The man makes himself a better/worse dad! It sounds like you’ve only been in contact with men who are worse fathers than the wife is a good mother, and where the mother has to raise and educate not only the kids but also the man as a father? To me, this sounds tragical.

    Of course, I live in Sweden and our culture is perhaps widely different from yours also in this aspect. But if dads are responsible, that’s not “thanks to” the mom handling the dad in the correct way, or vice versa. If someone told you, as a mom, that you take your responsibility for your children thanks to your husband/former husband dealing with you in the right way, or that perhaps if your husband had treated you differently, then you would have made a better mom, how would that make you feel?!!

    My boyfriend has to fight a lot of prejudices against dads, even here in Sweden. Nobody expected him to take much responsibility for his son after the separation. Teachers, coaches etc expect the mom to be the one who wants to get information about the son’s activities, so all info goes to the mom and then – if the mom feels like it! – it comes to us. I think this text cements this view of fathers, and mothers, even further.

    • Emma on April 7, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Hi Olivia – You make a great point — no one is responsible for another person’s actions or the quality of their parenting. And yet, family dynamics and the way couples relate are the responsibility of both parents. It takes two, as the old saying goes. Anecdotally, I see lots of families in which the mom is the primary caregiver, and being the female (aka the assumed nurturer, historically) the fathers unconsciously defer to her child rearing preferences. Yet this can be emasculating, or at least deflating, which makes him resent being involved on some level. It is something that just happens over time, until a split occurs, when things change and he is now free to parent as he likes – and thrives as a father as a result.

      It is complicated and I don’t pretend to have the answers. It is easy to say: everyone is responsible for themselves! But that doesn’t paint the whole picture.

  17. Emma on March 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    @Sharon – true. Would you care to share your experience?

  18. Shannon on March 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    This report gives a bad name to the fathers who do marry again an are still AMAZING Fathers!!

  19. edeananda on March 19, 2013 at 5:34 am

    The same clarifying exercise can be done by, and would also benefit, women.
    Less blame game from either party, more understanding and compassion, more positive energy going around to shower the kids with, to shower ourselves with, and even eventually to shower the other parent with. Win-win trumps zero-sum. Everytime

    • edeananda on March 19, 2013 at 5:41 am

      It’s crazy how the very things that drive us apart in the first place: money issues, communication issues, self-esteem issues, an imbalance of power, unreasonable expectations, etc all have to be resolved anyways in order to have an effective co-parenting endeavor.

  20. edeananda on March 19, 2013 at 5:30 am

    Can I hear a man, just one, just once, say that he learned to be a better father for reasons other than circumstances related to something the mother did or didn’t say or do?!
    Let’s make that sentence more simple: Mom had nothing to do with my lackluster parenting.
    The kids had nothing to do with it. The marriage had nothing to do with it. The house and job had nothing to do with it. It was all me. My perspectives, my reactions, my actions, my lack of action, my ego, my naivety, my immaturity, my desire for control, my desire for sovereignty, my various other wants, my inability to know what my wants were, my not knowing that my wants were mostly self driven and unhealthy for the family and for myself, etc etc etc.

    I think what makes parents better over time is when they can really start to trust themselves. It matters not one iota what anybody else says that’s good or bad, because if you can’t live with yourself and make decisions from a rooted place within yourself, you won’t be able to truly care about the well-being of another.
    So many couples start to hate each other for the discomfort of growth that they each must undertake, in order to become whole people and more effective parents, as though the other person somehow caused it.
    The other person may pinpoint that there is a character flaw that needs refinement, or may be needing to grow themselves just as much which brings the thing to one’s attention, but that doesn’t mean anything will feel better with a blame game being tossed about. Really, it’s life itself that is forcing us to change.
    Oftentimes though, neither party is yet willing to do the hard work of redeveloping themselves to adjust to their changing lives, and they think a divorce will help them go back to the way they were before (as single people with no children), not realizing there is no going back, nor should there be. From birth on, you start on a path forward, and as scary as that may be at times, you must continue on. Hopefully you learn something good along the way

    • Bob on May 5, 2015 at 1:52 am

      I’ve never heard a women do this, so why should men?

    • Brett on October 11, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Well, I’m assuming your a mom. I was always rooted as a father, however after suffering through 6 affairs over 15 years. Watching my children be taken from me at a whim. Deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan for 5 years simply trying to stay afloat because I always had to take accountability for someone else’s poor choices. Always had to argue about managing money. Always had to argue about basic parenting. After coming through that and being alienated from at least one of my children. I have to be honest. sick of hearing about poor single moms. I’m a single dad with my kids 50% of the time, (well 2 of them now) I always was a good parent, I’ve always had to fight really stupid choices and ideologies. I stand here today paying my ex 1200 bucks a month because for 20 years I was forced to do what was necessary without even a college degree, while my ex with a bachelor’s and a masters from one of the top 20 schools in the nation takes minimum pay to “make a difference”. I’ve had my ex move a jobless ex convict with a 2 page criminal record including child and spouse abuse and over 5 arrests into her own home in front of my kids because “it’s all his crazy ex wife” and “everyone deserves a second chance” watched that crash and burn. Now she’s chasing a lawyer and posting crap about being an aspiring Reiki holistic practitioner on her freaking facebook. When I actually see a court tell this woman to grow up and be accountable for her own kids. Make the same sacrifices I have, get a job to support her family… then maybe then will I give the “poor single mom” shtick some actual thought with levity.

  21. James on March 12, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I think I’m a better dad now than I was prior to my separation from my children’s mother.

    But, it’s not because I took my kids for granted.

    The biggest issue was their mother and I not having open and honest dialogue about how we should raise our kids before we had them. I raised my kids like I was raised with corporal punishment and yelling when they didn’t listen and I got frustrated.

    On 8/12/12, their mom finally told me that how I dealt with the kids frustrating me was killing her love for me. I haven’t used corporal punishment once since that conversation. I am also a lot calmer than I was previous to that and have read a lot more books on parenting.

    I had to fight hard to get almost 50% parenting time (1 overnight every week, 1 evening from 3:30 to 6 every week, and every other weekend from Friday night to Monday morning). And that hasn’t made me a better parent.

    But, the things that happened during the custody fight (she forced me from our home by getting a stay away OOP claiming excessive corporal punishment so she could tell me she wanted a divorce via email) did make me treasure my time with the kids.

    Although, I have a feeling that she deals with the same issues on the weekends when she doesn’t have the kids.

    So, I think one thing that helps make single dads better is that the communication issues are gone.

  22. Honoree Corder on February 22, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I’ve noticed more and more men wanting to have full custody and/or putting their kids above their careers. All of the dads I interviewed for The Successful Single Dad had made major sacrifices so they could be a major part of their kids lives. One turned down a major promotion, another actually quit his high-paying law partnership and started his own practice so he had more control over the time they spent with their kids. Whatever has caused the shift, I say “Bravo!” Never underestimate the power of a dad!

    • Emma on March 14, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      It is remarkable how evolved fathers have become in one generation of divorce.

    • Jay N. on December 9, 2016 at 12:16 am

      I think the law should be that dads always have an opportunity to see their children, at least 50 percent of the time. Problem is, family law is such a large business now days. Forget it! Let’s look at the family law system of Sweden, Norway etc… It’s 50-50. Also, there should be NO CHILD SUPPORT or ALIMONY. It’s preposterous! Unless, the other parent denies there custody right. It should be in the constitution. As society progresses, so should family law, meaning every parent is entitled to be a parent. That is universal common sense!!!

  23. Helen on February 22, 2013 at 7:31 am

    The visitation arrangement ordered by the court in our case really does ensure that my daughter sees the very best of her Dad. He flourishes in the structure provided.

  24. Morghan on February 22, 2013 at 7:22 am

    This has 100% been my experience.

    Professionally, I see this happen quite often during divorce or custody disputes. I think the trend is that fathers more and more want to be active and participate in the day-to-day. Unfortunately it is taking the courts a little while to catch up to this idea. Dads in these situations need to be persistent to get the time and access that they want. And moms in these situations need to realize that having an active dad is a blessing!

    On a personal level, my ex- is a wonderful dad. He’s told me many times that having the kids on his own forced him to realize how much I did during the marriage and it forced him to realize that he can excel at this.

    • william wats on April 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      i work from home as a consultant and author. i have two kids, 9 and 6. i am still married and heading towards a divorce. its not my decision. i was willing to try to work it out. she got tired of me. my wife works outside the house.

      my soon to be ex wife isnt a bad parent. shes not a good parent either. her version of parenting is to take the kids to a friends or her parents, turn on the tv for them, and then chat with whomever. she resents excessive demands on her time, loses her temper and shouts, and get impatient.

      i have been the primary care giver almost since day one. i am an exceptional father. even my soon to be ex wife admits that. i take them to school and then work. i pick them up. i play with them. we disconnected the tv in the house and unless they want to play or be alone, then im there with them. i do homework with them. i feed them. take them to the doctors. i put them to bed at night. i wake them up. everyday.

      except saturday night. then my wife puts them to bed. she spends about half of sunday with the kids too, despite being off all day. the rest of the day she feels is “her time”. i havent had “my time” in years. i know whats she talking about conceptually but i cant visualize it. i cram 8-10 hours of work into 5-6 hours of day so when the kids are home i am there physically and mentally for them.

      from what i am discovering, it doesnt matter what kind of father i am and what kind of mother she is. shes gonna get custody. shes going to get the house too. shes gonna get the dog and the car too. the kids will be VISITING me yet LIVING with her. there is a huge difference.

      i read the article and laughed. the system is so skewed towards women that its unholy.

      • Emma on April 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

        Hi William, You note makes me feel really sad on so many levels. I’m sorry you’re going through this. One thing: I urge you to get a good lawyer and fight for custody if you believe that is what is best for the kids, and it a) sounds like you do, and b) sounds like it is! Don’t assume that the courts are stacked against you, and fight for what is right – both in terms of custody and the house, etc.

      • bob smith on January 8, 2015 at 9:58 pm

        No, it is not “remarkable”. What is remarkable is the audacity of women to think they have the right to take our children from us. It is remarkable to watch you women think you’re so high and mighty to spit down at us with your condescending sympathies. Take your sympathy and shove it. You’re programmed to deceive. You’re selfish nature is destroying the fabric of society. You don’t even care about your own children. You’re like doggies wagging the fng tail.

        You make me sick and you make all men sick! How dare you do this to fathers and their kids. How dare you “go with the flow” and suggest we get good lawyers. If we want your opinions we will give them to you. Instead of your stupid lazy advice, instead of telling us how “sad” you feel for us, WHY DONT YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS F**KED UP SYSTEM!!!! YOURE ALL THE SAME.

        • Yams are great on June 21, 2015 at 10:39 pm

          Bob smith, stop being so bitter. You sound like a radical feminist. Yes it’s screwed up what goes on in family court and how abuse against males is overlooked and mocked, however lets focus on equal rights. focusing on one group takes rights from others and then leave for my group and then those former right so you gain by taking away in favor of the other group.

          • Yams are great on June 21, 2015 at 10:42 pm

            Shit i voice typed and it turned out like a word salad, basically focus on equal rights not rights of a specific group.

            • Paige on January 14, 2017 at 3:58 pm

              Haha! I love that you posted word salad! Maybe all the weird rants I see on the internet aren’t scary psycho rants but are accidental voice types.

          • anon on October 1, 2015 at 10:09 pm

            There currently isnt equality, a dad is presumed guilty and cannot get his children no matter how many t’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. It is funny how a dad is only important when it comes to a paycheck, when a willing dad tries to be a good dad, then he is not part of the best interest of the kids. Dads have so much to offer, what people dont understand is that it is different than moms way. Dads way to parent is not wrong, just not the same as mom. In this day of recognizing difference, why cant courts get their act together and realize that different isnt always wrong. Not every dad is a good dad, neither is every mom, but with more and more divorces dads are left out of the picture.

        • Beryl on November 2, 2015 at 4:04 pm

          And you have the audacity to take our kids from their mother!!!I refuse to join in on this mother bashing!!!’ Stop it now!!

        • Jay N. on December 9, 2016 at 12:09 am


          You are so right. The system needs a complete overhaul. We live in such a progressive society, yet the law hasn’t progressed for men. Think about it, since women have been in the workforce, and it takes two parents, not one, shouldn’t society understand that both parents should have equal time to their children. It should be 50-50 legal/shared custody for both men and women. On the contrary, if men or women have issues, such as not wanting to see their children, well they have that right, but that’s a terrible thing on that parent. Perhaps this should be something the government should finally fix, along with healthcare and so many other issues we have in our country.

          • Brad on June 10, 2018 at 10:18 pm

            Jay, in many states, joint and 50/50 custody is the default unless there are issues with one parent, then the courts decide who is the better and stable parent.

        • Brad on June 10, 2018 at 10:11 pm

          Bob, no they are not all the same. If you feel that way, it isn’t the women, it is you! If you think of a female as an object, then you are going to treat them that way. It isn’t their fault you don’t respect them, but it is your fault that they don’t respect you. If you were gay, you would say the same thing about men. So basically you are the problem but want someone to blame for your own pathetic life.

      • John on October 6, 2016 at 9:12 pm

        As a father going through a divorce i can tell you that you have it all wrong. My ex-wife is a workaholic an it is what lead to our divorce. It came down to just one thing, I am too blue collar. I own a swimming pool company and she is high up account manager at a large company. Our relationship was killed by one thing, greed! That being said, I found that the father (male) doesn’t have to suffer from the system! I found the best (male, very important!) lawyer and set my sights on not being abused by the system! I will tell you that it is expensive to fight it as a male but remember this is for your kids and for your RIGHT as a father. I am still fighting but I will tell you I have 50/50 legal and physical custody of my children at this point. My ex called in a guardian ad litham to try and take my custody away. Turns out that it was the best thing for me and my children. I will not go into details on this post but she is the one paying me and I still have 50/50 custody of my children. Please feel free to email me with questions! Please do not feel you have to loose just because you are the male! While the courts are still bias in the mother direction, it can be changed! email me at (jfsitle(r) remove the parenthesizes and use the @ symbol.

      • Arthur on January 29, 2020 at 3:49 am

        Thank you for your comment. You nailed it. My ex was angry, unfaithful, violent, dishonest, and frequently stayed out all night. We even obtained a custody evaluation where I was recommended to be the primary custodian mostly based on her hostility towards our youngest daughter and overall anger management problems. I paid bills and avoided extra spending while she consistently took the children to movies and dinner. She was very controlling in our home and would pitch anger fits when I did anything other than what she told me to. She complained about everything. She cheated throughout most of our 16 year marriage. Her reason to me was that I didn’t make her feel special and put her on the shelf. In court the judge threw out all of the children’s statements to the custody therapists as here say and ignored the evaluation findings. She also ignored all the obvious lies she told which included me supposedly punching her in the face several times. The kicker is that I got equal rights and equal time, but she got custodial parent and 30% child support plus medical. I get to pick the kids up and drop them off every other day while she sits at home collecting checks. I also pay full taxes on child support and not able to claim any exemptions. I just gave up getting my kids half time since I simply can’t afford to pick them up and feed them on what’s left for me to live off of. To put numbers on it I make $4200 per month and after Child Support, Medical compensation, and taxes I bring home $2000 per month. No one can believe that her behavior is her own choice. I still get told that I must have done something to her for her to behave that way. Even the children have adopted the excuse that she is going through a lot. Seriously? You should see my kids faces when they ask for me to buy them things and I have to say I can’t afford it. It’s heart breaking. The only things that have changed as of 2019 is that men get awarded 50% time but stripped of finances. I had to block her phone because she only criticizes, chastises and ridicules. At least I don’t have to hear her voice anymore. That’s almost worth being broke. I was a good Dad stuck with a crappy Mom and no she is not any better after the divorce.

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