The single dad tag may conjure up a stereotype for some, but there is none that I believe in. Separated dads stretch the full variety of shapes, sizes and circumstances. Each of us has unique tales of parenting adversity, adventure and elation.

I love those times when my relationship with my children has a warm glow of connection. Naturally, most of those times of dad-daughter synchronicity are face-to-face. I am grateful for being able to say my well-felt “I love you”, but what of saying the same when I am waiting for my daughters to be in my care?

Swim 1.3 kilometres once or twice a week

That’s about all I can achieve, so I won’t ask anything that is beyond me. My competitive streak demands “step it up to three”. My dad voice reminds me that my motivation is not counting kilometres.

Instead, I want to be fitter and healthier for my girls. If I am out of shape, I might imply permission for my children to be the same. Loving my children requires that I care for them. Caring requires setting a decent example and setting up the same for my children.

Meditate, pray, practice mindfulness, or all of the above

At various times, they have all softened and soothed my feelings of longing that invade when I am the only one at home.

Missing my children has not settled any in seven years. In fact, as I grow older and wiser, the wish to be able to share with them is stronger.

If the niggle of missing my children starts to wrestle with me, I try to move my thoughts to gratitude. I am not denying the sense of loss of not being with my children – I just try to set the feeling aside before it becomes too loud.

Instead, I bring myself to contemplate unassuming gifts around me – the safety of sitting at a table that is sheltered by a cosy home where I can serve myself regular meals. I appreciate the relationship of friends. I offer thanks for those people who might read this with thoughts of “I get that.” I want to say “I love you” to my children by being content when they return to my care.

Chat to a shrink

If you do, make sure that they are a good fit for you. When I separated, I longed for some insight into myself. An impartial professional could give me some truths that some protective friends might not.

I discovered that the pattern of hard work inherited from my granddad and dad could be interpreted by my ex as a lack of care if I worked back late. I learned that my greatest strengths can be my greatest weaknesses. Once I was able to look at myself as my children might do, I realised that they wanted me to be softer with them, throughout all the happiness and the heartache of being their dad.

Get in touch with your children’s teachers

I braved it recently. My inside-head voice tried to scare me off by scoffing, “They’re busy.” Each teacher I asked to meet accepted quickly. Then, they all chatted well past the ten minutes I would have been allocated at the parent-teacher interview. I gained some wise insights into my daughters.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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