I separated from my ex-wife a few years ago. I think that it was five years ago. It could have been six. On reflection, the first six months seemed like six years. During the frenzied rush of committing to a rental and buying a car and purchasing beds for my daughters, plenty of well-meaning people offered the saying that “things will get better… they always do!”

Yes, things do get better, yet the haunting sensation of struggling to trudge to the other side of the next minute distracted me from seeing that next week… next month… next year could be better. I was crushed that my day-to-day rhythm of sharing dinner with my girls or reading them nighttime stories was done.

Spending my appointed time with my daughters was a life-affirming elixir. I thrived in the delight of sharing time with my daughters; yet, for a while, the experience as a whole was a groundhog day of emotional malaise. “Things will get better” was empty for a while.


I acknowledge that there are dads just starting into day one of being a single dad, suffering similar rawness and angst of the dad circumstances being different. I am day 2044, so I write of being well ahead of the just-starting-out single dads. While I acknowledge the bitter complications of the newly single dads, I offer you my quirky (and a little bit serious) observations from 5½ years on.

Here then, are my observations of the worst things about being a single dad…

  1. Often it is just me at home, so I don’t get to call out “Honey, will you get that please?” I have to answer the phone when it rings, or the door-knocking of a Jehovah’s Witness to make a case for saving my soul.
  2. My children will fight when I am not about or am incapacitated. Showers are incapacitating. I have an aversion to stepping out of a warm shower onto cold tiles to separate squabbling girls. My girls know that being married taught me not to leave a trail of water through the house, so they know that I won’t leave the bathroom to track them down. So, my delightful daughters will punch on with each other when I am two minutes into the cascading hot water.
  3. I get lazy when cooking for one. I buy the vintage tasty cheese and the crunchy grain-laden breads for the perfect melted cheese on toast. In spite of all my research into the blissful goodness of the cheese, bread and oven-grill simplicity, the CSIRO will not include it in their well-being cookbook. I know that I should eat more veggies when I am on my own, but my own voice is not strong enough to make the case. I rationalise by turning dad-and-daughter dinners into a vegetable smorgasbord.
  4. My daughters tell me how to dress! There are about 90 billion shades of blue, and my daughters seem to name each one. They will point out that the blue shirt I am wearing is more than 20 shades away from my blue jeans and that I am embarrassing them.
  5. A serious one… when I hear of mum being phoned by the kid’s school to give notification that something has gone pear-shaped, and there is no call to dad. That bugs me. My daughter’s school actually does a reasonable job of looking out for the dads of separated families.

People who think that I want to hear the venting of their separated dad horror stories, because I am a dad who does not live with the mum of my daughters. Whinging about them doesn’t help me! There are some dads who drop the ball, but I am heartened by the awesome separated dads who lift their parenting game. Their stories inspire me.

Grief and Fear

I have gritted my teeth through the sadness of separation. I once spontaneously burst into tears at work when a colleague asked, “How’d it go?” after a Family Court session. I fought the fear of not finding comfortable accommodation after inspecting hovels that were marketed by agencies as townhouses. I felt the cherished dream of happily-ever-after dissolve off me as if each cell was coming loose and I was breaking down.

Separation is a messy, spirit-sapping process that can tread cruelly all over dads, particularly when the delight of time with your children is nabbed from you. Friends, family, colleagues and the most genuine, caring psychologist all worked on me, reached my heart and helped me restore its beat.

Some days will feel like it is turd sandwiches all day long; yet, after some tenacious, feisty determination, some of my days are fairy bread and chocolate crackles.


Photo by Milad Heran.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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