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Separated Reflections

Posted on 29th October 2016 in children/ custody/ debt/ debts/ depression/ divorce/ ex-husband/ family/ money/ only dads/ onlydads

OnlyDadsI’ve been asked to reflect upon the experience of separation, how I handled it and if – upon reflection – I would have done things differently. The whole concept here is along a theme of ‘putting the children first’.

The questions are:

1. What did you do well?

2. What didn’t you do quite so well?

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be?

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today?

I’ve pondered this for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to look back on, and I wanted to be sure that my answers were honest and that I would only go ahead with the post if I felt it could be useful to someone else.

Here’s the thing, when I found myself in this position (out of the blue), I would have been desperate to read this kind of thing, there was literally nothing around at that point to tell me what to do, how to feel, what to think. And although, obviously no one can do any of those things for you, sometimes when you can feel the floor falling away from under you, you just need something, some shred of evidence that someone else has been through this and that they got through it ok.

So, my answers are:

1. What did you do well? Not much I don’t think. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts and so I floundered for a long while, taking advice from people who were ill-equipped to help. I did my level best to put the children first, in terms of caring for them, loving them, trying to retain some normality (some context: the house was being repossessed, my partner of 10 years had run off with someone he’d known for 2 weeks, I uncovered huge amounts of debt, my parter decided he needed to put his new relationship first, i.e. before the children). So retaining normality was hard, I was an emotional wreck with very little (almost zero) support but I tried to keep up with bedtime stories, walks, collecting leaves, play dates (while I sobbed in a supportive friend’s kitchen), and, I tried to facilitate my ex seeing the children. He would make plans, then cancel at the last minute, but I would still allow for new plans the following week and explain to my confused babies as best I could.

Actually, a better answer to question 1 would be:

It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your bruised emotions, your confusion, your pride or your finances, it is about the children. The innocents who need to be protected from as much of the impact as possible.

2. What didn’t you do quite so well? This little question is deceptively hard. I think I’ve touched upon a few things above so I am going to say that I should have sought better legal advice. I had a trainee solicitor who essentially told me I was screwed. She was no help to me emotionally or practically and as such I lost my home, my children lost their home and many possessions and I ended up responsible for a huge amount of debt. I don’t think I’ve heard of many other people who were dealt such a poor hand in this situation.

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be? Time is a healer. Have faith that your personal wounds will heal and that the best thing you can do is invest time (not money/gifts etc) but time with your children. Make them feel loved and secured. If your ex is willing to have regular contact with the children, let them! Do not get caught up with petty arguments, point scoring and playing the blame game, let them feel loved by the two people who should love them.

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today? I have a great life now but that is no reflection upon things at that time. If I go back say 6 months after he left, it is a very different picture. Then I was homeless, in debt, with very little support, even from the ‘system’. I was offered a, frankly, terrifying B&B (one room for all 3 of us, sharing a bathroom with strangers, you cannot be in the B&B during the day), which was in a completely different town to our old home, the children’s school and friends. At this point I literally couldn’t afford tea bags and toilet roll.

Now, the children don’t hear from him, he hasn’t seen them for at least 6 years (and the last time was for an hour even though he was meant to have been having them overnight). I still find that I beat myself up about the fact they don’t have a relationship with him – which is the main reason it has taken me so long to respond to the request to answer these darn questions!). I have to remind myself that it isn’t my fault he doesn’t see them, I have to remind myself that no matter how reasonably one person acts, no matter how easy they make it for another person to do the right thing, it doesn’t mean that they will. I am not responsible for his lack of responsibility.

One final piece of advice. When I was going through a particularly testing time, I decided that I needed some independent advice. Initially I went online thinking I was looking for a mums support group, or Homestart or Gingerbread, but I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to hear from a MAN. Someone who would be guaranteed not to be biased to my viewpoint, and that (along with being the reason why I am answering these questions) is how I ended up contacting OnlyDads and subsequently received some reasoned, grounded and sensible support from a man called Bob.

 

G is for… Guest Post from OnlyDads.org

Posted on 25th November 2010 in onlydads/ sex/ single father/ single parent

The first ever guest post on my blog is by my lovely friend Bob. If you don’t already know him, then the only thing I need to add to his post is that I want you to read it with the knowledge that he is the master of understatement, a genuinely humble and modest man. Bob is a wonderful father to two very lovely (and lucky) girls, a good friend and has a work ethic that most should admire.

Without further ado, and with much applause, I hand you over to Bob:

The invitation to write something for @coffeecurls’ blog was met with a mixture of pride and trepidation. Pride because this is one of the few blogs I really read, and Lisa’s writing style is easy and flowing and natural. It would be a hard act to follow. Trepidation? Well that feeling arose because firstly, my writing style is more jolted and clumsy, and secondly, I knew if I was to write anything, I would want to make it meaningful and informative. And to do that, I would have to be honest.

So this post may be a bit clumsy in terms of grammar and it may not flow with ease. But it is written from the heart and the head and I have tried to be really open and honest about quite a tricky subject for many single Dads; this blog post is about love and sex.

With running www.onlydads.org I am privileged to come into contact with many lone fathers and there is a general perception that single dads live their life like Jack the Lad. I think people do the Maths…”ten times more single mums than single dads…blimey son, you’re in luck”

And in some ways this is true. As a single Dad we do meet more single mums than we do single dads. Of course we do. But there is a gap between the statistic above and living the lifestyle of our mate Jack!

I will explore why I think this is with my own story:

Welcome to the world of being a single dad

I was left living with my two girls (then 4 and 7) when my wife ran off with her gym instructor 6 years ago or more.  This chap was many things, but he was also muscular, extremely fit, and in truth quite handsome. When you hear from your ex that he is also “very good in bed” as a man you feel…well what do you feel? Deflated? Not a bad word, yes – deflated.

But this feeling of “deflation” is amplified. When you become a single parent Dad through separation it is always “news”. People mutter and talk. “She’s left him and her kids”. One can almost hear the questioning about what sort of husband you must have been to facilitate such drastic action as a Mum leaving home. These are hard concerns and worries to live through.

My introduction to single parenting began at 4.00pm one afternoon in May 2004. I came home from work early to find my two daughters with a childminder. The two girls and the childminder were visibly upset. My youngest Anya was crying…the childminder took me outside and told me that “she has left”.

My wife had left. She was never to return. I paid the childminder off and asked her to leave us.  I remember seeing her run down her path audibly crying. Back inside, both girls looked scared. I remember hugging them. But it was not a love hug, the sort of hug that some Dads reading this will give their daughters and sons. It may not have been a hug at all. Perhaps a mutual “clinging” would be a better description.

The entry point into becoming a single parent is rarely a pleasant one. We do hear of mutual partings where everyone remains friends, but for many I fear, it is so often the opposite.

My entry point to single parenting left me feeling broken. Like I was not a true man. Something less than a man… a failure.

Later that same week I had to walk into work. Everyone knew by then.  It took guts and strength to hold my head up. I did not (could not) hold it up high. But hold it up I did. All single parents reading this will know that inner strength that we develop. The strength that says “get up” when all you want to do is crawl away and hide.

I relied heavily on that inner strength in the first few weeks and months.

But in those early days I was supported by many. Friends like @Traveloguer (he’s crap at Twitter so don’t follow him! ) kept me going in ways I can’t adequately express. How fortunate to have true mates…but (and I’m sure all single dads will relate to this), you also find your house being visited by single women with all sorts of offers of help and support especially in the early days.

I used to wonder if it was because they didn’t think I could cope on my own…now I wonder if at least some of them thought they might strike up a relationship??

Jack the lad!

One such lady…Sophie,  caught me on the way into work one morning. (I was in a suit and tie in those days). She took my tie off in the street and loosened my collar, and lifted my chin up, pecked me on the cheek and said something like “much better”. I got into work that morning with something of a spring in my step…a week later she asked if I wanted to come over to her house in Provence for a few days. “Just the two of us”. The kids were packed off to Grandma’s in a flash and I was on a plane!

If you can’t enjoy sex in the late September warming climate of Provence with no kids and wine at lunchtime then there is something wrong. It was a blissful few days 😉

But back in the UK, the daily grind of another type returned. Guilty at having left my kids and mounting pressure at work, and an endless round of Divorce hearings and…the list goes on…meant that our fledgling relationship was put under strain. This one was not to last. But Soph was and is a lovely person…and for reminding me that I was a man and not one who should hide-away was a real gift. Thank you Soph!

It was a year before I met Lisa. (Lisa was blonde with extremely curly hair btw).  Another lovely woman – this time a single mum. We used to live a mile or so from each other and although we never moved in together, we used to see a lot of each other. It was good…but again not destined to last.  Another 11 month relationship?? Another lovely person gone from my life. Lisa was a Northerner and could make me laugh like no-one before.  But why?

Sex (I believe) became an issue in both these two relationships sadly. Both Lisa and Sophie enjoyed having sex with me. And I did with them – don’t get me wrong. But these relationships were being forged at a time when single parenting and work were really sapping me of my sex drive.

I was spending day after day doing house work, making packed lunches, shopping, cooking, trying to cope with a full-time job…and to be honest, by the time I got the kids to bed at 8ish I was more Done-In than Don Juan.

I think many single mums will relate to the shear tiredness factor that must impact on new relationships. But for dads who cope with the all the domestic drudgery…I really do believe that there is something emasculating about the whole thing. What is it my “friend” Chris wrote in a paper once “Bob …more Wonder Woman than Superman”

He made a valid point!

Confidence

Men need confidence to enjoy good sex. That is a male #fact.

So when single dads I talk to speak of feeling “effeminate and boring” because all they do is housework and domestic stuff, I can really relate. It’s a horrible feeling.  All single Dads I have ever met go through periods when their confidence (hence their sex-drive) disappears temporarily.

I tell them (and myself when I remember) that although we may be domestic drudges; my God, we should be super confident because we really are doing it all. Alpha Males might be bullish in the work place and a bit shouty down the pub…but if you want to find a real man…single dads up and down the land step up to plate, and in my book, have everything to be proud of.

Our confidence really should be sky high!

As for me, I long for the day when I find myself in a long-term sexually fulfilling and loving relationship.

It takes confidence though to make a move – and sometimes I still feel like I might want to hide away – while at other times, I just know I can move mountains!

Whatever – and I do like to keep our single dad friends in mind…our time will come. I’m sure. If in doubt we just need to look at the statistics… 😉

Bob
@OnlyDads

Yes, he did start by saying he couldn’t write. Am sure you’ll all agree with me now that he is a far too modest man! Please comment below to let Bob know what you thought about his guest blog – it took some convincing to get him to do it and I’d really like him to feel the love! If you are a twitterer – please also tweet him @OnlyDads to share your views on this post.

Oh, and send him some socks too please.


Socksy #OddSocks

Posted on 22nd November 2010 in odd socks/ onlydads/ poetry

When I’m cold and feeling the chill

They always make me feel brill

They may not be pretty

But they’re warm and snuggly

They may not match

But don’t say that they’re ugly

 

They never care

If I’ve washed my hair

Or done my make-up

So it’s ‘barely there’

They wait all day

Without complaint

Till I come home and then they’ve got a date

 

We stretch out on the sofa

My odd socks and me

We laze together and watch the telly

We drink sometimes wine and sometimes tea

And do you know what?

We feel all socksy!

 

This poem was written in support of @OnlyDads and the Oddsocks Christmas appeal.

OddSocks! OnlyDads needs your help this Christmas

This year, www.onlydads.org has been asked to decorate a Christmas Tree which will be placed in the Mediaeval Courtyard of the Dartington Hall Trust. It will be a wonderful setting for what we hope will be a memorable Tree.

The Dartington Hall Trust is committed to work in the fields of Arts, Sustainability and Social Justice. Picking up on these core themes, OnlyDads is inviting Mums and Dads to get involved in this event and we have proposed to have Socks as our theme. This is where you come in!

Socks!

We aim to decorate the OnlyDads tree with hundreds of bright and wonderful socks. We are inviting parents of children to:

  • Make and/or decorate a sock that can be hung on the tree.  Artistic imagination will be required!
  • Ask the child to place a message in the sock – based on the following prompt “make a wish for your Dad?”. Being a Dad’s based lone parent organisation we know that many children will have Fathers who have died, or are absent, or in the case of some, their sole carer. For other children living with both Mum and Dad, this will still be a fun and creative exercise. The important thing for us is not to exclude any child from participating.

Then What?

The sustainability theme is important to us.  We will preserve all these important messages on a dedicated website to begin with. Thoughts are also being given to the publication of a book (with pictures of the decorated sock and the message accompanying it).

Given that Dartington Hall has such a vibrant interest in the Arts – thoughts are also being given to an Artist turn our Socks (and messages) into a permanent work of Art…the possibilities are endless.

Our “odd socks” theme seems to be catching! Please, grown-up or young person, if you want to draw a picture or write a poem about socks, just send it to us. These all add to the overall project in a really positive way.

What to do next?

Assuming you and your child(ren) would like to get involved (we hope they do) then we will need the Sock with the Message inside to reach us by 30 November 2010. Please include in the envelope a note with your child’s first name and age.

Socks need to be sent to:

OnlyDads, Room D4, Foxhole, Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6ED United Kingdom

There will be prizes for the best designed socks. Some examples include:

Most innovative sock = £50 of  Argos Vouchers (many thanks Woolley & Co Solicitors)

For the Mum/Dad who helps with the best ideas for project = B&B for two with a bottle of bubbly in the room at the fabulous Watermans Arms in Devon (Many thanks Rob and Jane)

Most touching message = annual family pass to Woodlands (thanks Woodlands)

Craftiest Sock = a special “non sew bunting kit” from the fab @redtedart

Sweetest Sock = £10 gift voucher from Cranch’s (the world best sweetshop)

But we do apologise in advance –  socks cannot be returned as they may end up as a permanent work of art!

Read more about OnlyDads here

Get Your Socks Out For The Lads

Posted on 30th October 2010 in christmas tree/ dartington hall/ odd socks/ onlydads/ single parent
OddSocks

This year, www.onlydads.org has been asked to decorate a Christmas Tree which will be placed in the Mediaeval Courtyard of the Dartington Hall Trust. It will be a wonderful setting for what we hope will be a memorable Tree.

The Dartington Hall Trust is committed to work in the fields of Arts, Sustainability and Social Justice. Picking up on these core themes, OnlyDads is inviting Mums and Dads to get involved in this event and we have proposed to have Socks as our theme. This is where you come in!

Socks!

The aim is to decorate the OnlyDads tree with hundreds of bright and wonderful socks. They are inviting parents of children to:

  • Make and/or decorate a sock that can be hung on the tree.  Artistic imagination will be required!
  • Ask the child to place a message in the sock – based on the following prompt “make a wish for your Dad?”. Being a Dad’s based lone parent organisation we know that many children will have Fathers who have died, or are absent, or in the case of some, their sole carer. For other children living with both Mum and Dad, this will still be a fun and creative exercise. The important thing for us is not to exclude any child from participating.

Then What?

The sustainability theme is important to OnlyDads.  OnlyDads will preserve all these important messages on a dedicated website to begin with. Thoughts are also being given to the publication of a book (with pictures of the decorated sock and the message accompanying it).

Given that Dartington Hall has such a vibrant interest in the Arts – thoughts are also being given to an Artist turn the Socks (and messages) into a permanent work of Art…the possibilities are endless.

What to do next?

Assuming you and your child(ren) would like to get involved (OnlyDads hope they do) then the Sock with the Message inside will need to reach OnlyDads by 30 November 2010. Please include in the envelope a note with your child’s first name and age.

Socks need to be sent to:

OnlyDads, Room D4, Foxhole, Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6ED United Kingdom

There will be three prizes for the best designed socks :) OnlyDads do apologise in advance – but socks cannot be returned as they may end up as a permanent work of art!

Read more about OnlyDads here

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