When I think of Father’s Day, I think of my father and always will. But there is another father who is very important on Father’s Day: my ex-husband. Why is he important? Because he is my children’s father.
Maybe you are newly separated and this is your first Father’s Day being separated. Or maybe you are already divorced, and you dread Father’s Day because your kids go off with Dad and you are home alone and feeling lonely. Or, maybe you are considering divorce and wonder how Father’s Day would actually work if you pulled the trigger.
Well, I’ll tell you. Father’s Day is about being a father and nothing else. Father’s Day is a day for dads, but it’s also a day for kids to show their love and appreciation for dad.
So, what does Father’s Day mean for an ex-wife? 4 things:
1. You got Mother’s Day, now it’s Dad’s turn. So, for today, try to bury all those feelings of resentment, anger, and other negative thoughts about him, and let him have his recognition, his time with the kids. Let him have a nice day. Why? Not because you forgive him and are going to pretend he did nothing wrong. Because today is about your kids, too.
Your kids are looking forward to giving their dad a handmade card, or cookies, or a gift card, or going out for breakfast or lunch or dinner with him. Kids (no matter what age) love holidays and celebrations. So, let them have one. They deserve it!
2. Try to enjoy being alone and having a day to yourself instead of dreading it and feeling sorry for yourself. Take a walk, go sunbathing, run errands, shop, cook for your kids for when they get home, volunteer somewhere, go visit an elderly person. These are just some suggestions that might make you feel good instead of feeling isolated and alone and like your kids and Dad are having a great time (maybe even with his new girlfriend) and you are home alone. Try to remember, it’s only one day!
3. Remember that just because your kids want to spend Father’s Day with their dad, it doesn’t mean they think he’s perfect. It doesn’t mean they are being disloyal to you. Even if he’s barely in the picture, if your kids want to spend Father’s Day with him, that’s a good thing! Barring physical or emotional abuse, have a dad around, even just a little bit, is better than no dad at all.
For dads who are very much in the picture, think about this. As much as you resent him, as much you think things are unfair, as much as he is constantly a source of anxiety in your life, and as much as he can drive you crazy, your children probably adore him. Do they see his faults? If they are over 10 years old then yes, they most likely do. Do they still adore him? Yes. AND THAT IS A GOOD THING!!! If he has a girlfriend already, or if he left you for someone else, you don’t have to keep sharing that with the kids. They will know when you grow up. They will remember. The less you say about it the better.
4. Try to have gratitude for the kind of dad your ex is to the kids. Maybe he was a shitty husband, maybe he treated you horribly. Maybe he cheated, or drank too much or treated you badly. I’m not saying forget about those things. What I’m saying is, focus on him as a dad. If he’s a good dad, then try to find some appreciation for that today. Because that’s good for your kids. This is a day to focus on your ex as a dad, and forget about the divorce for today. Remember, if he’s a good dad, that’s the best thing for your kids.
What do you do on Father’s Day if Dad is out of the picture?
Let’s say Dad is estranged from the family, or lives in another state, or is with someone else and chooses not to have a relationship with the kids. Or, the kids don’t want to see him. What the heck are you supposed to do on Father’s Day? I have a couple suggestions:
1. Spend some time with YOUR dad, brother, uncle, cousin or friends who are celebrating Father’s Day.
2. Appreciate a sunny Sunday and do something really fun with your kids. A water park, a nature hike, brunch, baking, anything that makes you guys happy.
3. LOVE your kids and give them lots of hugs and kisses today. You don’t have to keep talking about the fact that your ex isn’t in the picture, but maybe say it once: “I’m so sorry you don’t have a dad around to celebrate with. I know that must be painful. I’m here to talk and listen if you need me to. You are loved by me and our family, more than you can imagine.”
In closing, on Father’s Day, call for a cease-fire. Let him celebrate how much he loves being a dad, just as you celebrated being a mom last month. Let your kids have a fun day with him playing ball, swimming and grilling, without that sad, worried look on your face when they leave the house—afraid they won’t want to come home, that they will like being at daddy’s house more.
Remember that your kids love both you and your ex dearly, and they have this inner-struggle to make sure you both know that. A lot of burden for a young kid to handle, don’t you think?
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there! I know you work really hard to balance everything out. You’re doing great!
Like this article? Check out my article, “Happy Birthday to My Dad in Heaven”