What Father’s Day Means To An Ex-Wife

Father with son biking

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

When I think of Father’s Day, I think of my dad and always will. But there is another father who is significant on Father’s Day: my ex-husband. Why is he important? Because he is my children’s father. So, regardless of personal feelings, resentment, anger, or frustration that he might bring me, at times, the fact is, he is and will always be my kids’ dad.

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 the 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, and to create memories, whether he’s a great dad, an OK dad, or a not-so-great dad. A not-so-great dad is better than no dad, in my opinion because barring any abusive behavior (which is unacceptable) kids need a father. Period.

But 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 day and 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.

It might feel frustrating if you feel like your ex doesn’t really do much with the kid–like he’s not around that much, doesn’t contribute much, doesn’t provide financially. I STILL say let him have his day. For the kids. Kids just want to feel normal and on Father’s Day, it’s normal to spend time with your father, no matter how bad of a father you might think he is.

I do want to recognize all the wonderful divorced dads out there. I think they far outnumber the bad ones. It’s beautiful to see their efforts in parenting and the love they have for their kids.

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, get together with other divorced moms. 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. It doesn’t mean they love him more. It’s healthy for them to love both of you. I know it can be hard to think that way if you feel you’ve been wronged, but it’s the truth.

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 in the divorce,  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 they 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 or didn’t show you respect. 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.


Michael Cohen Divorce Mediation


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 few suggestions:

1. Spend some time with YOUR dad, brother, uncle, cousin or friends who are celebrating Father’s Day. These kinds of people make great male role models.

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.”


Nix Baker Wellness and Therapy


In closing, on Father’s Day, take a break from your hostility. 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. It’s not true!

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?


Hirsch Serman, Financial Divorce Coaching


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”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    10 Responses to “What Father’s Day Means To An Ex-Wife”

    1. Lynnette

      This is EXACTLY what I say!!! It’s so difficult at times for me cuz Ididn’t want divorce but you read my mind!!!!

    2. Bev Walton

      My ex-husband is, was and always will be THE most awesome father to our daughters.I certainly wasn’t an angelic ex-wife, but I am proud to say that I NEVER poisoned my daughters against their father – the way many ex-wives do. I did my best to encourage and support a healthy father/daughter relationship. To all the great dads out there – Happy Father’s Day!

    3. Tom Leykis

      What I love about women like you is that nothing is ever your fault and you never take responsibility for your part in a failed marriage. You’re pathetic, irrational, delusional, histrionic, shrill and clueless.

    4. Missy

      Just starting this divorce thing and I am so lost. I agree with the importance my ex will play in our son’s life but, i”m not feeling real good towards him right now. he has moved out and moved on and i”m lost and stuck in this quick sand that was our life together.

    5. Bev Walton

      Hey Tom, I think you may have misunderstood. Jackie’s article was aimed at both parties involved in a divorce. As for my situation, I was to blame for many things that went wrong in my relationship. Finally, over time, I was able to admit my faults and shortcomings. And put my pride in my pocket and apologise to my ex-husband. He is an awesome man – it was just not meant to be. Sounds so cheezy, but: it takes 2 to tango.

    6. Mike

      Thank you so much for this article. I’m in my first year of divorce and have made sure the kids make a deal of their moms birthday and mother’s fay. Unfortunately this has not been done by her. Your article helped me through the day.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        You just take the high road and let your ex do what she is going to do. You won’t ever regret being nice, and your kids will see it also. Hang in there.

    7. Sue

      When I talk with friends of divorced parents, what always strikes me is how aware they were of how their parents treated each other. As Jackie said, you will never regret being nice and taking the high road. It’s hard, I know all too well with a STBXH that is controlling and needs to be right all the time. But my kids come first no matter what.


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