A Dad’s first blog – guest post from Simon Gold

At the time of writing, it’s a bright Saturday morning at the beginning of April 2011 and it’s 7.13am. My son Ethan, who will be four in May, has been up for precisely 49 minutes. He’s had a bowl of Cheerios and Rice Krispies followed by a banana, followed by a cheese string then chased by a piece of toast with strawberry jam. Breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day…until the next one.

Given the name of this website, it’s also important to make clear here that I’m not a mum, I’m a dad. More specifically, I’m a 37-year old dad who’s separated from Ethan’s mum for reasons I won’t bore you with but suffice it to say, my soon-to-be ex-wife and I get on spectacularly well, we vowed to remain best friends – not just for the sake of E, but because we genuinely wanted to – but we couldn’t stay married. Perhaps in a later blog post I’ll explain why, but for now, I wanted to get my feelings about my role as a parent down on paper. I’ve not blogged before – even though by trade I’m a copywriter – and frankly, it’s about time.

I don’t know if there’s a dictionary definition of a ‘single parent’, but I don’t class myself as one. I’m a parent. I’m also, for all intents and purposes single now but for me, the two don’t go hand in hand. Being a single parent, at least as far as I’m concerned, is a phenomenal responsibility and even though I have Ethan every weekend, I both understand and appreciate what my (soon-to-be-ex-) wife does for our son and I have nothing but the utmost gratitude and respect for her and what she does every single day to make sure our son grows up a responsible, well-rounded and kind hearted boy and so far, it’s working.

I miss Ethan when he’s not with me. I hate not being there every morning when he has his breakfast and packs off to school. I hate having to phone the house every evening to say goodnight. I hate going to the house on a Tuesday and Thursday after work to arse about, give him his dinner, his bath and put him to bed after (at the moment) repeated readings of The Gruffalo and basically anything by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sherrat. I cherish every single second I spend with him but there is no worse feeling in the world than having to say goodbye to him.

Cover of

Cover of The Gruffalo anything by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sherrat. I cherish every single second I spend with him but there is no worse feeling in the world than having to say goodbye to him.

I feel like a fraud. I take my responsibilities – financial, practical and emotional – very seriously indeed and neither Ethan nor his mother will ever want for anything but somehow that’s not enough. I put a very high premium on family values and I can’t help feeling like I’ve let a lot of people down because I’m not there all the time. I get given dates. Dates for parents evening; dates for doctor’s check-ups; dates for this; dates for that. I’m present every time but still, being a component part of a loving, close-knit family was all I ever wanted and having had it and lost it, I live with feelings of emptiness, guilt and sadness.

As a father with the values about family and children that I have, how do I make these feelings go away?  I was at peace with our decision to divorce quite quickly and as I said, my wife and I have been very careful not to let our decision affect E in any way. We try and turn every negative into a positive; “You’re the luckiest boy in school because you have two houses!” things like that, but still, those nagging feelings that I’ve somehow let him down remain. Maybe they’ll last until he asks for a car or goes to university, but I hope they don’t.

I know men are supposed to do the practical and women are supposed to do the emotional but those lines are blurred. How can one fail to be emotional saying goodbye for another few days to the most precious thing in the world? When I see him, nothing else matters. Worries about money, love, future relationships and work go out the window. He becomes the centre of my world but when I hand him back to his mum, or kiss him goodnight at my soon-to-be-ex-house and get in my car to drive home, the wave of sadness, failure and guilt wash over me like a tidal wave. I think about my friends, at home with their wives and children, eating together, bathing together, reading stories, laughing, being tactile and living the life I want to live again.

I don’t ask for much, I’m certainly not looking for pity and I realise how lucky I am in terms of the relationship I still have with E’s mum and the gorgeous child we produced. I’m not motivated by money (it helps, obviously and I come from a background where money was never in short supply so I understand its inherent value) but are these emotional fluctuations normal? Perhaps I should be feeling like this? Perhaps I deserve it? I’ve never purposely done wrong, I find lying and deceit to be abhorrent and I’ve never committed a crime (aside from driving too fast on occasion). I try to do the right thing in both my personal and professional relationships but I’m struggling to get ahead of the emotional curve.

Simon Gold   simongold [at] simongoldmedia [dot] com @simongoldsays

 

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  • http://www.birdsontheblog.co.uk/ Sarah Arrow

    Lovely post Simon and welcome to Mums on the Blog :)

    I had up until recently shared care for my eldest daughter, and it is very tough. She had a room in each house, the houses were 3 roads apart and she could drop in and see dad (or me) whenever she wanted.

    I was determined to keep her dad in her life and to provide her with family values even if we seemed to be making the rules up as we went along. It was hard as I missed some ‘firsts’ but dad missed a whole lot more.

    I found that clothes were a big issue and at one point she had two identical wardrobes in each house…

    Sarah

    • Simon Gold

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks so much for responding and thanks also for the welcome to Mums on the Blog. I hope I can positively contribute in my own small way and having never written about this part of my life before, I felt it strangely therapeutic and I hope Mary lets me write more.

      I still find it hard to differentiate between saying my wife (as she currently is), my soon-to-be ex-wife (which she also currently is) and ex-wife (which she currently isn’t), so I may just stick to Suzy in future, then you’ll know to whom I’m referring!

      Since you mention wardrobes, you’ve just reminded me, I need to buy E some pants and a sun hat…!

      Have a good weekend,

      S.

  • http://copylounge.wordpress.com/ Doug Jenner

    Enjoyed this mate – thanks.

  • Morag

    Lovely post, Simon. It really captures the emotional difficulties and joys of your situation. And very well written, I might add.

    • Simon Gold

      Thanks Morag, that’s very kind of you to say so.

  • Anon

    Simon, a lot of people twist the truth in blogs but I know you and know that this is from the heart and totally true. If you are sad, things will get better. You are doing an amazing job.

    X

    • Simon Gold

      Thanks Anon. At least give me a clue to who you are…!

  • Anonymous

    It was lovely reading how it can be from the dad’s perspective… very honest writing and very moving, thanks Simon – hope to read more from you.

  • Roisin Bailey

    First of all (and this is my opinion) your not a single parent. The way you and your ex conduct your parenting of E is very much in support of each other and this will make such a huge difference to your son growing up.

    Personally I think you need to try hard to let go of the guilt and failure that you feel. As far as your son is concerned and as far as being a parent goes you have absolutely not failed him – and that is the issue here. In the circumstances you find yourself in you have ensured and provide the utmost love & support to your child, I don’t think there is anything more you could physically or emotionally do to ensure E has a wonderful, secure childhood where he knows without question he is loved and adored. There is no question in my mind that because of the man you are and the woman his mother is that this little boy will grow up to be an incredibly balanced, emotionally stable adult. You should feel enormous pride in the way you and his mum handle the situation. If you feel residual guilt over the failure of the marriage then that is understandable but you need to clearly differentiate those feelings from guilt as a parent.

    The lines are drawn – this is how it is now and as far as what is expected from you as a father you are excelling. Please realise that and stop beating yourself up. It’s time to be happy and proud.

    There are millions of children in E’s position, but there are only a handful of parents who handle things as inspirationally and admirably as you as your ex.