Is there Life after Divorce?

Willaim VanSickle

Another aspect of single parenting that I believe is tougher on a man is the career question. There's no doubt that this is tough for both sexes, but I believe it's a little tougher when so much of your identity is wrapped up in your family and your job, and your family (as you've defined it) has rained out from under you.

So you have this job, a career really, and you've been working toward it since high school. At first it was your main source of social contact, but when you got married you noticed that it had a tendency to take you away from your family. On the other hand, it's supported them well, helped you to create some financial security, and besides, you had someone to help take up the slack nurture-wise. Now that's gone, but you're back in the financially insecure zone, and you're still putting in the hours, still hoping that career track is going to take you on to greater things.

If you give that up and take a much lower paying job closer to home or with less responsibility, will you be able to get back on that track if/when Ms. Right #2 shows up? If you don't take the lesser job, how will you make up for the shortfall in the quality and quantity of attention given to your kid? Is this a permanent response to a temporary problem?

But on the other hand, if you do take that other job, how will you get financially independent enough so that you can do the things you want to do with and for your kids when you get the time?

I've known single moms who have no qualms about going on public assistance and devoting all their time to raising their children, even if the kids are teenagers. "After all", they say, "this is the nation's future, shouldn't the nation fit the bill?"

But I know of very few single dads who are willing to go this route. They see their kid's self image and self esteem strongly linked to, and similar to, their own: "What do I do? What am I contributing to society in order to make it a better place? What does my dad do for a living, and how is *he* contributing to society?". Blame it on ego, call it hubris, chalk it up to old societal roles, but here we are.

I also wrestled with the idea of dating and socializing. Forcing yourself out of your shell, and into situations where you can make social contact. Do you really want to find someone to watch your child while you squander what little time and money you have for him on randomly bumping into people who most likely will not be worth the trade-off?

Making the decision to purchase a home or car can be frustratingly difficult.

For all I've given to this experience, I've gotten much more out of it. I've experienced the joy of seeing everything for the first time again, through my son's eyes. First, it was simple objects and events: wheels spinning, running through the sprinkler, the softness of a dog's ears. Now, it's concepts and philosophy. What are stars? What does it mean when you say we only see their history? Where do we go when we die? Do leaves get hurt when they fall? And so on.

Eventually, I suppose the key is to just settle down and realize that everything is for us and for now, and will have to be good enough for us, for now. When we create that space for ourselves, a place of comfort and fulfillment, then we eventually awaken and find ourselves grateful and blessed.

So it becomes a win/win vs. lose/lose situation. If we focus on what we've lost, on being miserable and lonely, we will be miserable and lonely, and people will avoid us like the walking plague. If we focus on being happy and fulfilled, good folks will gravitate toward us, toward the happiness and light in our lives.

That's been my experience, anyway.

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