Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Lew" the New Single Dad

Courtesy of Kathie Austin Photography

Near the end of the book signing for The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking,and Baseball that I did at Vicki Berger Erwin's Main Street Books in “Old Town” St. Charles, Missouri earlier this year, a familiar face walked through the door with a darling little girl, obviously his daughter, in tow.

“Lew” and I had gone to and graduated from the same high school. He and I were friends, but not close; Lew lived in a different part of the St. Louis area than I did, and, while each of us was an athlete, he and I played different sports. As such, we didn’t have much opportunity for interaction outside of class. After graduation, the two of us ended up at the University of Missouri where we were both active in the Greek system. Because our “houses” were literally next door, I’d see him occasionally.

When he came in and in spite of not having seen him in almost twenty hears, I immediately recognized him and greeted him with, “Lew! What a surprise!” He and I immediately started to catch up.

It turns out that Lew is a recently divorced single father of the lovely young lady who accompanied him that day. Almost simultaneous to his personal situation, it seemed, the sluggish economy has taken a toll on Lew’s independent financial advisor business in which he was a partner. He’d moved out of the home he’d previously lived with his ex-wife, taken an apartment, and, obviously, shared custody of his daughter. In short, Lew is in what I refer to as the “transitional phase” of single fatherhood.

"Whether you lose your spouse and the mother of your kids to death or because of a divorce and/or abandonment, adjusting to the new reality of things is a major and life changing task.(i)" Transitioning from one-half of a married couple, whether the separation is the result of a divorce, separation, or some other permutation of single fatherhood, is often trying. Not only is a single father trying to figure out how to balance his relationship with his children with earning a living, but everything is new from his address to his silverware. A difficult economy that affects income or requires a career change adds to the stress.

To combat these variables, a single father should do his best to control those factors that are under his control. The most fundamental and important of which, in my opinion, pertain to the dad’s own mental and physical health and that of the children who depend him. Those factors include:

1) Put on your oxygen mask first, i.e., do what you need to do to feel right;
2) Maintain your routines and traditions;
3) There is no wrong way to grieve as long as you don’t hurt anyone in the process.

I was both surprised and flattered to learn that Lew was a regular reader of “The Single Father’s Guide” blog. I said that I hoped the advice and information there have helped him. Of course, there will be more that he and other newly minted single dads will have to do as they move forward with their lives and with their kids, but Lew has a good start.

Lew left Main Street Books that afternoon with a copy of The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, while his daughter took with her a few books of her own.
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i "How to adjust to life as a single father." Wayne Parker. About.com Guide. Accessed 1/22/13.

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