Divorce is an expensive proposition. I know this isn’t news to most of you,but between paying for lawyers, prospecting for and finding a new home, paying all of the attendant fees and bills and, in the case of most divorced dads, child or spousal support, it adds up to an astronomical sum.
Once the initial expenses are out of the way, you can settle into some semblance of normality with bills. For dads, this also means figuring out how to deal with not having your kids around the house every day, which can be a very painful process. No breakfasts together on a daily basis, no kissing goodnight, no tucking in, it all takes some getting used to. You will miss simple milestones like first steps, first words and first lost tooth just because you can’t be there. You can’t help with homework. You can’t pack their lunches. In this situation, pressure can begin to build.
The first thing this pressure does to you is make you want to compress your time with the kids. You want to do as much with them as possible all the time, so you can make great memories with them. You want to go to zoo, the ice rink, the circus and the movies -all in the same day!
Soon though you begin to realize that you can’t keep up the breakneck pace, and neither can they. It is good to just have “normal” time together. Time when you bum around the house, play outside, ride bikes, read together, play with some toys. This is when a great temptation strikes.
Until recently, men enjoyeda much larger bump in post-divorce disposable income vs. women. For many men, their reaction was, is and will be to use that income gap as a bludgeon. I don’t get to have the kids as often as you, eh? We’ll see about that! I will turn my house into Toys R Us! We’ll have XBoxes, Playstations, Power Wheels, motorized Razor scooters, scale model Death Stars! The kids will never want to leave hahahahaha!
The problem with this impulse is that your childrens’ love and affection isn’t really for sale. Sure, kids like having all that stuff. I always had cool stuff at my dad’s house growing up that I didn’t have at my mom’s, and the same holds true for my kids today. Playing with my Nintendo and all my Transformers, though, was never as cool as my dad reading me a story, or taking me to a baseball game, or playing soccer with me in the backyard, or any other of a million things we did together.
That was the key: we did them together. No matter how much more stuff they get from you for their birthdays, or Christmas, or whatever other occasion you might use to give gifts, it is more important for the kids that you spend your time on them than your money. Take them outside and play SPUD.
Stay inside and make paper airplanes. Clean together. Cook together. Read together. The important point is the things you do together are far more valuable than the things you have together.