One of the themes of motherhood that I often muse on is the utility of image: what version of yourself to project? is it a substitute for authenticity, or a means of moving towards a different, also authentic,but chosen, self? how does it affect your kids' view of themselves and of their parents? how does our choice of images to project affect our confidence moving in the world? how does it affect discourse and the self-images of others who encounter it?
I suspect that the severe case of imposter syndrome that I contracted in graduate school, and that I think largely immunized me against Good Mother Imposter Syndrome, is the origin of this interest in image.
I have noticed your attention paid to the trials and tribulations of the single father. I am currently in the process of divorce and have been separated for more than a year. I have four daughters – ages 6 through 15. I have a great relationship with all of them. My wife is currently prohibited from having possession of them by court order – so I have them full time. Here are some tips for your single father readership:
1) be pro-active in setting up play dates and activities. Yes- this means making calls to other parents.
2) when dropping off kids at parties or play dates, go to the door and meet the other parents. When parents are dropping off their kids to you, go out to the car and say hello. Invite them inside.
3) take every opportunity to show people you are an involved father who pays attention and cares. This doesn’t mean one should become a phony and a “daddy bragger”, but it does mean you have to make sure people are aware you are a good person and a good dad. The single father image to some is not positive. Additionally, the ex-wife (and her friends and family) has possibly (definitely) been trashing you at every turn.
4) as part of your own positive image campaign, you need to bring up “domestic” type stuff when speaking to other parents. For example, I like to cook – so when a daughter has a friend over, I will tell the other parents not only what I made, but how I made it – and why I chose that meal. Also, conversations about new carpets or flooring etc can show you are not the single father Neanderthal walking around the house in a “beater T” and boxers.
5) don’t hesitate to tell other parents about your activities with your own children. I have enrolled all my daughters in kick boxing classes – and I encourage them to bring their friends for the free-trial classes. Part of this process involves explaining to the other parent what the class entails. I show videos of my kids riding unicycles.
6) when meeting other parents, get their cell numbers and emphasize that parents need to be in communication, as kids are prone to “mislead” parents on what the “real” plans are
Bottom line is that the image of absentee single father with empty pizza boxes strewn about and bimbos coming and going needs to be reversed. No one needs to be a phony, but image is everything – and the average single father is usually starting at a deficit. If you are doing good things as a father, people need to know about it. I am mostly introverted, but realized if I wanted my daughters to have a good home life with friends being allowed to come over – and stay over – that I had to get the underlying reality out there. I had to become a part-time extrovert.
Lastly, if other parents don’t allow the sleepover at your house (especially with daughters), don’t take it personally. While this can be annoying and upsetting, I don’t consider it a terrible outlook by the other parent. Having four daughters, I have the same concerns other parents would. That said, the further I get my story out there, the less I run into this issue…to the point that I have not come across this issue in months.
Anyway, I didn’t want to take up all your time on an isolated topic, but felt my experience was worth mentioning.
Food for discussion, no? Thoughts?