Dad’s – Alone for the Holiday
Top Five Recommendations for Tackling the Holidays Alone
Thanksgiving is the start of the upcoming holiday season. The celebrations ahead of us for the next six weeks, while different depending on region, religion, and personal traditions, all share a common theme of family. In America, we start the holiday season by gathering together for a feast as a family. Unfortunately, divorce throws a major curve ball in the holiday plans, adding the complexity of scheduling the kids and often alternating holidays or splitting the time. The situation is further complicated for dads based on the large disparity in custody between men and women that exists today. Many more women have custody of the kids and also, because of the custody, they continue to live in the marital home as well. Dads are forced to start over in a new residence, and begin from ground zero with their kids for the brief period they see them during the holidays.
Despite the grim reality we face as divorced dads during the holidays, we must never forget that we are not alone. Many dads have gone before you. For those facing their first holiday alone, or even for the veterans, we at Guyvorce reached out to the huge fraternity of divorced dads through a variety of social media platforms asking for advice and lessons learned to help others adjust and celebrate the holidays in the split home environment. The feedback was incredible! We all are in this together and the overwhelming response we received is a huge testament to the growing bond between men out there. It made narrowing the list down difficult, but ahead we present the five most popular recommendations for tackling the holidays alone based on the input from dads out there just like you.
1. Identify what’s important and make sure to do those when you can.
Every family has certain traditions that go with the holidays. Start your planning effort by identifying those traditions with your family. Don’t hold back at first. Once you get the ideas flowing, just let them out. When you have yours, sit with your kids and let them have at it. They may consider some things as tradition that you never knew, like spending the whole day after Thanksgiving in their pajamas! Once you have these, figure out which are the really important ones, and which were just the basic ideas. Your goal here is to get the list down to something manageable that captures the really meaningful events that define Thanksgiving for your kids and you. With this list, you’ll likely be surprised how few really depend on the actual Thursday. With your kids, you’ll all see that you can capture the meaningful bits of the holidays on another day. Sure, it won’t be the same, but it will be the ‘new normal’ going forward. Set your day and make sure you achieve the truly significant parts of your holidays with your kids!
2. Be there for your kids…24-7.
While your work to identify the most important traditions that help you and your kids capture the celebration even on a different day, it still doesn’t replace the actual day. For most of us as grown men, a day is simply a date on the calendar. If our birthday falls on a Tuesday, it makes perfect sense to us to celebrate it on a Friday so we can stay out later and let our heads rest on Saturday. The same logic holds true for Thanksgiving. We will have a much easier time adjusting to having turkey with our kids on a Tuesday or Friday than the kids will. Picture the world from your kids’ eyes. Birthdays and holidays are huge, and the date is significant. A five-year old cannot understand why they would have to wait to celebrate their birthday! While they may have checked the traditions with you, you can’t fix the fact that you aren’t there on the actual day. The best you can do is be available. If they call or text you, make sure you are there for them. No matter how much you worked to do something special before or after the holiday with them, they will want you on that day. You don’t get to choose the time, just be there when they need you.
3. Friends, family, & single guys
You’ve done the best you can to address the holiday needs of your children. Now it is time to think about yourself. You are still going to be the guy alone on Thanksgiving. Doug Stone captured the problem well in his song “This Empty House” when he sang:
“So many years of lovin’ all gone. It’s the first time that I’ve ever felt so alone, this empty house, is really hittin’ home tonight.”
The first holiday alone may not be the best time to stay home alone. There’s a great chance you have friends and family that will open their homes to you. While those are nice, they can also be difficult if those homes have kids running around. Another option is to think back to your single days and what you did back then. Maybe you have some single buds that you can link up with for food, football, and beer. As long as you’ve got your phone, you have your teather to your kids if and when they need you. The main point you need to grasp is that you need a way to celebrate the day as well. Whether you link up with another friend and their family, your own family, or jump back into the singles scene for the day, make sure you take the time to enjoy the day as well.
At first, this top piece of advice offered by other divorced dads out there may seem counterintuitive on to how to celebrate the start of the holiday season. But after some thought, many may find it best to get through the alone periods of the holidays by following this popular suggestion: dive into your job. For many, the alone time is too hard, and the thought of spending time with other families will still tear at an open wound that needs more time to heal. Sometimes the best therapy can come from distraction and pouring your attention into your work. Odds are there won’t be too many distractions at the office while you are there. Think of all the administrative tasks, or items on your wish list for work that you never can find the time to get done during normal working hours. You can take advantage of the holiday time, focus on tasks that will improve your normal time at work, and really make a difference after the holidays. The harder you work at clearing your to-do list, the more distracted you will be and before you know it, the alone time will have passed.
5. Make plans for you
Yes, it is official; you are alone for the holiday. Now read that again with a more positive perspective. You are alone, meaning you have total decision authority about what to do, what times, where, and all the other parts of the holiday. Maybe it is time to throw all caution and adherence to the normal expectations and just go do something you want to do. Forget about the holiday and think about what places, activities, or events you’ve always wished you had done, but never found the time. You can seize this moment and be the master of your time. You could go big, or settle in for a 24 hour gaming and beer marathon. What is important is that it is up to you. Look into cheap weekend getaway deals to the beach, maybe drive to the ski slopes, or find the local activities you’ve wished to do, but it never fit well with your kids’ age. You have the time now, the lines at many events will be short because of the holiday, so go for it! The situation next holiday season, or the one after, may be very different. Focus on today and plan it all about what you want to do.
There’s no sugar coating your time away from the kids during the holidays. It sucks. No matter how you work the time with your ex, the deal is tough for everyone. But it is the hand we are dealt and it is up to us to make the best of the game. The famous words of Charles Swindoll ring true as you decide how you will handle the upcoming alone time during the holidays:
“The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.”
Our fraternity of divorced dads is filled with all kinds of men. There are many that choose to dwell in the past and ruminate about how the holidays once were. We can’t fault those members, as we all are guilty at times of the same behavior and certainly understand. But we also have the members who play the trump card we all have; our attitude. These dads are the ones that searched for ways to make today and tomorrow’s holidays bright. They have offered their ideas and we’ve presented the top ones here. As with so many things, the choice of what you do going forward and how you react is, like always, yours to make.
With these ideas in mind, thanks to all the dads out there who responded with their ideas and suggestions based on their own experiences. We are not alone. We at Guyvorce are thankful for the bond that is building between us men as we reach out and help one other through the hard times of divorce. We wish you and your families the best this holiday season and look forward to working with you in the future.
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The Divorce Process, Day Zero
Preparing For Doomsday
When asked about the best divorce advice for men, I instantly think about the importance of those first few days in the divorce process. Actions, agreements, and assumptions made at the beginning of the divorce process can easily come back and bite you when your head clears. When it all hits the fan, you have two ways to deal with it; either you are pre-prepared or you react and clean up.
What you need is a Survivalist mentality. Survivalists are groups planning for the collapse of society, the great disaster. Either in their homes, or in some cave on their property far away, they are storing up food, water, guns, and ammo. When doomsday comes, they have a bug-out bag packed at home and a plan to get to their hold-out to live through the disaster. If the survivalists are right, those not planning for the end times will have to react to the problem and clean it up as best they can.
Divorce is a the same kind of emergency and there’s a good chance it’s going to hit well before the Survivalists’ End Times. So you better be prepared or you’ll get hit in the face and left to react and clean up. And since 80% of divorces are initiated by women, odds are as guys you are left in the react and clean up group. Most of us don’t have a bug-out bag in the closet waiting for the day our wife tells us “it’s over,” but maybe, just maybe, we should. But there’s good news, too, that with just a little stalling, you can be seriously prepared no matter how much your wife’s announcement shocked you.
There is one very clear founding point that you must accept for day one; the world just changed focus from ‘us’ to ‘you’. Once the concept of divorce is out in the open, the road ahead for husband and wife instantly forked. Sure, you both care about the kids and hopefully you’ll will work to decide a plan for the future that is best for them. But the only one looking out for you at this point is you. You need time to sort through your options, gather professional advice, and determine your best options. Your normal method of sorting through all your options prior to the divorce notice will not work though. You have to set up alternate means of action that will give you privacy.
When you are in trouble, you need a COP. That’s what you need to remember: COP. It stands for the three things you have to be able to do on your own, with privacy, from day zero in the divorce:
At this point, everything that is joint or common is tainted. Your phones have records, your joint bank accounts have records, and every space and desk drawer in your home is public domain. You need to be able to move, think, meet, analyze, and handle all the facets of your divorce in sheer privacy. As an example, you may both want to work out the terms and settle without using attorneys and becoming adversarial. That’s a great goal and as adults and lifetime parents to your kids, it should be your starting premise. But to do that without having your own, independent legal advice is not wise. No one understands your rights and the likely outcomes in your region better than a local attorney. You need the advice of local legal counsel. You may not need them to do battle in court, but you need them on your side to make the best decisions for you and your kids. The fact that you are seeking advice is none the ex’s business, so you need a way to communicate and pay your attorney in private. It doesn’t take long to cover the steps, and when complete, you will have all the aspects of your private world in place so you can move forward with your divorce decisions.
Communicate. Today there are three main ways you need to communicate independently and untraceably:
The first one, telephone, may seem odd. You likely have a cellphone already. The problem you may face depends on how the account is set up. If your cell phone is an independent account, meaning your wife’s name is not on it, then, you’re likely ok. Most of us, though, have a family plan with a major provider. In those cases, every phone number you call or text is on record. Your texts themselves are even available for her to request. In a few minutes she can look online and see your phone history. You need a phone and phone number that you can use independently and in private. The good news is they are pretty affordable. Go to your local bulk department store and look at the pay-as-you-go phones. You buy the phone and buy some minutes. There’s no contract and they are simple to set up. In a few minutes at a computer (not at your house, more on that later), you can have a private phone number and be up and running.
The phone company will want you to supply an email address, so while you are at the library using their computer, set that up too. There are a host of free, web-based services out there, including Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo to name a few. They all have advantages and disadvantages. For your purpose, just pick one and move on. You have plenty of other decisions to make.
The last communication means, snail mail, may seem pointless today. You have a phone and email, and who sends letters anyway?! You will need some form of mailing address for banking, for your lawyer, and for many other miscellaneous things. For obvious reasons, you can’t have mail coming to your home and consider it private. There are a few options. If you have a friend or family member, you can ask them if you can use their address. You can check with your supervisor at work and see if they mind you using your work address. If none of those are available, post office boxes are an option. They are just over $50 a year through the US Postal Service. Some local mail shops may have better deals for you. These work great, but you need to be careful with your key. Hard to keep it private if you have a big USPS key on your ring.
Operate. There are many aspects of operate, but they all center around a base. You’ve now got the means to communicate privately, but you can’t use any of those means at home. Every aspect of your home operations base is compromised. As long as she’s living in the same house, or even has legal access to the house (like if it is the marital home and she’s on the title), you can’t privately operate there. You need a place to use your new phone, have access to a computer for email, make your plans, and store your paperwork. Similar to an address, maybe you have family or a buddy that has a spare area in their house you can use. Your office may be a good location for keeping records. If you can’t come up with some of these free options, a storage facility is fairly affordable. You can rent the smallest rental space, get a cheap chair, table and lamp, and set up a basic area to operate.
Purchase. Bank records, like cell phone records, are not going to be your friend when trying to carry out your private operations. Joint money is available for both of you. If she has access to the joint account, then she can see at any time where the money is coming from and where it is going. If you are buying a post office box, or putting in a retainer for an attorney, she’ll see it. It is fairly easy for you to take out some cash and go create a new account at a different bank that is just for you. You should even consider getting a new credit card. Small ATM trips or cash back during debit card purchases are a good way to get some cash without gathering too much attention, as opposed to a single giant withdrawal.
Remember, though, this is all joint money. Do not think that it is first one to the pot gets to keep it. You absolutely must keep good records of what you did with all the marital assets. She has every legal right to ask for all your financial records, and at that time you will need to provide your private account info. It is wise for both of you to stop all joint accounts from the start. Any credit cards you share, for example, are your liability. Cancel them or pay them off. Too many divorced guys before you have had to eat large credit card bills their ex’s ran up on the joint account, or witnessed their joint banking account drained instantly. Protect yourself and your money, but keep track of it so you can show in detail later where it all went.
Once you’ve completely worked your way through COP, you will have a private means to communicate, a space to handle your planning and operations, and a private means to pay for divorce advice and other necessities. All these methods will be linked, such as your new bank account using your new private address. All of these items will need to be revealed someday if and when your divorce gets really ugly and you are stuck in court. But with your records, you can trace exactly what you did. The important points, though, are that you can get the advice you need, and you have a place and the means to determine your best options before you start working on terms with the ex. Trying to handle your divorce proceedings at home without some means of privacy is like playing poker with your cards face up on the table!
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