‘I’ve experienced all the different roles you have to play when there’s nobody else around: a parent, a dad, a father, a stand-in mum, a confidant, always a butler or maid, a teacher and, most crucially, a friend.’
In this enlightening but also very practical book, Roger McEwan shares the lessons he’s learned from years as a solo dad.
It is not, he insists, a self-help book. But amidst the rich, always fascinating, often hilarious experiences of his times with his two children are dozens and dozens of useful pieces of advice for parents – from developing a great relationship with your ex (if you can) to letting the children pick the clothes they want to wear, teaching them to cook, and acknowledging that changing a toilet roll is too complex for anyone under the age of eighteen to understand.
Here are some excerpts from a selection of chapters.
1 - Introduction
One of the most valuable reflections that’s come out of my experiences as a single dad is: Have a great relationship with your ex. I’d like to say have an outstanding one, a superb one, but I’m a realist and I imagine most people would settle for a great relationship. If you can do that, you’ll make your life less complicated, troubled and stressful.
More importantly, it will enhance your children’s lives because they’re the ones stuck in the middle of your relationship with your ex, and they always will be. It’s your children who suffer when you and your ex tangle in an effort to prove who’s best or right.
2 - Single
At the time of completing this book, I’ve just turned fifty. I’ve had to keep changing that number as it’s taken longer than I’d hoped to finish this book but, as you will see, I’m an optimist at heart. I’ve been a single dad for what feels like forever, but it’s now just over seven years which made me forty-three when Rose, my ex-wife, and I separated.
Seven years as a single dad is seven years longer than I planned. When I said ‘I do’ with Rose, I did. I meant till death us do part, honouring, obeying and all the rest of the fine print. Rose and I spent sixteen years together and for the vast majority of the time we were a model, happy couple. We fought at times but what couples don’t? Mostly it was as it was meant to be – loving and harmonious, and the children were always doted on.
5 - Muddling Through
I pride myself on being a big picture person: someone who doesn’t get lost in the detail. This is a valuable attribute in my working life but I quickly learnt that it doesn’t translate well to home life when there’s no one to make sure everything’s organised. In the weeks and months after my separation, my lack of attention to detail was highlighted to me on a regular basis.
Excursions with the children resulted in us getting to the venue with the children clothed in the required kit but with nothing else. Cold days at hockey: ‘Sorry darling, I forgot to bring you a jacket. And water.’ Hot days at cricket: ‘Sorry mate, I forgot to pack a hat and sunscreen. And water.’
21 - Dating
What eventually re-kindled my interest in dating was being approached by a work colleague. I’d had a meeting with, let’s call her Jennifer, on Friday morning and she sent a text through later that night to see ‘how I was’. I thought – hello. We swapped a few texts and the result was we agreed to meet up for a date. It was a bit of a shock, albeit an exciting one, and it forced me to take stock of
myself as a date and all that might entail.