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In Praise Of Involved Fathers From Single Dads Who've Been There

05/18/2015 07:54 am ET | Updated May 18, 2016

This piece was co-authored by Joe Seldner and Ken Solin -- two very involved fathers.

Joe
All the chatter about fathers not being involved in their children's lives sometimes confuses those of us who had the privilege of raising our children by ourselves.

We wouldn't have had it any other way, so it is difficult to comprehend why any father would not want to be involved, or for that matter, why any mother would object to dad playing a significant role in the lives of their children.

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And yet ... many dads don't step up, and far too many mothers block the involvement of the male parent.

The jury has long been in on the value of fathers in helping shape the lives of their children. There are still people out there who doubt and debate this, but then, there are still people who dispute that smoking is bad for one's health or that Neil Armstrong walked anywhere that looked like a moonscape other than a Hollywood set.

I raised my kids alone from the ages of 11 and 8. "Alone" means different things to different people. In my case, it was about as alone as one can get. For the first six years of my single parenting, I received no child support, certainly no alimony, and no help with any of the formidable responsibilities of parenting. Then, my ex-wife passed away, so the "singleness" if anything, intensified.

All of which was fine -- better than fine. Single parenting, as I often say, was the best experience of my life (whether my kids share that view is something you would have to ask them).

It trumped career, which I once pursued with the best of them, and money (I guess -- never had much of that).

The playing field is still uneven when it comes to child custody. Mothers get sole physical custody much more often than fathers, though in contested cases - where fathers aggressively fight for custody -- the numbers are more equitable, almost 50-50, which, frankly, is as it should be.

But the issue isn't about custody. It's about fatherly involvement, something that should occur as much as possible whether dad is divorced, widowed, has adopted, or has just decided fatherhood is a vital part of his life.

Ken
I married when I was 21 in the late 1960s. Our son was born a year later, and my wife went back to Europe after we divorced. I raised my infant son while simultaneously kickstarting my career after college. It was an incredible challenge that I met with a young man's energy and determination.

I didn't have a social life, but I created an unbreakable bond with my son, David. I hold single mothers in high regard because I empathize with their task.

David recently showed me a photo of the two of us when he was five that looks like two boys. I didn't know much about raising an infant, and there wasn't much information then. I figured it out daily.

David is a 48-year-old father of a 10-year-old boy. The circumstances of a bitter divorce forced him to court to fight for 50 percent physical custody. He couldn't afford attorney's fees, so he read the legal books, represented himself, and prevailed, an impressive victory considering his layman's status.

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I wish circumstances had been different for me and for my son in terms of raising our boys, but we both stepped up. I have no regrets, and neither does David. It's what men are supposed to do, and I'm hard-pressed to understand a man who shirks such a sacred responsibility.

Most boomers have already raised their children, but many of our children are faced with divorce and becoming single parents. We should encourage them to assume their parental responsibilities no matter how difficult the circumstances.

I hope the family courts wake up to the notion that fathers are equally important to a child's wellbeing, and that the primary caregiver label no longer has an automatic gender designation.

If you're a divorced father don't surrender to the struggle so many men face trying to assume parental responsibility. This is one time when stubbornness is actually a virtue. Your son or daughter needs you in their life. Your involvement is the key to their future in so many important ways. Participating in raising your child is a unique aspect of your manhood that you'll benefit from for the rest of your life.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

10 Things to Look Forward To As An Empty Nester