Though I'm the CEO of my own company, founder of a startup, writer of a blog and coach of a little league team (Go Indians), I will always be dad to my daughters. It's not a high-paying gig but if I invest time, I get massive returns. I've had my own struggles with money, thinking moola was a requirement to be a happy dad. It is not. Being a dad is free. Being a dad is easy.
But being a dad is not always easy, and the life balance of being a single parent teeter-totters between my children's happiness and my own. I've heard parents say, "As long as my children are happy then I am happy." That, my friends, is false. In order for my children to be happy, I must be happy first.
I used to be a really boring and inactive dad. It was a time when I was on prescription medication (we can talk about this experience later). Life sucked and I didn't even care that it did. When I say heavy medication, I mean anti-psychotic. When I say boring think couch, hoodie and The Price is Right; day in and day out. No motivation to work, no income and the spice of my life was the red peppers I added to my top ramen, my reoccurring meal. When my daughters came over, I was not dad. I was like an unemployed uncle that never showered and took up all the space on the couch. I created permanent indentations of where I laid most of the day. We'd sit in boredom believing there was nothing to do because we had no money.
It got to the point of denying my visitation one weekend. My excuse was I had a meeting, or I had to go out of town, and wouldn't be able to pick up the girls. It was a lie. I was broke to the point that I barely had enough to feed myself. I flipped over cushions and literally nickeled and dimed. I checked old clothes I hadn't worn recently, hoping to find a buck or two I left behind. Selling my furniture, my washer and dryer (I convinced myself I could use a Laundromat) and donating my blood plasma became a viable means to survive. I was broke without motivation.
I posted on Craigslist and sold a few things for quick cash. My couch, with the outline of where Jon has been spending most of his time, gave me some breathing room. Sold! I replaced the couch with my mattress to fill the space in the living room. There is a scene in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button where they are living in a duplex, mattress on the floor, in complete love and happiness and joy. I have always wanted that kind of life with a woman; a beautiful moment in time for a couple feeling free together. This was not like that whatsoever. I had a twin mattress with sheets that smelled like a foreclosing home. There was no woman.
What this broke dad realized is that regardless of how much money I have, or have not, there are plenty of things I can do with my daughters that doesn't cost a lot. Thanks to shame, guilt, a lie and a lonely weekend, I have new insight into what being dad means. It's not about spending money on clothes, going out to eat or paying for entertainment. It's about appreciating the clothes we have, eating what is already in the cupboard, and entertaining ourselves, by ourselves. It's about finding a new appreciation for time and choosing quality over quantity.
So these days, don't be surprised if you see us at open-mic night or uploading a new video to YouTube of cover songs we do. Free. We play board games, karaoke loudly and every once in a while, as tradition, we bring our mattresses into the living room and have a campout. Free. We'll go to Target to play Hide-n-Seek. Free, if you can get out before you fall victim to brilliant marketing. I bought my own pair of Heely's because I got tired of them having all the fun. Not free but worth it. I couldn't imagine being any other type of dad. I'd rather be a poor dad than a non-active one. I see the joy I bring into my daughters' lives by simply giving them my time, happily.
It's not all about them either. I deserve my own happiness. I do things for me all the time. I wanted to create a startup three years ago; I did. I wanted my own company; I built it. I wanted to coach baseball; I have practice today at 4 p.m. I wanted to write about my experiences as a single dad; I do. I do these things in pursuit of my own happiness because these are my marbles; these are my happy thoughts.
So as long as I am happy, my children are happy. That's the way it works and it's working.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.