EP 76: Parenting after Divorce with Dave Taylor, Single Dad and Parenting Blogger

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“My desire for every divorcing parent and every divorced parent is always take the high road. Always try to be the person you wish the other person was also being. So don’t bad mouth your ex, don’t joke with your kids about how your ex isn’t good at this or isn’t good at that…Just try to be a really positive person because it does pay off in the long run.”
- Dave Taylor

Do you wonder what life will be like as a single parent after divorce? Today we interview Dave Taylor, a single father and parenting blogger at GoFatherhood.com. Dave has been divorced for over 9 years, and he shares some great perspective on issues like: 

  • How to protect your kids during divorce
  • Managing the relationship with an ex-spouse for the best interests of the kids
  • Why being a single father has improved his relationship with his kids
  • What dating (or lack of) is like as a single father
  • And much more!

This is a great episode you don’t want to miss. To learn more about Dave:

Parenting Blog: GoFatherhood.com
Tech Blog:  Askdavetaylor.com

Thank you for listening to the Divorce and Your Money Show. To get the full transcript of this episode, visit us at www.divorceandyourmoney.com and be sure to check out the NEW course Divorce 101: Steps to Take Before Divorce.
 
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This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Shawn: So today I have on the show Dave Taylor, a single dad and dad blogger. Dave, welcome to the show.

Dave: Thanks Shawn, it’s nice to be here.

Shawn: So before we jump in, why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about your background, your blog, your divorce, and a little bit about what you do today. Set the stage for us.

Dave: Alright. So I was born…That might be too far back. Well I’ll just say that like every single person who goes to the alter, the last thing in the world I ever imagined was that I would have children and be divorced. My ex and I we met basically just before grad school, and then we went to grad school together at Purdue. Then, moved to the San Francisco bay area and had a couple of kids, and then moved to Colorado, had a third child, and really everything was just bumpy on the journey. There were times when it was good but there were definitely times when it was challenging. I will be very candid, adding children to the mix adds a way huge amount of stress, and I think having babies and newborns in particular is really challenging on a relationship. So after much not happy times we did the divorce thing and we’re just shy of nine years ago. That was super tough. We have three children together and now my children are twenty, sixteen and twelve.

I still live in Colorado, as does my ex, and my twelve year old actually now lives with me full time. So that’s something that has been relatively new in the last few months. Professionally, I’ve been really blessed to be able to work for myself, and I’m very entrepreneurial. I always have fifty things going on. One of the things that has kept putting food on the table is, I have a tech Q & A site called Ask Dave Taylor and people know me well for all of my tech and consumer electronics work. I’ve been a judge at the consumer electronic show, and all sorts of stuff. We have a crazy amount of technology in the house and that’s all been a blessing. Instead of having to go into work at eight-thirty in the morning and coming home exhausted at six PM everyday, which is really a grind, I’ve been able to sort of weave my work hours into whatever else was going on in the family.

Shawn: That’s a great introduction. So you’ve had the hindsight now of about nine years of being divorced. As a parent, as you look back on that time what do you find challenging, and in particular, what’s kind of surprised you from a parenting perspective that you didn’t necessarily expect looking at the time?

Dave: I think the biggest thing is that children are very resilient. I think as parents we have a huge amount of guilt and disappointment over divorce, and legitimately so. Whether you’re the one that decided to call it, or whether it was the other party, there’s a lot of challenges around divorce. I think that when we were separated and living in different houses and finalized our divorce, I felt like I was really ruining my children’s lives and I felt like nothing I could do could make up for that. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of wisdom that really is inaccurate. What children really need most of all to be able to survive all this craziness is they just need loving parents. They just need parents that especially don’t down talk or criticize the other parent, and don’t put their kids in the middle of things. If you can really just be present, it actually can be a huge improvement on your relationship, particularly for a man. I think that whether we are in the 21st century or not, a lot of couples it’s really the mom who is the nurturer and spends much more time with the children. That’s not good or bad but from a male perspective, the opportunity to have one on one time with your children whether you were prepared for it or not, can be a huge benefit, and it can really help you grow a stronger and have a deeper relationship with your children.

Shawn: I think that’s great. You brought up a lot of things when you spoke about your answer and for one, how had your relationship with your ex evolved over the years? Has it gotten easier, more complicated, harder? How have you navigated that process?

Dave: Well I’d like to report that it’s super easy and we get along awesomely and we go out for dinner but the fact is that we started out pretty acrimonious, and my huge disappointment hasn’t really mellowed out very much. I think that there’s still a lot of hurt within each of us, and more on her side a lot of anger. It’s to the point where with one of my children, we work with a therapist with him. My ex won’t be on a phone call with me, and the therapist. She’s just like, “I don’t care. I don’t want to be on the same phone.” This is ten years after we did the separate houses. The passion and the emotion is still very deep, and we are convivial. We can sit next to each other at a school concert but that’s as far as it goes.

Shawn: How do you navigate what’s in the best interest for the kids between the two of you?

Dave: Well that could be tough. I think the thing that I try to keep in mind –and I can really only speak for myself, and that’s really all I should anyway –both of us have their best interests at heart. Both of us adore our children. Both of us are very devoted parents. Our children are very front and center, and how we get from here to there, we differ on. So one of the things I do is I will let her be the leader when it comes to medical related decisions because she has more experience and more training in that area. When it comes to behavioral things I generally am the one to propose how we should do things, and then let her sort of fine tune it. An example is our twelve year old, just this week said “Hey dad, how old do I have to be before I start dating?” to which my response of twenty didn’t go across very well. That’s a situation where I’ll write up an email saying, “Here’s my thoughts.”, “Here’s like four basic rules we can have. What do you think?”, and then my ex can fine tune it. That generally seems to be something that works well.

Shawn: If we were to rewind the clock just a little bit, how did you describe or what advice do you have for people who are going through the divorce, to describe what’s happening to their kids, and how to maintain that loving and nurturing that they need?

Dave: I think the biggest thing is just say what you might think is obvious, but your kids totally don’t get, which is it’s not their fault. Let’s be really clear, even if it is their fault, even if one of your kids is a massive pain in the butt or absolutely polarizes the family or pushes you away, you still can’t say it’s their fault. There are certain words or phrases that you can say to a child that they’ll remember for the rest of their life. I think that the most important thing is to position the divorce as something between the adults, and that ideally, even if they are a monster, to say that you and mommy or you and daddy both really love the kids and you’re not happy together and so you’re going to try to figure something else out. And it’s not the kids fault, and everyone still loves you and it’s going to be hard for everyone, and we all just need to try to get through it together.

Shawn: I think that’s great advice. Shifting gears, a little bit. As a single father do you feel there are any societal expectations or expectations from other parents that would be worth discussing?

Dave: I will say that I do think that the deck is stacked against fathers. Particularly when you’re a single parent. Our culture already has that moms are goddesses and they’re super heroes and you watch TV and every ad. Everything is all about how wonderful moms are and how hard it is to be a mom. Then dads not completely but quite often are basically portrayed as the bonus child or as another incompetent idiot. Where it’s like, “You can’t even put a diaper on.” The problem is that seeps into culture and seeps into people’s expectations. I have a very distinct memory of walking into kindergarten to pick up my daughter. It was the end of the day and I walked in to pick her up and it was like walking into a saloon in an old western where suddenly everyone went quiet and they all just looked at me. Of course it was all moms and they were all nattering away about yoga and exercise and fashion. I don’t know what the heck they were taking about. They might have been talking about the stock market. I walk in, I’m the only man in the entire building because of course all the teachers were also female, and it just went silent. Women were just like, “Why are you here? Is mom unavailable so you’re here as a substitute?”, and it was just like “No actually I’m a parent too, and this is what I do.” It took a couple of weeks for them to just sort of say, “Oh, you’re just one of us. You’re just a parent.” I think that has occurred again and again. I’m in the parent teacher association at my kid’s school and I’m the only dad in that association. There are conversations where it’s just like, “You really look at the world differently.” And all I’m going to do is sit quietly and maybe check my iPhone.

Shawn: I can understand where you’re coming from. Does that same attitude extend to your interpersonal relationships? Because you’re young and of course life goes on. So when it comes to dating and potential other partners, have you had any particular challenges in that arena?

Dave: Probably the biggest challenge is just logistical. When you get this schedule that you actually go out and not need babysitters or even have the option to babysitters, and when I’ve been going out with single moms then it gets humorous. Once a month we can figure out four hours to get together, sort of thing. For the most part I have to say that being a very active and participatory dad, I get a lot of props and a lot of kudos from other parents. There’s a lot of guys that talk to me and really express the wish that they were more involved. There are a lot of moms that just think that I’m that one great dad that shows how slacker all the other dads are. So sorry guys.

Shawn: Most of the audience, are in the early stages or late stages of divorce and they have a lot of different things that they are considering and thinking about. With the power of hindsight, when someone is thinking about custody –and you brought up scheduling –are there certain questions or considerations that maybe you didn’t think about at the time, that you should have thought about, that you realize in retrospect?

Dave: I think maybe the biggest thing I’ll say – maybe this is very apropos for you – is get in writing what you want the schedule to be, but then be flexible if for that day, week, or month it needs to be something different. I know there’s sort of precedent of what actually occurs. I remember the phase of time where I was logging every single day that I had my children, so that if we every ended up back in court I could say, “Actually, I had my kids 54% of the time in the last three months.” There are times when your kids just need their momma or your kids really just need some dad time, or maybe away from that parent time.

I think having some level of flexibility and some level of being able to change your schedule to meet needs for either the children, or a parent, is really important. The caveat on that is that we’ve also learned by maybe a lot of mediocre experiences, that having a rigid schedule, still works better for the kids. For them to not know where they’re going to lay their head down and sleep tonight is really hard on a child.

Shawn: I think that’s very good advice. I want to ask a nitty gritty question related to that. On your day to day, how do you communicate with your spouse and meeting, and keeping schedules and expenses and all of those other things organized? Do you have your system or do you also try maybe being a technologist, maybe one of the software solutions that are out there as well?

Dave: You used a word in that sentence that I don’t understand. The word spouse. I don’t have a spouse.

Shawn: Sorry, ex-spouse. My apologies.

Dave: Which assuming, you’re talking about my ex-spouse.

Shawn: Yes.

Dave: We’ve had to sort of ratchet it back on communications to the point where if we see each other, there’s an unspoken agreement that we won’t talk about anything at all that is potentially incendiary. Even to the point of “Oh, you’re taking them to what doctor for what reason?” We won’t even have that conversation. We text message but text messages are 99% just logistics. As in, “I didn’t have a chance to get lunch is there any way you could drop lunch off?”, and then all the real communication is via email. I spend a lot of my time doing email anyway, professionally, so I’m very comfortable in that space. There are times when that email gets very snippy and there have been a couple of times maybe once or twice a year where we just really butt heads. My suggestion invariably is for us to go ahead and use the court appointed mediator, to try to address the situation. We rarely end up having to actually do that but that’s my way of just sort of raising a flag and saying, “I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to go through this. In fact, I don’t like fighting at all. I hear you have your perspective and I clearly have mine. One of us needs to compromise and we need to figure this out.”

Shawn: It’s always a challenge and it doesn’t end after the divorce, and it sounds like you still have a lot that’s going on that you have to navigate both with the kids and ex- spouse. It’s good to get a little bit of insight from someone who has been through this process and still navigates the day to day challenges, and hearing from someone nine years later, and what they still experience. It’s very valuable from a male’s perspective.

For the people who want to get more information from you, what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Dave: So I would say probably the best channel is to go through my Go Fatherhood Blog which is at gofatherhood.com, and I’d encourage you to check out what I write about. I don’t write about my day to day experiences with my children. I write about parenting. The reason for that is a lot for privacy issues. If you were to go back nine years on my blog, you would not see very many or if any articles about the divorce or the divorce process. I have absolute horror stories that I’ve never shared publicly because it’s not appropriate in my opinion. On that site there’s a contact form, and that’s probably the easiest way. You can also find me on twitter as Dave Taylor.

Shawn: Well Dave, thank you very much for sharing some of your experiences and opening up to us on the show, I really appreciate it.

Dave: You’re welcome. If I could just sort of close with a closing thought. My advice, my desire for every divorcing parent and every divorced parent is always take the high road. Always try to be the person you wish the other person was also being. So don’t bad mouth your ex, don’t joke with your kids about how your ex isn’t good at this or isn’t good at that. Really just try to be a really positive person because it does pay off in the long run.

 

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.