Photo: Stephanie Portell

Nobody ever mentions the single dads.

And they are out there.

My kids have one.

They hardly mention the dads who became moms, or the dads who still sent their ex flowers from her little kids on mother’s day because they couldn’t yet -the dad who loves his kids more than he is bitter toward his ex.

We see post after post on social media about single moms having a hard life, harder than ours.

We read about how good of a job they are doing to teach their sons not to be like their deadbeat father, and how strong they are doing this all alone.

We see posts titled 10 reasons single mom’s rock, making points about how they are used to handling everything on their own, and how good they’ve gotten at juggling things with no time to themselves, all while they work two jobs to make ends meet.

My hat is off to them.

I respect you because as a “single mom” myself, I have not had to endure that. Which means my kids, who are the most important part of all of this, have not.

But what about the moms who are single but not alone because the man they left behind may have been an unexceptional husband, but is an exceptional father. For us, it feels weird to call ourselves “single moms” because we are technically single, but not single in the raising of our children.

We are lucky.

We may not say it enough, maybe some of us don’t recognize it from the bitterness and strain that comes from a divorce or a breakup, but we are lucky to end up with these kinds of men. As strange as it sounds, we are lucky these are the types of the men we started a family with, even though we won’t end as a family in the traditional sense.

What about the moms who got divorced or left not so perfect husbands, but amazing fathers? The moms who share joint custody, and only see their kids 50% of the time? It seems like we have it easy, and sometimes, in some instances, we do.

We know that.

We feel lucky, even though just as we are getting back into a routine with our kids, it’s time for them to go again. It makes us sad because they are being shuffled between houses, and we selfishly want to be there 24/7, but happy at the same time they have a relationship with their dad.

The relationship they should have, and deserve to have.

We are judged on how often they switch homes, but we ignore it because we know how important it is to keep a consistent relationship with their dad when he is a genuinely great person, and focused on making them the best they can possibly be, just as much as we are.

You single dads may feel stupid for treating your ex so well when so many men don’t. But you are not stupid. You are amazing. It’s hard, really hard. Men need to cut all ties when moving on from a relationship and you can’t do that when you are a parent.

At least not if you are a good one.

To the one’s that stay, I admire you, and I thank you for setting such an amazing example for your daughters, and especially your son’s. They are watching how you treat their mother.

You are so awesome that you feel guilty when there is tension between you and your ex, momentarily forgetting the agonizing tension in your house when you were together. You’re not realizing the chaos the boy in the house next door calls life, where the mom and dad are screaming out of frustration while her little boy whom she thinks is sleeping in the next room is listening because they think they have to stay for their kids. You feel guilty that you are not in their lives one hundred percent of the time, but you are in their lives 100% of the time you just don’t realize that yet. You don’t realize that some fathers who are physically there all of the time are hurting their children more than helping them.

You will realize one day how great of a job you are doing, and that just because you did not do a great job in your marriage, it says nothing about the way you parent. I promise you will realize how much what you are doing now, the way you act in front of your kids and make decisions based on them and not your feelings towards her affect them in a positive way and will trickle down into the rest of their lives shaping them into better people.

And I can’t wait to watch them grow into the wonderful men who treat their women with such respect, and beautiful daughters who have high standards and know what they are deserving of because of you.

It’s hard to remember this in the hard times. Even though you may have exchanged some hurtful words two days ago in a text message, you learn to let it go for them.

You learn to move on from the things she does that drive you absolutely mad and remind you why you could never be with her, but your kids would never know that because you treat her with nothing but respect when they are around.

That’s not easy. There is a reason you separated.

It’s not easy as a single dad going to the park alone with your children, knowing everyone suspects you are there so that mommy can have some me time. When in reality, after the fun is over you still have to bring them home, cook dinner, do potty time, and give baths, all while they are tugging at your leg to play Spiderman.

Eventually, you realize it isn’t worth being angry over, you aren’t together anymore. And that makes you sad your family is no longer together, but I hope you realize how happy you make your children when you drop them off and you say hi to their mom instead of avoiding eye contact and slamming the door.

I know it makes you sad every single time you watch her walk away with them after a long weekend, it makes you feel like you have been punched in the gut and feeling like you should be walking right beside them. But I hope you know how happy you make your children when they excitedly lose their first tooth, and you say “l will send mommy a picture.” It’s amazing they aren’t afraid to speak about their mom to you when so many other little kids with divorced parents are afraid.

You can never know what that possibly means to them -knowing that you are a still a team, that you still love them together even though you are not together.

You deserve some recognition and to know that you are amazing.

I wish all fathers were like you. You make us better mothers, and you are molding your kids into the kind of people we need most in this world right now.