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Why divorced men can thrive as fathers

It's not uncommon to hear jokes about panicked or clueless fathers trying to handle the morning routine with the kids. You also hear jokes about new mothers who are nervous about leaving their husbands in charge of the baby for the first time.

Those jokes play on our culture's subconscious beliefs about the nature of men and women when it comes to parenting. Moms are considered "naturally gifted" at handling a toddler's strange food requests, a preschooler who is determined to dress himself and a grade schooler's absent-mindedness. Dads are seen as somehow just barely able to make it through a few hours alone with the kids without a serious mishap occurring.

It turns out that those subconscious stereotypes may hinder a man's ability to fully function as a father. Dads tend to rely on moms too much to direct the flow of action with their children and set boundaries. Moms tend to interfere too much with the dads' approaches to parenting.

Once a man with children is divorced, however, he has an opportunity to parent without deferring to anyone else. He also knows that he has to somehow cope with all the ordinary crises during his parenting time. Since he can't fall back on his spouse like he might have while married, he learns to manage situations with his children better and becomes more confident.

If you're a man who is worried about parenting alone after your divorce, ask yourself whether or not you may have internalized the idea that men are automatically poor caretakers. It may be time to consciously reject that idea. Obtaining custody or shared custody of your child is something to be celebrated -- not feared.

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