I’m one of those “Disneyland Dads” who doesn’t get to see my kids very often. Why should I waste our precious time on homework or chores?
DR. RUTHERFORD: I would suspect this may be a common feeling among divorced parents who share custody and don’t see their kids on a daily basis.
MOLLY: We received this submission from a father in Seattle. He elaborated that he only gets to see his children for six hours per week, so “every second counts.” He explains, “They still have to obey, but I don’t want to waste precious time on routine things like homework or chores. Why shouldn’t I plan something exciting for us to do together?”
I don’t know, but it seems to me that parenting involves not only doing the fun stuff but also the stuff that isn’t so fun, like reminding your kids to do their homework or teaching them manners or having them clean up their room. If he isn’t doing any of this, doesn’t it put the entire burden on the other parent, the mom?
DR. RUTHERFORD: I was thinking the same thing, and then the children get a distorted view on who is the responsible parent. They are likely not to associate their father with the nuts and bolts of living.
On the one hand, I understand that he has a limited amount of time available to spend with his children and when he sees them he wants to maximize their time together; but on the other hand, doing homework and chores and things like that are part of the everyday life of a child and can very important in terms of social and moral development.
MOLLY: Do you think it’s a bad thing for kids growing up in a divorced household to view their father as a “Disneyland Dad?” If he only gets 6 hours, I understand why he would want to make the most of that time.
DR. RUTHERFORD: Being a “Disneyland Dad” may marginalize the father in the child’s eyes as not a particularly responsible caregiver and perhaps not a person they can turn to when serious issues arise.
MOLLY: That would be the opposite of the effect that this father likely wants. I’m assuming he wants to be close to his children and be associated with having fun so they’ll like him more, but in the end he might realize that his kids will always be more dependent upon his ex-wife for emotional support because she was there day-in and day-out.
DR. RUTHERFORD: Perhaps this can’t be helped due to the awkwardly skewed custody arrangement that he finds himself with. What does 6 hours a week look like? Does it mean school nights? A weekend day? If it means that the kids sleep over at his place on any school nights, then he must make time for homework to be done, establish a decent bedtime, and create a morning routine that gets everyone out the door and to school on time or he will hinder their future success.
If, however, six hours a week translates to Sundays 1pm-7pm, then I think he may be justified in playing the Disneyland Dad role.
In an ideal divorce, it would be helpful to find a balance of responsibilities and play time so that both parents get to have fun with their kids and both parents get to deal with the daily grind of modern life. However, this would mean dividing custodial time and responsibilities more evenly between the parents than they have in this case.
If these parents are dissatisfied about each other’s parenting roles in this divorce, they should look into adjusting the custody agreement accordingly and in a way that reflects the best interests of the children.
The truth is if this Dad is only spends 6 hours a week with his children, his role will necessarily be limited. My advice is to continue to develop his relationship with his children as best he can during his limited contact period.