Wow, who am I? This was actually an easy question for me to answer. I have bipolar, but I’m not a label. I have Parkinson’s, but I’m not a disease. The reference in my blog title defines me and I’m happy with that. I’m a Recycled Dad. I hope it’s ok, but I used the following from previous posts that I had actually wrote about who I was. I edited it though to fit the format for this contest, but none the less, it is true to answer the question.
Think about what recycled means: “to reuse or make available for reuse for biological activities, to adapt to a new use, to bring back, to make ready for reuse.” Ask any number of divorced dads and step-dads you’re sure to get a consensus, “recycled” is how we feel…”reused, adapted.” Out with the old and in with the new. Roles and relationships are redefined when it comes to biological children in spite of the fact they shouldn’t be. They are your children. No one should be allowed to tell you your limits. But when the mother walks away it produces cause for change.
Step-parenting produces its own special line of challenges of feeling recycled. You wrestle with the question, “are you recycling your role as a father to your own children?” “Are you recycling your role as a father and trying to replace their father out of some need to fill that emptiness that was created in the divorce?”
Every moment you feel recycled. That original “dad” feeling is stripped away from you as if it was written in the child custody papers. You start over scrounging around as if looking for scraps to put things together to make yourself some kind of father figure. You look in corners for ideas to stay connected with your children trying not to be that “weekend dad.” You look in “another” corner to connect with your step-kids trying not to be “just” their mom’s husband but not be too much at the same time.
It becomes a balance. You never get comfortable with the being a recycled dad. To do so would mean being complacent seeing your children every other weekend and missing those little things that regular parents take for granted and complain about.
An eleven year old son, a seven year old son and a five a year old daughter from a previous marriage. A twelve year old stepson. A ten year old stepdaughter. That’s my home, on certain days of the week…certain days of the month and certain holidays of the year.
I went from father to divorced-father to single-father and “weekend-dad” to step-father with a second family. Each role has its own difficult challenges. There’s this internal fight that constantly goes on inside. It’s more than a debate. It’s a weighing of options. Internal conflicts.
I know I’m a dad. Constantly reminding myself I’m a dad. The fact that I’m even in a position requiring reminders makes me furious. The court says I’m a non-custodial parent. No longer gender identified. They could’ve at least left my dignity and allowed me to keep the one identifier that made me stand out, my gender. “Non-custodial Dad.” It’s the father-child relationship that is the defining factor of the fatherhood role in life. A “Dad” does not have to be a child’s biological father. Many children, as my own step-children, refer to me as dad.
Since my previous marriage I have encountered many men who fall into either the biological divorced-dad or step-dad roles. Within those there seems to be groups and subgroups. For the biological there has been a tiny group of custody winners who are not angry at “the system.” They just want to be more socially accepted as a primary male care taker. Since I’ve been primarily a stay-at-home-dad, a recycled dad, I can relate. But then there’s the much larger group that itself consists of subgroups. This is the group of dads that have lost their kids. Lost in a broad sense. Not necessarily meaning as being taken away by the court.
Divorce is a new way of life, a life of new rules, a life of schedules, of visitations and payments of which you have no say. A life of standards, but never your standards. There are subgroups to this large group. One is the group of men that quietly disappear. They fade away. How sad it is for the children. Maybe they were angry at first, but eventually through time they just gave in and relinquished whatever control and involvement they still had. They continue to make child support and what other court ordered expenses, rather fair or unfair. But the attempts at father/child relationships become effortless.
The other group consists of fathers who too were burned, by selfish and immature mothers. These fathers are infuriated by what has happened and is happening to them and their children as well as how things affect their current remarriages. They refuse to allow circumstance, motives and words interfere with their relationships and with their children. It becomes a balance of offense and defense. You have to fight for your role as a father while, at the same time defend your role as a father. These are the fathers I identify with.
And what of step-fathers? They convey somewhat of the same frustrations. For the most part it’s like taking a double shot to the chest if you are divorced and then remarry. Strife is added to the original loss of a father’s biological child(ren). When there is discontent, a chance for a peaceful home is lacking when it is currently being held captive by someone beyond your control. That causes resentment questioning your very own role and authority in your own home. Co-parenting with the ex after you’ve remarried carries the possibility of strife. Blending the new family while continuing to maintain connections and with old can prove to be someone conflicting.
That’s who I am. I am the life I live.
Lupe Picazo ©