As a Divorced Mom of Teens, It’s Hard Playing the Role of Mom AND Dad

Hard as a try to play both roles, my boys NEED their dad...

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: As a Divorced Mom of Teens, It’s Hard Playing the Role of Mom AND Dad

Written By: The Raising Teens Today Community

Earlier this week, my seventh-grade, thirteen-year-old son performed in his annual spring band concert. As he stood in the bathroom getting ready for the big event, (mostly trying to tame that wild mane hair he possesses), I happened to pop in the bathroom to check in on him…

As a Divorced Mom, It’s Hard Playing the Role of Mom AND Dad


The sight that met my eyes nearly took my breath away. Where once my little boy stood, I now saw a handsome, tall, composed, adult-looking young man. He was attempting to tie the black silk tie that hung around his neck – part of his attire for the evening. It seemed he had a good handle on things, so I went to get myself ready for the big event. 

Just a few minutes later, as I walked past my son’s bedroom, I saw the same black silk tie in a heap on his floor. I curiously asked why he wasn’t wearing the tie.

“I dunno,” he said. “I tried to get it right but I couldn’t. And, it’s not required for the performance anyway, so I’m just not gonna wear it.” 

Normally, I’d brush off a comment like this – after all, he wasn’t required to wear the tie – but something felt unsettled in my heart and gut.

Later that evening, after the concert and hype of the end-of-year celebration, my son shared something truly heartbreaking with me. 

You see, his dad and I are divorced; we divorced when my son was only three years old. This is a very busy time of year for his father career-wise, so he misses several of our sons’ school events due to his job, which requires a lot of seasonal travel. His dad was unable to make the concert on this particular night. He wasn’t even in town to stop by and see my son, which he would have done, had he been available. 

“Mom, I don’t even know how to tie a tie. I tried watching a YouTube video, but still couldn’t figure it out,” my son confessed. 

This simple statement broke my heart. I could hear the anguish in his voice. As a single mom, I try very hard to handle the multiple roles of both mom and dad when my kids are in my care. But honestly, there are some things I simply don’t know how to do, say, practice, or preach. Could I learn to tie a tie?  Sure, I could! But this monumental Aha! moment for my son (and me) was about more than simply tying a tie.

He missed his dad.

He felt alone.

He was envious of his friends and classmates who had two-parent daily involvement in their lives and who took such average everyday experiences with their dads for granted.

My sons don’t have that, and it breaks my heart.

It racks me with guilt (even though our divorce was very much unwanted by me). It concerns me immensely that my sons are missing out on pivotal lessons their dad should be teaching them.

I’m worried about the short and long-term impact their divorced family life will have on their lives – having two homes, two parents with drastically different lives, and two completely different experiences in which they are expected to adjust to each and every day of their young, fast-paced, and quickly changing lives. 

My parents weren’t divorced. I was fortunate to have a happy, two-parent upbringing. Of course, divorce is fairly commonplace these days, so perhaps the way my kids are tossed back and forth is completely normal in today’s society. But it shouldn’t be. Our children didn’t ask for the lifestyle their parents’ decisions forced upon them.

My son deserves a father who will teach him how to tie a tie! A father who can sit down and talk to him about relationships, girls, and dating. A father who’s there day in and day out relentlessly by his side guiding him, hanging out, shooting hoops, and teaching him important life lessons. 

(Of course, his dad would be willing to do all of this if his demanding work schedule allowed.)

There seem to be so many separations, divorces, and irreconcilable differences in families today. If I could offer one piece of advice. When you make a decision to preserve or jumpstart your own happiness, please consider your children. I know that the layers of divorce are much deeper than the length of this short article and some marriages have no hope of being salvaged. However, as a divorced mom of teenagers who are living the life of divorced parents, I can tell you the ramifications of a decision that affects your children (quite possibly more than yourself) are extremely far-reaching and will remain with them the rest of their lives, bleeding over into personal relationships and possibly infusing a childhood of hurt and trauma that they have no clue how to properly unpack. 

Sure, I can watch a YouTube video. I can learn how to tie a man’s tie. And, I can teach my son lessons he’d love to learn from his Dad. But will that take away the desire he has for a father who lives in the same household as his mother? A father who was there to put him to bed each night with a bedtime story? A birthday party where mom and dad aren’t seated on opposite ends of the room? A father who shows up for his games and tournaments, performances, and first dances?

Sure, I can do all the things his dad can do (or most of them, anyway). But I will never take the place of his dad. And there are just some positively heart-wrenching times in life that my son will realize are special moments stolen from his childhood, as a child of divorce. 

That is a realization I have to live with for the rest of my life… and it’s so very hard.

Because, mommas, trust me when I say, (and I’ve learned this from my own experience), when dad is not there to teach your baby-boy-turned-young-man how to tie a tie, your heart will mourn the life that ‘could have been’, not just for you, not for your estranged husband, but for that young man standing in the bathroom, sadly peering at himself in the mirror, trying to teach himself how to do something young men are supposed to learn from their father. 


If you enjoyed reading, “As a Divorced Mom of Teens, It’s Hard Playing the Role of Mom AND Dad,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy:

My Husband and I Fight Over How to Raise Our Teen: 10 Things We’re Doing to Get On the Same Page

Mamas: Here Are 10 Things Your Teen Son Quietly (and Desperately) Needs from You

My Precious Son: I Miss Your Littleness, But I’m in Awe of the Man You’re Becoming


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Lorraine May 21, 2024 - 8:17 am

I am divorced mom of teen girls, their father left and does not wabt to be part of their lives. It is emotionally draining for both me & the girls, to an extent of sometimes thinking of ending my own life…

Nancy Reynolds May 22, 2024 - 8:57 am

Dear Lorraine:

Your words truly touched a part of my heart that will likely never fully heal. The rejection we feel when a spouse leaves is like no other pain on earth. And while we can likely heal and move forward individually, when our children have been rejected as well, as your two precious daughters have been by their father, that pain goes much, much deeper. For the pain of our children is always much worse than that we feel ourselves.

I could say so many things here. I could say that your feelings of weariness and emotional exhaustion are very real and understandable, given the hand you have been dealt. I could say that those daughters of yours have already been heartbroken and to lose you, the parent that stayed, the one that showed up, and faithfully continues to pick up the pieces, would be unfathomable for them. I could say that things will get easier in time (and I truly believe this as a testament to my own journey with divorce). I could say so many things. But really, what I want to say is this….

You are not this situation. Your husband chose to leave (which I think he will come to regret years later, when it is too late to un-do the damage he has done). That is not on you. Do not allow this to define you, my friend.

You are the one true compass your daughters have left. Please know that you are not alone. I, too, have walked the road of loneliness, rejection, fear, and such intense emotional exhaustion that I simply did not have it in me to go one more solitary step. What you are feeling is normal, given the intensity of this life change you have been dealt.

I would highly recommend that you seek help right away; whether with a counselor, a trusted friend or family member, or a pastor (possibly all three). I have sought so much help in my life (and continue to regularly see a therapist which I have found incredibly liberating and healing). Every single person God allowed to walk a small part of this heartbreaking journey beside me, has blessed me immensely. And now, dear friend, on the ‘other side’ of divorce, I have the honor of walking with others going through the nightmare I recall from that season of life. And trust me, friend, if you dig deep, if you seek help, if you call on the one source of light in this world that will never let you down (this is my faith in Jesus speaking), you too, will someday walk with others on this torturous path you currently find yourself. You are not alone. You are loved. And you are the only source of love your daughters’ have presently. Please do not take that lightly. Do anything and everything you can to heal so that you can assist them in their long road to recovery.

I am truly sorry you are going through this time. When I went through my divorce with my sons’ father, out of all the words of encouragement, questions, and empty words I heard from those surrounding me, the one thing that stands out to me was from my precious father. Sitting in the living room of my bare home as it was all packed away for my two boys and I to move and begin a new life. I sat in that living room. My Dad, a man of few words, simply said: ‘I am sorry you are going through this.’ And in that moment, something both broke and was reborn in my soul. I knew that I had to fight……for my parents, for my children, for myself. I did. And you will, too.

Please do not make a permanent decision based on a temporary problem. I know this problem seems massive, and it is. But my dear, you will rise from the ashes like the phoenix that you are! Just take it one day at a time, one step at a time, one long, deep, breath at a time and know that this truly will pass and in just a handful of years, you will look back and see that perhaps what you thought would kill you, was simply the beginning of your glorious re-birth.

Hang in there, sister…..and please, please, please reach out to someone who can walk this journey with you. You are loved. You are needed. You are a treasure. Hold tight to that as you maneuver this very difficult road. And continually remind yourself, you are never alone.

Much love, Amannda


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