kids

You might not have heard of the 'Disneyland dad' but you'll definitely know one.

My daughter has just returned from a trip with her dad.

The Disneyland Dad that is… You know the type? Does the minimal amount of parenting and swoops in from time to time to do all the fun stuff.

Over the years, my ex has had his fair share of Disneyland Dad moments.

So, how can YOU tell if your ex is a Disneyland Dad?

1. They like to have pure fun.

A Disneyland Dad may quite literally take your child to Disneyland. We don’t have Disneyland here in Australia, but theme park visits are one of the most common activities my ex does with our daughter. Sea World, Dream World, Movie World, Wet ‘n’ Wild – my daughter has been to them all. And not with me, that is. They also go on lots of trips, go to fun fairs regularly and just tend to do a lot of exciting activities in general. For your ex that might be cinema visits, bowling, ice-skating, the list goes on…

Sadly for those of us who have majority care, it can be hard to do these sorts of things every day. You’d need to take a bank loan out for one, and we have… you know… school, work, our kids’ homework and just general life admin and chores to manage.

divorce and children
The 'Disneyland dad' has all the fun, without the responsibility. Image: Getty.

2. They like to spoil their child with gifts.

Without a doubt, every time my daughter comes back from a trip with her dad she has new toys. And on my daughter’s fifth birthday this year, my ex sent her an iPad. That is not a joke. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful that my ex sends presents at all. I realize that not everyone does. But it’s a little extreme.

Plus, to be honest, it did sting a bit. How can I compete with that? Not that it’s a competition, but you know what I mean. And, not only is it my daughter’s favorite present… EVER(!!!), but I have to enforce rules about the iPad and deal with my daughter’s challenging behaviour when I say/yell for the 100th time: NO YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH THE IPAD RIGHT NOW!

And, he took my right to decide what kind of technology my child has access to in my home away from me. Well, unless I want to be the world’s most hated mother.

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3. Rules? What rules?

I don’t have a list of rules in my house, but I do follow what I believe to be the generally accepted parenting guidelines I suppose… No sugar before breakfast, say please and thank you, try to eat mainly nutritious food, both of us help clean up, no TV all day long (99% of the time), no dessert if the broccoli is still on the plate (my poor deprived child doesn’t have dessert every day regardless), be respectful… You get the gist.

But at Disneyland Dad’s house? Anything goes!! Want sugar for breakfast? Why not? Pizza for dinner every night? Yes, please! Can we watch TV all day? Yes, let’s do it! Can we have juice? Yes, let’s drink juice all day and have NO water!

Unfortunately for us, it means that when our kids come back to us, we have to deal with some challenging behavior while we get things back to (our) “normal” (and our child comes down from that sugar high).

We ask our Motherish crew when they realised it was time for a divorce. Here's what they said.

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4. They NEVER stick to the child’s routine.

A Disneyland Dad also likes to ensure they stick to their child’s routine at all times. Haha!! Just kidding… What’s a routine? Bedtime is whenever, dinner time is whenever. The Disneyland Dad likes to just go with the flow. And we get to deal with our overtired children upon their return. Woohoo! On my daughter’s last trip with her dad, I sent a list of words with her dad that she had to work on learning how to write during the school holidays. Were they looked at at all? According to my daughter, no! Because that ain’t what a Disneyland Dad does y’all.

5. They despise/refuse to pay child support.

Here’s the clincher. A Disneyland Dad, whilst enjoying all these fun and expensive activities with their children, cries poor and claims to be broke when it comes to paying child support. Child support which pays for things that the child actually needs – education, food, somewhere to call home.

One of my ex’s favourite past times, for instance, is complaining to me how broke he is. All because of the child support that he is forced to pay and that is running him dry, of course. Nothing to do with his lifestyle, or with the three cars and three bedroom house that he lives in on his own. Definitely not! In fact, get this… My ex has taken it upon himself to issue me with a debt that I apparently owe HIM because Child Support Australia took money out of his account because of a child support debt he had accumulated. Makes total sense doesn’t it? *Insert eye roll emoji*.

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Why be a Disneyland Dad?

I don’t mean any of this in a resentful way. And I hope my attempt at humor is not taken that way, because I love our life, and it’s perfect as it is. The situation is what it is. And if you don’t find the humor in things, you’ll cry,

Also, I can actually completely understand why it happens. And you know what? If the roles were reversed and I just got to see my daughter every few months. You can bet your ass I’d be making it super fun as well. Wouldn’t you?

There can be many reasons why a Disneyland Dad is a Disneyland Dad. It might be because of the guilt they feel for not seeing their kids regularly. Perhaps it is to get back at us? But I suspect in most cases it’s to win the kids over and be their best friend.

But this is what we have to remember. These things can’t buy love. Also, kids don’t need us to be their best friend. They don’t want a best friend in us. What they really need in us is a parent. They need boundaries.

Know that your kids feel safe with you. They probably see their Disneyland Dad less as a parent and more as a friend. With you, they feel 100 per cent comfortable and that means they may reserve their meltdowns and sometimes challenging versions of themselves for us. So sure it may feel like we bear the brunt of the majority of the parenting, but we can also thank ourselves for the amazing humans that they are.

Are you familiar with the 'Disneyland parent'? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Julia Hasche is a break-up recovery and single parenting mentor, podcast host, blogger, author. You read more of her work on Single Mother Survival Guide or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

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