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#ParentHack from a Divorced Dad: Get a Dog

I am a Bachelor Dad, which means I raise and take care of my son in every way, but I only have him half the time, because I share joint custody with my ex-wife. But when he’s mine, he’s mine.

I drive him to his activities, do his laundry, plan and prepare his every meal (including the lunches he takes to school), minimize the fast food he eats, impose chores and discipline, and otherwise manage his existence in order to ensure he grows into a happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and successful adult male. I’ve even volunteered to be “lunch mom” once a week at his school so I can be on campus with him, just to maximize my time with him.

After my divorce and a little personal growth, I decided to get a puppy for my son“Lifehacks” are my strategies for solving life’s little problems. Small things I’ve done that might seem quirky or weird to others, but—take it from me—they work.

I’d say that getting a puppy was a successful lifehack.

Na’ia gives my son a reason to look forward to coming home to his martinet dad. As I learned from Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan, my dog Na’ia needs me to be a calm and assertive presence, which he counsels is the best way to get your dog to respond to you. Turns out, this advice is true for sons, too. A “calm and assertive” presence is exactly the way I want to be for him, too.

It also turns out, getting a dog after divorce was also great for me. Sharing custody of our son means I’m also a part-time Empty Nester. I get to practice my son’s full departure from home for college a good decade before it happens, because for me, it happens a couple times every week. And like my parents when I was away at school, much of my time is spent waiting for him to come home. When he’s with his mom, it’s just me and his dog.

Besides, it’s a dog. Need I say more? Fine. The dog will also keep you company on long walks, clean up crumbs, pre-wash dishes before they go into the dishwasher, and be your best friend on those lonely nights when you are on your own.

Get a puppy.

Ben Ignacio, father to Tim, lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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