Fathers are a crucial part of a child's life. However, it is sometimes more difficult for dads to spend time with their kids, especially if they are not married to the mother of their children.

When parents are divorced or no longer live together, the amount of time a father spends with his children decreases. Visits may consist only of weekends, phone calls or sometimes just a child support check. It takes greater effort to spend time with children when you do not live with them. Also, if fathers don't have a good relationship with the mothers, this can hinder the relationship further.

An author, columnist and father living apart from his child, Solomon Jones, recently stated that not living with his child "was painful because a father's love is so often expressed through providing and protecting. And it's difficult to provide and protect without presence ... fatherhood works best when it is paired with motherhood and sealed by marriage." He further described being the non-custodial parent as a "disjointed tapestry of love and distance, longing and hurt."

Additionally, 81 percent of dads believe "men generally perform better as fathers if they are married to the mothers of their children."

What are some differences between fathers who are married to their child's mother versus fathers who are not?

Married dads are often more united with moms

Like it or not, mothers are more often the main caregiver in a child's life. Because of this, what she says often goes. When dads and moms are married, they more likely share the same parenting goals and desires. They work together to raise their children, but a mother often has more natural instincts about what to do in certain situations. The father tends to lean on the mother's natural abilities and then follow suit. They have mutual respect for each other and are more willing to work together to raise their children the best they can, together.

If the parents are not married, this can sometimes put the couples at odds with each other. Parents may be unwilling to work together to raise the children with the same stable rules and boundaries. This can cause the "mama bear" to come out, which can lead to a decrease of time she allows dad to spend with her children.

Marriage makes it easier to spend time with kids

Fathers who are married to the mother of their children naturally get to spend more time with them. Precious moments like bath or bedtime, reading stories together at night, meal times or other regular daily tasks are easier to engage in if they are living in the home. Even the hard times such as sick children in the night, homework help or talking through social problems a child may experience are crucial to developing a strong relationship. The everyday matters are what helps build a relationship little by little.

Additionally, family trips or outings together are much easier within a marriage union. Though family trips can be done with one parent, there may be restrictions of time or distance traveled with children depending on custody matters. Vacationing as a married family has much more leeway and leads to family, or father-child, bonding.

Perhaps some exceptions

Some may argue that cohabiting can be just as good for father-child relationships. They are partially correct; however, cohabiting relationships are more likely to dissolve than marriages.

That being said, whether you are divorced or no longer living with or dating the mother of your child, you can still create a lasting relationship with your child. But you have to make a consistent effort for it to work. It's also important to treat their mother with respect and try to align your rules, discipline, eating habits, schedules, etc. with hers, which will create a sense of stability and safety. Mama bears are more willing to let their babies out of their sight if they know their children will be in a good environment.

Here are some ways for fathers to offer support and strengthen relationships with their children while living separately:

  • Establish regular visiting time.

  • Make regular, even nightly, phone calls.

  • Take a sincere interest in their lives.

  • Make them a priority by attending sporting events, piano recitals, school functions, etc.

  • Work alongside their mother as a united force as much as possible.

  • Offer as much support financially, emotionally and physically as you can.

  • Be a good example for your kids to follow.

While marriage is the best circumstance to be a great father, you can make it work in other situations as well. All dads need to make a sincere effort to be in their children's lives. It doesn't happen by accident. It takes time, consistency, love and sincerity.

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