"Obviously, it's not the right time for me to be a father," the 32-year-old actor-singer says in a new Teen People magazine cover story – his first interview since his marital breakup. "But the one thing I haven't had a chance to do is be a great dad."
He adds: "Playing with my friends' kids and having them call me Uncle Nick – that's life."
Having sold the Calabasas, Calif., house he and Simpson shared on their reality show "Newlyweds" to "Malcolm in the Middle" star Justin Berfield for an estimated $3.75 million, Lachey is shopping for a smaller place on Mulholland Drive, above L.A., the magazine reports. (Simpson has already purchased a $3 million Beverly Hills bungalow.)
Younger brother Drew Lachey, 29, who just won the prize on "Dancing With the Stars," also chimes in for the story. Talking about George Lopez's nasty swipe at Nick at January's People's Choice Awards ("The producers wanted me to apologize to Nick Lachey for not being here tonight, but we had enough seat fillers," the comic said), Drew says: "I wanted to call (George), but I calmed down. It's painful to see a good guy like Nick be the topic (of) these conversations."
As for the future, the good guy is helping in the fight against online predators. Discovering that those who prey often use his name on the Internet to convince minors to meet them offline, Lachey was appalled. "I mean, I've experienced credit fraud, but when someone's using your identity to commit horrible acts against kids, it's disgusting," he says.
He's also returning to music with a new single he co-wrote, "What's Left of Me." Its subject? Moving on. Lyrics such as "Stuck in the shadow of my mistakes/I want you ... Been dying inside/little by little" reflect the pain of his marital split. Still, he insists, "That chapter is done."