Despite having few role models, single-parent fathers do have what it takes.
I am 29 years old and a university-educated, single male.
My former girlfriend recently phoned me from the hospital to inform me of the birth of a child, whom I fathered. She said she did not want to parent the boy and that I could raise him if I wanted.
A year has now passed, and with the help of my mother, I am proud to say that I have made it so far as a dad. Although I wouldn’t have it any other way, I must confess that solo parenting as a father is not an easy gig and I often feel overwhelmed by the demands.
I wonder how the future will look for my son and me. Any advice for this new solo dad?
Dear Parenting Alone,
Research is scant about single-parent fathers, and much more is needed to support the growing numbers of men heading families alone. Few positive role models of skillful and knowledgeable solo dads are out there, so you are among those setting the pace and proving that men do possess the strengths needed to parent alone and overcome the obstacles.
A major challenge is finances. According to a Health Line article “Are You a Single Dad? You’re Not Alone,” a 2015 literature review found that single fathers tend to have better incomes, better education, and less poverty than single mothers. Hopefully, you find yourself financially able to support your son, with or without child support from his mother, as it will make the challenges of being a solo parent that much easier for you. Always remember that time with your son is far more important than money, material possessions, and standard of living once a roof is over his head and food is on the table.
A second challenge is society’s perception that males are less capable than females of doing a good job as a solo parent. Men are often not considered natural nurturers and may experience stigma, negative remarks, or criticisms. This may be accompanied by some self-doubt that they can do this job by themselves. Do work on your confidence that you are able and competent!
A third major challenge is being the breadwinner plus the nurturer in the family, and that single dads cannot divide the daily responsibilities with a coparent. Sometimes a dad needs to be in two places at one time, and he has no other person to rely on. He is left with a decision. “Do I meet the needs of the job and my employer, or meet the needs of my child at this time?” Juggling those personal and work responsibilities is a constant challenge faced by single fathers. Fortunately for you, your mom has been on the scene to assist you, but more support may be needed.
An additional significant challenge is stress. The American Psychological Association says that “Life in a single-parent household can be quite stressful for the adults and the children.” Solo parents are on their own for work, for children, for the bills, and for running the household. Sometimes the demands seem overwhelming. You may be finding the challenge of financially supporting your son on your own considerable. Daycare may be a problem. Finding downtime is likely difficult. You are likely asking yourself, “How and when can I do any self-care?
Further to these obstacles, it has been documented that the mental health and physical health of solo dads is worse than that of fathers with partners. Many single dads are coping with the emotional overlay of a separation, divorce, or death. Extended family relationships may have changed. Social support from previously helpful friends and family may be different as well. Loneliness is common, as is depression. You would not be alone having these experiences, Parenting Alone.
In addition, some fathers feel the pressure of being solely responsible for their children’s happiness. Disciplining as a single parent can be more difficult as you may worry your child will not like you when you have to deal with such behaviours as back talking, tantrums, or not listening. The solo parent does not have a live-in coparent to back him up. A single fathers’ support group might be helpful in dealing with this issue.
A final major challenge is the conflict between the child’s parents. It is a common stressor that may or may not be present in your case. Some families remain in conflict for a long time around visitation or custody matters and struggle with coparenting from different households. Should the single dad choose to date or cohabitate, stepparenting issues also present themselves.
I’m sure you can relate to some of these challenges, Parenting Alone. You’ve taken on one of the hardest jobs in the world and yet one of the most rewarding ones. Remember, in your child’s estimation, you are a Superhero! Make an effort to love yourself as well as your son, exercise frequently, and meditate when you can. Try to think positively and eliminate negatives from your life.
I suggest you attempt to build a support network among other single fathers, extended family, and friends. Don’t be the least bit shy to accept help. Let others assist you with the housework and yard work for a few hours, if they offer. Let them play taxi or do errands for you. Accept their offer to babysit. Never turn down a free meal or gently used clothes and toys for your son. Ask trusted friends and families to be part of an emergency backup plan. Keep your relationship with your son’s mother as positive as possible. Take new dating relationships slow and cautiously. Schedule time for yourself every day.
I will close with a few inspiring quotes about being a single dad:
“Being a single dad lets you discover inner strengths and capabilities you never knew you had.” — Proud Happy Mama
“Single dad or not, just remember you’re the best dad for your child and you are doing the best you can.” — Proud Happy Mama
“It takes a strong man to be a single dad and take on two roles. You are amazing in your child’s eyes, so never forget that.” — Proud Happy Mama
I wish you the very best in your role as a solo dad, Parenting Alone. I am confident you can do it!
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