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A New Normal: The Challenges of Being a Single Father

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Single moms and dads have more in common than you might think! Click To Tweet

This is a guest post by Daniel Sherwin of Dadsolo.com

Daniel has been a single dad to his daughter (9) and son (6) for three years, and valiantly admits that he doesn’t always know what the heck he’s doing – I am with you on that one Daniel!
Seeing every day as an adventure and a blessing has helped him through tough times and on his blog he shares the resources that has worked for him.

Men who suddenly find themselves as single parents face a hard, new reality that can make it difficult to be the father you want to be. If you were an active and engaged dad when married, you’re likely to find that quality time with your kids isn’t so easy to come by anymore.

When you’re married, you’re part of a natural parenting team. There was usually always someone to help share the burden when it all gets to be too much.

There’s the pressure of having to maintain a healthy home environment while being a supportive, loving father. And, just for good measure, single fathers often come up against the stigma that says men don’t make good single parents because nurturing doesn’t come naturally to them. It’s a tough scenario, and some men struggle to overcome the unique, new challenges they face.

Discipline

Being both disciplinarian and supportive, sympathetic parent requires flexibility and the ability to listen. Your children may have a hard time accepting the situation if your wife took the lead where discipline was concerned. In many cases, dads feel guilty about a death, divorce or separation and may overcompensate by being too lenient when discipline is called for. In such a situation, showing tough love can be difficult, especially if your kids are still emotionally raw. Nevertheless, it’s important to stand your ground and be firm when needed. Remember that children need structure and a clear understanding of who’s in charge.

Support

If you and your ex-spouse aren’t on good terms, chances are you can’t rely on moral support from her when it comes to the children. Dads who have a hard time with single parenthood often struggle because they have no support system, no one to share thoughts, feelings and frustrations with. Seek out friends and family when you need a sympathetic ear. If divorce has left you without many options, consider joining a support group for single fathers in your community, or on line.

Finances

Making ends meet is often a real challenge for single dads. You’re the sole breadwinner, which means you’re responsible for expenses you once shared with your ex. That can be a big hit to the wallet. If you’ve never had to budget before, you’ll have to learn now. Start by eliminating non-essentials like cable TV or eating out. It’ll be rough at first, but everyone will get used to the “new normal.”

Some single parents find it necessary to take on a second job, but that can become a problem if babysitters are hard to find, and when you start feeling run down. It’s important to take care of yourself so you can be an effective parent.

Self-care

Try to mark out a little time for yourself each day just to relax and think. If possible, work in a little exercise during a lunch break, or after the kids are in bed. The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, anxiety and sadness all play a big role in the state our mental health is in. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, getting help and making good choices are paramount, for you and your children.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Being a single father takes some getting used to. It’s hard work, and you’ll make a mistake now and then. Be open to help and advice from those closest to you and take care not to neglect your physical and emotional needs.

Thank you Daniel for this great article! Seeing the single-parent life from a dad’s perspective has made my realise that we might have more in common that we think.

This has been a guest post by Daniel Sherwin of Dadsolo.com

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3 Comments

    • Anneri Anneri

      Hi Nigel! This is a great question. I think it depends on the age of your child, and how the visits work between parents, e.g. how close you live in proximity, etc. When my daughter was too little to talk to her dad on the phone, I would try and comfort her to the best of my abilities. We counted the ‘sleeps’ until her next visit, and we had a soft toy that always travelled with her between homes. Most of the times it gave her some comfort at least. We also had an agreement between parents, that we would try and console her best we could and let her time with a parent be what it was, difficult or not. If she was really ill, then only would we make allowances for her to come home to me. It really is a shared responsibility in raising her, both taking doctors’ visits, etc.
      Now that she is older (almost 11) they talk on the phone and it is a lot easier. But her dad has also moved away – 1300km’s so it makes visits less frequent. Each age/stage has its own troubles.

      As for loneliness – that is a whole different topic altogether! 🙂

      • Thank you, Nigel, for reading the article and for your great questions! My situation is a bit different from Anneri’s in that my ex is not currently in my children’s lives at all. When they ask about her, I always try to be as honest as possible. For example, if they ask when they’ll get to see their mom, I tell them that unfortunately, I don’t know, and that I know that isn’t a satisfying answer. Then, I ask them about what they’re feeling–does that make them sad, is there something they want to tell her or hear from her, etc. Usually, those questions can help me form a response that can bring them some kind of comfort. And of course, I always make sure they both know that they’re incredibly loved. Generally, I’ve tried to make sure the lines of communication between us are always wide open.

        As for loneliness, I’m very lucky and have an incredibly supportive family and great friends. Of course, they don’t always understand what I’m going through as a single parent. Initially, I found online forums for single parents very helpful. I also still regularly go to a single parents support group in my city. And I highly recommend making time for self-care–I meditate and go to therapy. Loneliness and sadness do still pop up but I find that those practices help me prevent them from spinning out into major crises.

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