Being a single father is full of unique challenges. Social and cultural expectations don’t always mesh with personal ideals. With some thoughtful attention you can meet obstacles head-on and come out with flying colors. Here are some tips for achieving success.
Recognition and representation
Single fathers are less recognized and represented than single mothers, and stereotypes are an obstacle in and of themselves. Courts tend to favor mothers, and society in general trusts men less as parents. In the workplace, men generally make better incomes but are offered less flexibility from employers and face unfavorable responses from supervisors when needing time off with children. When talk shows want to discuss unsupported children the cliche is “deadbeat dads,” and social service agencies tend to offer the bulk of services and support to mothers. The Christian Science Monitor notes, “Despite their growing numbers, custodial fathers remain relatively invisible, overshadowed by media portrayals of divorced men who fail to support their children financially and emotionally.” Men also tend to be more isolated than women; requesting help can be seen as inappropriate, and some dads worry about being seen as incompetent and thus losing custody.
One of the most important things a single dad can do is reach out for support, especially to enlist a female influence for children. Experts explain that connecting with an aunt, sister, grandmother or other member of the family can mean providing much needed assistance, equilibrium, and respite. This is particularly vital for men trying to rear daughters on their own.
Family members can also help with maintaining an appropriate balance between your work life and home life. According to some experts social perceptions expect men to require less time away from their work obligations than women, but in order to be happy and effective as fathers they need time to play with the kids, be at athletic events, attend school functions, and still manage the commute to the office just like moms do.
Tend your well-being
In order to be effective as a dad, it’s important to take care of your own mental and physical health. Experts advise, “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.” Remember to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and manage your stress levels. Your children need you to take care of yourself so you have the resources to meet the challenge of taking care of them.
Both sons and daughters need their fathers involved. Attend the kids’ school conferences, take them shopping, get to know their friends. Stay engaged, even if society sends you a message that makes some events awkward.
Your involvement should also include monitoring your children’s internet use. The internet is full of dangers, and it comes in many forms. Here are some particular warnings from the Child Development Institute:
- Too much, too easy. One of the great things about the internet is there is so much available on it. At the same time, that is one of the biggest drawbacks. Children can stumble accidentally or intentionally into adult chat rooms, violent webpages, and pornographic webpages.
- Beware of false identities. Social networking sites generally require users to enter their ages when establishing profiles. However, your child – or someone your child connects with – could set up an identity with false information.
- Beware of predators. Since false identities are easy to create, some adults target young people through the internet. Many children, teens and parents can’t distinguish an innocent interaction from that with a predator until the latter is attempting to approach children physically.
Successful single dad
In spite of stereotypes, social pressures, and work pressures, you can achieve success as a single dad. Engage your support network, take care of yourself, and stay involved with your children. With keeping these objectives in focus you’ll overcome the challenges you face as a single father.