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No one walks down the aisle anticipating splitting up after the kids are born, but it happens at an alarmingly high rate. All the sudden, the family unit that was nurturing one, two, or three little ones suddenly becomes fractured, and each parent is left to figure out how to care for the children's needs alone. But is it different for the father than for the mother?
In many ways, life as a single father is much different than that of a single mother. For example, while a single dad can fight for custody of his children, the law automatically grants initial custody to the mother in most cases. But that’s not the only difference, as other challenges like dating and caregiving are usually also different, albeit equally difficult. The following are some unique challenges that single fathers face along with ways to overcome these challenges.
Sure, dating has its challenges both for single moms and single dads, but according to the Chicago Tribune, fathers tend to have a stronger need to have a “partner in the house” than single moms. This puts them at a higher risk for ending up in a bad relationship and putting their children in uncomfortable situations.
How to Overcome It
While no one is suggesting a single dad should never date again, it’s important to proceed with caution. First of all, take a little time for yourself and your children after the divorce. Try not to date anyone until you feel your wounds are starting to heal, and don’t introduce a new love interest to them until you are certain it will be a long-term relationship. Family Education suggests letting your children get to know her in small doses and to never let the responsibility of informing your ex-wife fall on them.
Single parenting can come with a lot of guilt, fatigue, and overall emotional stress. But men are less likely than women to seek help or even find someone to talk to. According to Psychology Today, the reason for this might be something known as hegemonic masculinity.
Hegemonic masculinity is the innate need that men tend to have to conform to their gender roles of fearlessness and toughness. In other words, they equate needing help with weakness. They tend to feel that they should be able to handle anything life throws at them by themselves and without emotion.
How to Overcome It
Taking care of your mental health and making good choices is crucial not only to keeping yourself healthy, but to helping your children function normally as well. 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. Take time for yourself. Find someone to talk to, even if it’s just a trusted friend.
Another factor that both single parents deal with is a lack of time they feel is necessary to spend with their children. And as a single parent, you are now living on a single income rather than the dual income you were probably used to. While it’s true that the struggle with work-family balance is a strain for both parents, men naturally tend to make work the center of their lives. Research suggests that this is because they view “ambition and a strong work ethic” as “sacred.”
How to Overcome It
The best way to deal with the struggle between the guilt of missing out and work obligation you may feel is to make a commitment to devote a certain amount of time only to your children. In other words, make a decision to devote that time to them and shelve your work responsibilities as much as possible. Some inexpensive activities you can do together may include:
● Movie and pajama night at home
● Cooking dinner together
● Picnics in the park
● Riding bikes
● Water balloon fights
● Visits to the library
There are unique challenges to being a single father. While being a single parent isn’t easy, if you make the time to spend quality time with your children and take care of yourself, it can quickly become the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.
Daniel Sherwin is the proud single father to two amazing kids (a daughter and a son). After noticing the lack of resources on the web for single dads, he started DadSolo.com so that others could learn from his successes, failures, and everything in between.
Blog Administrator: Trisha Roberts
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