Single dads, this message is for you.
You are beyond appreciated, recognized, needed and loved.
Being a single parent, in any situation, brings an abundance of joy, but also has many challenges. As a single dad, in a world where women are most often the default parent, it can be intimidating, foreign, and just scary. That’s why, when a dad steps up by establishing his role and running with it, it’s truly a beautiful thing.
Here’s the 101 on being a single dad:
How to Be a Single Dad
I wish I could give a one-size-fits-all rulebook on how to be a single dad. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. Being a single dad means selflessly putting your children first, respecting their mother (whether in the picture or not), and being present.
If Your Partner Passes Away
If you’re a single dad and your partner has passed away or is no longer in the picture, you now have the duty of taking on the roles of both mom and dad. You didn’t sign up for this. Here you are, processing the emotions of losing your partner as well as helping your children process the emotions of losing their mother. In the beginning, especially, allow for friends and family to help. Even if it’s just with the basics of preparing meals and helping to transport kids back and forth to school and practices. Right now you just need to get through the day. Take all of the help you can get.
When you are ready, find a counselor not only for yourself but for the entire family. Each of you will be processing in your own way. Having the outside counsel of a professional will give you extra insight. A family therapist is trained and understands the grieving steps; which can be very different depending on the ages of your children.
Because you are now both dad and mom, remember your child will need a shoulder to cry on. This may not have been the role you took on in the past, but it is crucial for you to understand how important it is now and from here on out. Try to set up the routine of taking a moment to check in with each kid. Sometimes they will come directly to you but often you will need to go to them. Go for a walk, spend extra time tucking them in, gently help your daughter get through the knots in her hair, get down on the floor and help your son with cleaning up the legos. Often times, doing an activity with them while trying to talk helps.
Finding the new path your family will walk down, takes time. Be patient with yourself and the kids. You need each other the most right now.
Being a Single Dad After Divorce
Being a dad, divorced, and no longer living with your children can be heartbreaking. Feelings of loneliness and desperation arise in the entire family. Maintaining a healthy, fun, and good relationship with your children after a divorce is a heavy burden to carry. As a single dad, here are some factors I’ve learned to keep in mind in the wake of a recent divorce:
- Divorce is always painful, for everyone involved. No matter the age of your children, separation will affect them. Be vigilant and aware of their feelings.
- Don’t move away. Sometimes running seems like the only answer, or maybe you got a job offer out of state. But, staying close will have long-term benefits for your relationship with your children and their mother. If moving away is absolutely necessary, set up communications immediately. Make sure your children know how important they are to you. *TIP- One dad I, know eats virtual breakfast with his daughter every morning. Sometimes they have a lot to talk about and other times they just make their smoothies and eat their cereal together.
- Don’t harbor negative feelings towards your children’s mother. Children have senses, that aren’t always obvious. They pick up everything. Don’t kid yourself that they don’t. New relationship goals: #BEPEACEFUL.
- Some couples remain civil after a divorce, but sharing joint custody can create its own battles. Hash out the details now. Work it out with a mediator if you need to. The clarity will help everyone feel safe, especially your children.
- Be present as much as humanly possible. Make the most out of your time with your children and focus on their happiness.
Being a Single Dad to a Daughter
Being a single dad to a son might come more naturally than being a single dad to a daughter. There’s nothing wrong with this and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. There are plenty of “daddy’s girls” out there, and it’s important to remember that your influence has just as much of an effect on your daughter as her mother’s.
Your daughter will go through many changes throughout her life. Whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally, she will develop in all the ways you’re certainly not looking forward to. Be empathetic when she has period cramps, be stern when she’s in the wrong, and be sensitive when she goes through her first heartbreak. Being a single dad will teach you many things. Being a single dad to a daughter will break you out of your shell and make you that much more of a man.
Being a Single Dad and Dating
Whether you’re a widowed or divorced single dad or you’ve never been married, dating when you have children is often put on the back burner. And then once you’re actually ready to get back on the horse, you don’t know where to look. Let me tell you, being a single dad means you have experience, empathy, courage, and love to give. Women will respect you that much more just because you have been a good father.
Single dad life isn’t glamorous and bachelor-like. You’re dropping the kids off and PTA meetings take up your Tuesday nights. But being a single dad is can make dating so much more fulfilling. The life experience of having kids has given your live so much more depth. Who you are attracted to now may be very different to who you were attracted to before. So when you’re looking for love again, do not let yourself be ridden with guilt or shame. There will be a woman out there excited about dating a single dad. Who knows, you might even come across a single mom who’s looking to date again. #MODERNFAMILY anyone?
Being a single dad might be difficult at times, but there’s nothing in life that beats being a father. Every job in life has a learning curve. If you’re a newly single dad, or if you just need some inspiration, check out our kids column for parenting advice and real-life stories about raising little ones.