Single dads on the rise, but challenges persist
In 1960, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single man that had children living under his roof. In fact, according to Pew Research, only one per cent of households – 300,000 – in the Hippie era were headed by a solo dad. Jump just 50 years up that timeline and the number has octupled to more than 2.2 million. But despite that number being nearly twice the population of Hawaii, single dads still face challenges the rest of us never consider.
Single dads are worrisome to the playground parents.
Dads with young children want to do the same things as everyone else. However, when it comes to park playdates, it’s tough. Single men are looked at with suspicion by the mums and grandparents accompanying their own children to spend the day on the swings. As this Mommyish blogger points out, men alone in virtually any child-oriented setting wear a giant “stranger danger” sign above their heads. And when you’re at the park, your little ones won’t be glued to your side the entire time to ease everyone’s fears.
Men struggle to learn how to connect with their children without a tag-team partner.
Dads of daughters struggle the most with maintaining the relationship post-divorce. Between having an innate bond with their maternal side, girls may resent their dad’s exclusive presence into adolescence, when she isn’t comfortable discussing issues such as boys and her menstrual cycle.
You’re tired. All.The.Time.
Having a second parent means you always have a partner to help with cooking, cleaning, discipline, and transporting each kid to their respective activities. As a single dad, you take on more roles than you’re used to – and new roles you have to learn – and that causes mental and physical fatigue.
Workplace flexibility is almost non-existent.
Traditionally, mom runs to the rescue when a runny nose turns into a cough and fever. And most workplaces seem sympathetic to this plight. But when dad is the one asking off to retrieve a puke-prone preschooler, bosses (and co-workers) don’t empathise so well. The best way to circumvent employment issues relating to your home life is to discuss your situation with your superiors before an emergency. Experts also recommend establishing a relationship with a flexible childcare provider and knowing applicable state laws regarding leave for non-life-threatening illnesses.
There isn’t enough support.
There are multiple mums groups in various cities that openly welcome single mummas and their brood. Single dads don’t have nearly the same network. Meetup.com currently lists 709 groups for single mums; single dads have just 454. That’s worldwide. A search of the site for ‘single parents’ brings up 1365 groups that welcome either but the “related topics” section fails to list Dads as a potential demographic of interest (it does, however, list mums).
As a father, it can be hard on your mind, body, and soul to have to deal with things you shouldn’t, like prejudice at the park and side-glances when you have to pick up a sick toddler from daycare. However, you must learn to take care of your mental health in everything you do. 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.
Regardless of your struggles, the fact that you’ve taken on this responsibility speaks louder than any words the naysayers may utter. You aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last father to break the stigma of parenting. If you need more inspiration than what you find in the mirror, check out these 22 dads who spit on stereotypes and have shown the world that children don’t have to have a houseful of estrogen to thrive.
Daniel Sherwin is a single dad to two children and creator of dadsolo.com, a new website for single parents.