In the past six years, an interesting phenomenon has begun to appear – at least to my unprofessional, unscientific eyes.
It’s not hard to see if you look.
Nearly seven years ago, you see, I unexpectedly became a single parent. My wife, Andrea, passed away, leaving me to care for four kids: two teenage girls (16 and 12, respectively) and twin boys who were almost eight.
Even at that time, less than a decade ago, there were trends. I would go to the park with my kids on the odd day off and be the only dad there. Weekends, of course, were one thing. Then there were two parents playing with their kids. Come a random Tuesday, though, like when I worked an odd schedule that gave me a weekday off, it was different.
There were a couple things that would happen. Occasionally I’d get the thought I was the male nanny, taking care of someone else’s kids. Most the time was just the bizarre look and the thought I’d adopted the kids or something. On the oddest days, when I still wore my wedding ring I’d get hit on, which I still don’t quite understand. School meetings would be held in the most inconvenient hours, which were easy for at-home parents to attend – say 3:30 in the afternoon – but impossible for someone like me who worked far from my suburban home.
Now that we’re a number of years into this whole thing a kind of shift has begun. I can go to a park on a Wednesday and there are more dads there. I can pick up my kids from school and there are other dads picking them up.
Single dads are stepping up, in other words.
I checked the numbers. The latest US census figures show that there’s an increase in the number of single dads. A nearly five per cent increase, while the number of single mums has gone down by the same amount. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still more single mums, but there are more single dads wanting to be part of their kids’ lives.
In Australia, the numbers aren’t dissimilar. One in four Australians live in a single parent household; 18 per cent of those are men.
I recently visited with a dads group here in the US, one that helps out other dads. Some are mandated to come there by court order, but most attend because they want to. They want to be part of their kids’ lives.
In this era, when more and more celebrity and political figures are being shown to have terrible scandals, harassing and accosting women this is a bit of a shining beacon for us to see. Instead of looking to movie or TV stars or even politicians the everyday people who should inspire and encourage us are those same people. Women who work all day and take care of their kids – be they widows or divorcees – are amazing people. Men who are widowers or divorced are stepping up.
In a world that has starting to set the blowtorch on tired thoughts and actions that degrade and belittle women – actions that should have died out years and years ago – it’s encouraging to see that women are emerging into the world from households where mums and dads are showing that not only can one parent step up and take care of them, they’re actually wanting to, and are thriving while doing it.
It’s a great thing that in countries across the globe we’re seeing enlightenment in thoughts about age, sexual preference, and heads of household are slowly becoming less like an anomaly and more like just an everyday occurrence.
What can you take from this? It’s pretty simple, really. In my opinion, it would be far better to raise my children with two parents. Having those differing opinions and thoughts and attitudes gives more character and broader brush to paint the canvas of life for your children.
When that’s not possible, though, it’s reassuring that men and women are both stepping up to do their best at that the most important job of their lives – giving kids the tools to go out and start their own lives.