Single dads have an amazingly tough job on their hands, something which they were never fully prepared for whilst separating from their partner. Managing kids single-handedly and holding down a full-time job can prove to be exhausting, taxing and chaotic. When you are solely responsible for running the show, there will be many days when you feel totally inadequate and incapable. But that is just part and parcel of parenting.
As a single dad, you also will not find a lot many compliments coming your way. It can feel isolating when there is no appreciation for what you are doing. Single dad homes are still a minority in the US, though a study by Pew Research Center in 2013 found there has been a 900% increase since 1960. According to a 2016 Census survey, 4 percent of American children live with their father, about 2.5 million families.
Time can be the biggest casualty as you juggle several roles. You may also feel that you are not giving your best to your career either. But there are ways you can regain control over your life and feel happy about being the dad you are.
1) Take Care of Your Wellbeing
A body that is not healthy will not be able to stand up to the demands of your lifestyle. You will also be able to set a better example to your kids if you make attempts to eat right and exercise regularly.
A difficult divorce or death of your partner can take a very heavy emotional toll on you. In such situations caring for young children can prove to be even harder than it is. It is important that you find time to do something that you enjoy. A casual date night, going out with your mates for a drink, a visit to your mom or anything that calms you down will be great for you emotionally as well.
If your kids have a caregiver, work in a few hours every week that will allow you the freedom to do stuff that is otherwise ignored.
2) Do Not Hide Your Feelings
Men are trained to hide painful feelings and appear composed and happy. As a single dad putting on the act too long can make everything doubly stressful. It is important that you stay honest with your feelings, and speak to a counselor or a mentor if you feel overwhelmed and burnt out. Also remember that your kids are dealing with their own pain, so do not depend on them for deep-level emotional support.
It is important that you do not invest time and energy in relationships to boost your ego. Guilt, sadness, and loneliness do not go away by pretending to be happy in new romantic relationships. It is important to be humble and give yourself time to work through your emotional state. This will also make you a better and a more connected dad.
3) Manage Time
Good time management is the biggest skill that will help you sail through. You feel your job suffers because you no longer are the bankable guy willing to clock 60-hour weeks. You also feel inadequate as a dad because with school, activities, doctor and dentist appointments, cooking and disciplining, there are just too many occasions when you drop the ball.
Even planning a weekend picnic becomes a chore when you throw in planning, cooking, cleaning, packing and the whole process of getting to the destination with the kids in tow. If you can invest time beforehand, you will find that most of the tasks are manageable with proper planning. Check out the Picnic Planner app to make the process easier.
Flexible work schedules can help you be at home when you need to get your sick child to the doctor or have to attend to any emergency. You can also choose to work part-time and supplement your income by taking up remote work assignments or project-based jobs. They may not pay you well initially, and until you have built up a repertoire of work, but certainly are options worth exploring.
4) Manage Available Resources
Raising young children is expensive and if you are also spending on daycare, then your paycheck may just be adequate to see you through the month.
You may not find it easy to avail financial aid because the relatively small number of single-father households do not make for strong representation. But there are programs and initiatives from federal, state and local governments that you can consider. Also, community and self-help organizations support financial aid programs for single dads whose income is below a certain level. TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), NSLP (National School Lunch Program) and daycare assistance programs are a few options you can check out.
Parents without Partners (PWP) is an international non-profit that works for the welfare of single parents and their kids. Check whether they have a chapter in your area and join the community. There are also other charities and non-profits that you can check out. Many have cooperative exchanges or activities with toy and clothes exchanges and babysitting services.
5) Try to Bring in Female Perspective
Children raised in single-parent households often miss out on gender-balanced parent perspectives. It will be great if you can find a woman mentor who will be able to spend a few hours every month with your little ones. Your daughter will have a role model and your son will learn to see things from a different point of view as well. The mentor can be anyone—a female relative, a friend or a colleague who you can trust with your kids. This will ease your burden of dual roles to a great extent and you can stick to just being a fabulous dad.
Kids of happy and healthy single parents have had the best possible start to their lives. So ensure that you are taking care of your mind and body, and are trying your best at your job as well. As soon as you get it right with managing time and resources, you will be able to resolve most of the common single-parenting dilemmas.
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