Jason Kendrick gained 100% custody of his son the day he was born, and he shares some thoughts about his journey in fatherhood.
Being a full-time single dad since the birth of my son is always interesting; and here are five challenges I’ve personally experienced.
#1. Where’s the mom?: I can’t tell you how many times I heard that question especially when Alex (my son) was a baby. I remember the first time I went to the grocery store. Naturally proud as I walk towards the cashier, I strangely see a look of concern, embarrassment, outrage, and confusion. If I had to guess, she was thinking, “Where is this baby’s mom?” My suspicions as to what the cashier was thinking were confirmed when it seemed like everywhere I visited with my new baby, I heard that same question. So if you’re a full-time single dad, with a newborn especially, be prepared to answer this question frequently. For me, it was an annoyance after a while, and I even thought of making up ludicrous answers for sheer entertainment to deal with the annoyance of being asked. I had to deal with my own pain that my son’s mom decided to check out on being a mom, and it was a challenge dealing with everyone else’s interrogation. Finally I just started summing it up in short by saying she chose her lifestyle, and I chose my son.
#2. Playing two roles, the mom and the dad: Okay, it was kind of obvious to me that I was taking on an enormous challenge entering the world of parenting as a single parent from day one. But the enormity of it all didn’t hit me from day one. Sure I was experiencing sleep deprivation, diaper changes, bottle feedings etc., but it wasn’t until Alex was probably two years old that I realized, “Okay, I’m playing two roles here.” I was scared! How was I supposed to fulfill the role of the mom and dad? Sure, I studied some Psychology and Sociology courses as an undergrad; I completed Intro to Marriage and Family with an A, but it didn’t prepare me for this. Fortunately, I had an awesome childhood with a mom and dad. I relied on fond memories of my mom and dad heavily to know how to handle day-to-day parenting. And, of course, when necessary I would call my mom or dad for direct advice. I’m proud to say that Alex is eight years old today, and he seems to be a well-adjusted little boy. He plays soccer, chases lightning bugs, and loves XBox, but he also enjoys reading, giving hugs and plays well with girls and boys. If you’re a full-time single dad, don’t worry – you can fulfill both roles, but don’t get spun out on the details. Keep it simple!
#3. Create a list: When you’re dealing with a baby/toddler day in and day out, I advise you to create list of babysitting contacts in order to keep your sanity. Being a parent and playing mom and dad 24/7, you WILL NEED times to simply check out to remember who you are. You will need breaks even if it’s for only one hour to catch a quick run or workout. Sometimes you’ll want to catch a movie by yourself or find somewhere quiet just to reflect on your new role and be proud of how you’ve stepped up to the plate. Trust me on this one otherwise you’ll catch yourself talking and thinking like a baby. Put the sitter list on your refrigerator or smartphone for easy and quick access.
#4. Avoid assuming equality: When Alex was about 18 months old, I chose to open a new business. It made sense at the time based on various reasons. I received my first shocking lesson in inequality when I decided to go talk to a local bank about hardship business loans for single parents. I explained to the bank manager that I wanted to see if I qualified for a minority loan for single dads. The manager looked back at me like I had three heads. This doesn’t change as your child gets older; I had to learn the hard way that being a single full-time dad doesn’t entitle me to single parent help from churches or community organizations or banks. In fact, there is less help available for a full-time single dad primarily because, well, we are such a small minority. I could elaborate here, but I’ll save it for another day. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, guys, but at this point we are in a tough spot when it comes to community support readily available for single dads. At times it feels like you’re on an island alone.
#5. Do something different: Chances are you had a part in the choice you made for a mother and your new circumstances. Of course, this doesn’t apply to dads who lost their spouse or girlfriend in some tragic way through illness etc. For me, I made serious changes about the kind of women I dated moving forward. Truthfully, I didn’t date anyone seriously for the first two years, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been in one serious ongoing relationship since Alex was about 4 years old. If you’re like me, your values will change after becoming a parent as you are responsible for your child’s well-being. So, embrace the new you. It will be challenging and you will likely feel lost at times, but there are many good books out there to turn to for help and faith in a higher power!
This article originally appeared on daddydoinwork.com
Photo courtesy of bigstockphoto.com