Single fathers today face a deeply rooted social bias that calls into question their ability to meet the demands of parenthood. It’s a prejudicial view that’s been around for decades. The New York Times reported 30 years ago on a study which found that single dads felt discriminated against because of an image which vilified them as negligent, even though those questioned indicated they were simply trying to provide for their kids. One respondent wrote that he’d been made to feel like a “freak.”
Persistent ideas about gender roles insist that men can’t be nurturing parents, or fulfill the vitally important role normally filled by a mother. It’s often said that dads just don’t have enough time to devote to their kids’ needs, or that they don’t know enough about parenting. Such preconceptions have been at work in the family court system for decades. Many judges still favor mothers in custody cases because they’re perceived to have a natural predilection for parenting. In fact, it is estimated that women are awarded custody at least 68 percent of the time. These ideas and beliefs are breaking down but they are still there nonetheless and that’s a problem as the divide it creates in our homes, workplaces and community is keeping both men and women at a disadvantage from living a fulfilling and balanced life. In particular, it’s holding women back in the workplace from advancing their career and men from embracing their innate caring nature which, when nurtured, can also speak volumes in our workplaces.
Single fathers who provide financial support for their children can be at a particular disadvantage. Some dads are hard-pressed to earn enough money to cover household needs; pay for school and sports activities for the kids; give their children an allowance or spending money; save for Christmas and birthdays; and pay for the many unforeseen needs that crop up from time to time throughout the year. It’s not surprising that single fathers have to spend lots of time at work, or that they’re often seen as unengaged and detached from their children’s needs.
When quality time is hard to come by, creating a rhythm that works for you and your kids can be very supportive. Children need the stability that a regular schedule and daily expectations provide. If they know you’ll be together at the same time each day for dinner, they’ll come to rely on you more. There are other daily activities and responsibilities that can be scheduled. Dinner is a big one; it’s the one time that everyone’s together sharing a meal and their experiences from school and work.
Bedtime is also an important time of day. When your kids know they’re expected to be in bed by 10, they’ll get used to adjusting their activities (homework, getting ready for bed, laying out clothes for the next day) around it. An established bedtime will also help make sure that your kids are getting enough sleep each night.
Homework can be a surprisingly great way to spend quality time with your kids as it’s a consistent way to interact and connect with them every day for an hour or so. If there are trust issues between you and your children (often a by-product of divorce), helping them with homework can go a long way toward overcoming them. Establish a set time every night, and consider finding a dedicated place, either bedroom or kitchen table, where homework will be done.
Take care of yourself
It’s a given that you can’t be a good parent if you’re chronically tired or emotionally upset. Seek out a friend or family member if you feel overwhelmed and need someone to confide in. Kids know when their parents are struggling and, while it can be scary for them, they’ll want to help you. If you struggle with substance abuse issues it’s important for you and your family to get the help you need.
Take a step back
As a single parent, you have a lot on your plate. It’s hard to keep pace with it all. Taking care of yourself needs to be a priority. 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 or the ‘I should’ thing. Like an oxygen mask on an aeroplane, you can only care for others if you take care of yourself first.
If you would like further support in any of the areas mentioned above please contact myself or Parents At Work at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Daniel Sherwin, Founder of Dadsolo.com
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.