Being a single dad most certainly brings its trials and tribulations, but most of them will tell you that it is endlessly rewarding. There will no doubt be times when you feel overwhelmed at the sheer size of the task, you will endlessly worry about the welfare of your children, get bogged down by challenges and obstacles you ought to overcome and sometimes you will feel that you are just not up to the task. Rest assured, I have been there, we all have.
As time goes on and you begin to settle into your role as a single father, you start growing in self-belief and you will find yourself even feeling a little calm and confident. Make no bones about it, being a single dad takes guts and a whole pile of heart!
When I became a single dad, I had very mixed feelings. On one hand, I was relieved that I had taken this rather brave step and on the other hand, I just didn’t know how I was going to cope. Looking back, the support of my parents and the help of my psychologist set me off on the road to becoming a pretty good single dad.
Over the years, I have spoken to countless single dads and in the process I have identified a few essentials every single dad should try and get right. I am listing them here and can assure you, if you take even a few of them on board, your task of being a single dad will become much easier:
- Don’t Do it All Alone: Trying to do it all by yourself is a waste of time and energy, so don’t do it. Instead, start enlisting the help of friends and family and seek professional help if you feel the need. You are not going to be able to be there for your kids 100% all of the time and should accept help from as many sources as possible. I have been blessed with the support of my parents, you will find your own group of people willing to support you and your kids, but make sure that you do and most definitely don’t try to go it alone.
- Restructure Your Life: You are going to have to take some time and figure out a time schedule for yourself and the kids. Perhaps, you will need to work out a new arrangement with your boss so that you can pick up the kids from school. Maybe you need a regular babysitter. In your day make time for work, house chores, fun with the kids, me-time and any other activity you find helps you to cope. Remember that your comfort and happiness will rub off on the kids and while you are likely to put their needs first, don’t forget about your own.
- Spend Time with Other Single Dads: I have found men’s support groups extremely helpful. You can support each other, listen to each other complain, tell funny stories and build lasting friendships.
- Have Fun With Your Kids: We all get caught up in the everyday stresses and strains and it’s essential to take time out and just have some fun. The kids will appreciate it and so will you. Do it often.
- Try and Have a Reasonable Relationship With Your Ex: Though this may not always be possible, at least try for the sake of the kids. If you cannot communicate with your ex, make sure not to involve your kids in the negativity. Respect visitation and access arrangements and try to be kind about it all.
- Adult Company and Hobbies: Having adult conversation and getting your head away from kid stuff is also healthy and beneficial. On your return, you will feel invigorated and ready to take on the little darlings again. Don’t give up your hobbies and keep up as many of your favorite pastimes as you possibly can fit in.
- Take a Parenting Class: Kids don’t come with instruction manuals and parenting skills must be learnt just like any other skill. Though some people may be reluctant to take an actual parenting class, they teach you some very useful practical tips and techniques there.
A lot of parenting is instinctive and there is a lot of trial and error when it comes to parenting. Some things will work, others won’t. As long as you don’t try to go it alone, you will be ok, you will enjoy it, you will eventually revel in your role. Things will go wrong at times, kids will throw tantrums, but that’s ok. Remember, nobody is perfect and you don’t have to be perfect either, nor do your kids. Put enjoyment at the top of your agenda and savor the moment, just because they grow up so very fast. Be proud, be bold, be brave!