Written by: Daniel Sherwin
Parenting is one of the most amazing experiences in life, and yet it’s also incredibly challenging. As a single dad, those challenges are multiplied, but the rewards often are too. The trick is to find balance in everything from work to childcare and having a life of your own. That’s certainly easier said than done, but it is possible when you face these challenges head-on.
Challenge: Work/Life Balance
When you’re parenting solo, you may feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You have to work and provide for your kids, be there when your kids need you, and then still find time for yourself. The key to making it all work is flexibility. With telecommuting easier than ever, more employers are offering options where you can work from home. If working from home isn’t an option, ask employers if they can be flexible with your hours so you can work around your children’s schedules.
Flexibility also means being willing to ask for and accept help. Team up with other parents, especially other single parents, to help each other out. Chances are they can use the help just as much as you can. Create a carpool for school/activity drop-offs and pick-ups or swap childcare on a regular basis so parents can have scheduled times for childcare, freeing up a little time for themselves. Leaning on help from others and connecting with other single parents is beneficial to your mental health by keeping you from feeling isolated.
Challenge: You’re Stretched Too Thin
Work/life balance is about more than just making sure you support your family. It’s about making sure your own needs are met, too. The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, and anxiety all play a big role in the state our mental health. 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.
It’s clear that many single dads struggle to prioritize self-care. A 2016 study found that single dads were twice as likely to report poor physical and mental health compared to dads with partners.Sometimes doing something simple and easy to care for yourself is all you need for a mental health boost.
Physical fitness is the ultimate in self-care because you’re taking care of your body, lowering stress, and boosting your mood all at the same time. To squeeze in some fitness, look for a gym that provides childcare or get active together with your kids. The Good Men Project recommends setting goals for yourself. Whether for fitness, simple daily self-care, or larger life goals, setting goals and working toward them keeps you focused on improving your own life.
Challenge: Do-It-All Parenting
In two-parent families, each person often takes on different roles in parenting responsibilities. As a single parent, you have to do it all, including being sensitive to kids’ emotional needs while still maintaining discipline. While this may not always be the case, many men are not raised to be nurturing caregivers, so you may not know how to handle this role.
One single dad at the National Fatherhood Initiative recommends letting go of your expectations for parenthood. If the sensitive side of parenthood doesn’t come naturally to you, accept that and be willing to learn from your children as much as they do from you. The thing to keep in mind is that as you learn to be nurturing, sensitive, and strong all in one, you are showing your daughters and sons that men can do all of these things.
Being a balanced role model for your kids is just one example of how being a single dad can actually make you a better parent. It still isn’t easy, but going through these highs and lows together will make your relationship with your kids stronger, too. Just remember to care for yourself because you can’t be the parent you need to be if you’re running on empty.