When you find yourself alone as a single father, there are many challenges you face– some of them universal to all single parents, and some that are unique to fathers in particular. When it comes to facing these hurdles, you need to be equipped with the right attitude and tools in order to master them. You won’t move through every obstacle at the same speed, and you may have some trip-ups along the way.
A Balancing Act
As a single parent, you have to take on all the roles: the good guy, the punisher, the homework-helper, the provider… there’s no end to the number of hats you have to wear. Balancing the workload is a universal problem for all single parents, but it can be particularly hard for a dad dealing with his career.
Since society still sees parenting as a “woman’s role,” there are flaws in many corporate systems. For instance, in 49 out of the 50 United States, employers do not have to provide paternity leave for new fathers after their child is born. The challenges continue as the child grows. A boss may expect a single father to be able to put in the same hours as another father living in a dual-parenting situation. However, as the sole parent in the household, staying at the office until 7 PM is simply not an option.
The Mom Club
As a single father, you may find yourself in a situation like a kid’s birthday party where you are the only male guardian in the group. You may find yourself standing off to the side while the moms socialize. It can be hard to break into these groups, but doing so can help build a powerful network of people in your neighborhood. Within that network, you can find help with babysitting or planning events– you know, that whole “it takes a village” thing.
A Burnout Situation
With all the stresses of being a single parent, it’s easy to start to feel burnout. Being a parent is exhausting emotionally, mentally, and physically. However you want to come back to it day after day at your best for the good of your children. To do that, you have to take care of yourself.
Of course, you probably don’t have the time or resources for a weekend getaway, but that’s okay. Doing little things every day, week, month, or just whenever you can will help center you and prevent burnout. Here are some ideas that can serve as a jumping-off point for your new self-care routine.
- Allow yourself a few minutes every day just for you, even if you only sit quietly by yourself with your eyes closed.
- Once a month or so, hire a babysitter and go to the movies or some other activity you love.
- Read for 10-15 minutes before bed every night to unwind.
- Wake up before the kids and get ready in a quiet house.
- Eat well– that means wholesome, nutritious foods. You can’t live off your kid’s leftover mac and cheese.
- Stay active, whether you exercise alone or take the kids for a family walk around the block after dinner.
As a single dad, you face unique challenges on top of the ones that come from being a sole provider. Expectations at the office are different for men, which makes it hard to balance work and home duties. Since mothers tend to organize their kids’ social lives, you have to learn to include yourself in these social groups to help build a community for your child. Finally, you may start to feel burnout from all the challenges. Take time to care for yourself by doing little things that help keep you centered and healthy.