If you’re reading this as a single dad, then welcome! You’re one of 9% of single parents in the UK and have one of the toughest challenges out there – fortunately it’s also one of the most rewarding! Many single dads find SWK and whilst life is challenging for all single parents, there seem to be some aspects that are (sometimes) different/unique for single dads.
We’ve added a few of these here, if you know of more then pop them in the comments section:
1. Household make-over! When you suddenly find yourself running a home with kids it’s a lot different living on your own! now you have to somehow juggle childcare (and entertaining the kids!) with cooking and housework. Not a great combination especially if you have fussy eaters and/or work all day. Modern day men are no strangers to housework but what about getting nail varnish out of the cream carpet? felt pen off the beige sofa and just who said those paints they used whilst in their school uniform were washable? It’s at this point that you’ll consider changes in the home that make life easier and let you enjoy being with your kids.
2. Work versus parenting. There are a growing number of househusbands whether married or single yet there still seems to be an issue in this culture change with men feeling pressurised to remain a breadwinner by holding down a career. Women too find it hard to juggle a career and childcare and an increasing number are choosing to balance both but for men there still seems to be some social stigma attached to being a stay-at-home dad. Maybe it’s for this reason that a lot of single dads run their own business and work from home? This is a great choice if your skillset allows and enables you to fit in all those doctors appointments, school plays and sports days. But there are rights for single parents in the workplace and employers are increasingly being called upon to recognise these by offering part time and flexible working options. More information can be found here and here
3. Money Closely linked to work, suddenly having to manage the home, kids and living costs on one (often reduced) income is tough whatever the gender of the parent. There is support out there but men advise that they feel reluctant to seek it, considering themselves a failure if they can’t provide for their family. There are tax credits available to ‘top up’ your salary and help you support your family. It’s your right to claim these, yet still many single parents don’t access them. Find out what you are entitled to here
4. Socialising Let’s face it women like to talk, and whilst single parents of both genders feel isolated men seem to have more problem talking about this. With less single dads (200,000 compared to 1.8 million single mums) it shouldn’t seem surprising that one of the biggest challenges for single dads is not having someone to talk to, someone that will understand what they are going through. If you’re lucky enough to be able to have an odd evening out with friends, they aren’t likely to be discussing how to iron sports kit or childcare costs. The school gates are a notorious area for mums to meet and chat, arranging play dates and discussing the latest news, but how does a single dad approach this group and even if accepted this doesn’t provide male conversation. At Single With Kids we have a strong and growing number of single dads, the camping trips are particularly popular! We even have a group on the forum just for the dads to chat and share their thoughts. Our mums are always happy to help out with advice but sometimes it’s great to find another single dad who knows what you’re going through
5. Education How many of us struggle to understand the techniques used in schools today? It’s hard to keep up with the new methods of multiplication let alone French, computing and other subjects. Helping with homework and being involved in your childs education through parents evenings and events can be difficult and is often the role of the mum with single dads telling us this was another new area for them. Talk to the school, introduce yourself to your child’s teachers. This also opens up the communication channels for if your child is struggling not just with school work but as an impact of the break up of their parents. Look online for fun ways to learn around topics. Invite school friends over for your child to learn and complete homework with.
6. Your Childs Friends Single dads tell us they feel ‘awkward’ and ‘unsure’ about inviting friends over for their kids. Whilst kids seem to be in and out of each others houses after school and in the holidays, how do single dads tackle this? Again, the issue here seems to be a cultural one, they feel uneasy about being alone with the children, especially if they are all girls. The key here is talking to the other parents, when dropping off your child at someone else’s house get out of the car and introduce yourself, perhaps give them your contact details. Make it clear that the other parent is welcome to come round too – maybe invite them in for a coffee whilst the kids play. Above all, no matter how out of your comfort zone you feel, remember friends are important for everyone and your child too may need the extra support of having peers to talk to right now.
7. Sewing. This isn’t a job most men have encountered (and I don’t like to generalise but our single dads admit to this being a challenge). Yet why do they still make sew on badges for scouts and guides? or what about those sports badges your little champion happily waves at you? Thankfully you don’t have to take a masterclass in embroidary to tackle these. The same spray on tack tape that is so useful for turning up trousers can hold the badges in place. As a back up plan, there’s always nana and her trusty sewing box.
8. Girl’s hair! Again most men won’t have had to encounter the challenges of doing their daughter’s hair. How are those bobbles supposed to be fitted? and what about braids? Does it seem like a competition between which of you will end up in tears first? Fortunately technology can be a godsend here. There are lots of videos and tutorials out there but some go a step further such as this dad who set up classes for other single dads
9. Father/Daughter Conversations It can be incredibly tough trying to explain a situation to your daughter that you haven’t been through yourself – with the menstrual cycle being the main example, of course. If your daughter asks, or you think she needs to know, make sure to read up on all the facts so that you can at least explain the science of what happens and so that you have an understanding of what your daughter will experience. However, when it comes to answering questions and talking from experience about these issues, it might be a good idea to refer your daughter to a female relative or friend (one she knows well). You’re not hiding from the issue by doing this – you’re just making sure your daughter has someone who understands to talk to.
10 Go with the flow Single dads tell us that mums just seems to be better organised or able to plan for things like bills or even scheduling washing. The thing is you have to do what works for you – if that means washing as you go rather than building up loads then do it! Men are just as capable in the nurturing role and you’ll enjoy great adventures with your child(ren) when the focus is on your family rather than others expectations. Your child won’t remember whether the house was spotless but they will remember the time you spent with them.
Above all enjoy! It’s daunting that all the decisions are up to you, but equally they are your decisions with no-one to override you.
Remember, you’re doing a great job!