If you’re a single dad, you already know how hard it can be. If you’re about to embark on the journey - whether by choice or circumstance - you’ve probably heard that you have a difficult road ahead. While this is certainly true, it’s important to remember that the path is also rewarding - maybe the most rewarding path you could ever take. Every single dad faces their own specific challenges, but there are some common threads among them.
Main Challenge #1: Discipline
Many single fathers do not want to get on their children’s bad side. Fathers are often seen as the disciplinarians of the family, and many who find themselves parenting alone attempt to drop that label. It’s only natural to try to be everything to everyone - caring, loving, firm, and strict. As Fathers.com notes, some single dads feel bad about the trauma their kids have gone through and “try to avoid being at odds with their children even for a few minutes. They may overindulge their kids or hesitate to discipline at all.”
The best way to deal with this challenge is to set rules and stick to them. Whether you do this alone or with their mother, boundaries need to be enforced. It’s not healthy for your relationship with your children to keep changing what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior. Be reasonable, and try not to sweat the small stuff. You can’t parent in fear of losing affection. You won’t.
Main Challenge #2: Work-life balance
How do you provide for your family and still be there with them? It’s a challenge that almost every single parent faces. You may never find a balance that satisfies you 100%, but you can take some steps to make it better. For one, talk to your boss. Talk about flexibility and be specific with what you need for the company, time wise. You'll be surprised at how flexible some bosses and supervisors can be.
If that doesn’t work, talk to other parents in similar situations. Think about starting a childcare co-op of sorts, or at least trading off childcare days with another single parent.
Finally, leave your work at work. Turn off your email notifications. Make sure that when you’re present, you are truly present.
Main Challenge #3: Taking care of yourself
What’s more important - the health and happiness of you or the health and happiness of your kids? Obviously your kids, right? Sure, as a single dad you will make sacrifices - but you cannot sacrifice your own health. This means mentally and physically. You can’t be a good father if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
"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,” says DrugRehab.org.
Sometimes the easiest thing is to either try to ignore a deteriorating mental condition and just “push through it” for the sake of the family, or to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol. Be truly healthy and focus on eating right and getting enough exercise. This will help you form a strong foundation for mental health. Next, work on some relaxation and mindfulness activities - things like yoga, meditation, or whatever chills you out. Finally, take a break. Let a family member or a babysitter handle the kids for a night. Recharge your brain battery - it’ll make you a better father.
You are up to the challenge, however multi-faceted it may be. Take care of yourself, don’t be afraid that you’re going to lose affection by actually parenting, and call on others in similar situations to help. Beyond all that, cut yourself some slack. You’re doing everything you can, and it’s enough.
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