Written by: Cally Worden
Being a single parent is a tough role. For newly single Dads it can be doubly hard – the social support systems available to men in this situation are simply not as common as they are for women. And, any single parent knows that one of the crucial elements of success is having friends to support you.
Single Dads often suffer because they have been the main breadwinner in a relationship. Being out at work for many hours each day leaves little time for social contact outside of the ‘couple’ circle. When the ‘couple’ disintegrates, men can find themselves having to cope alone. If you are a single Dad you may find the following tips and advice helpful.
The circumstances around any relationship break-up are unique. But the emotions experienced by the parent left as primary carer and their children are strikingly similar whatever the history. This is helpful, as it allows for the development of a broad emotional action-plan that can be adapted to most situations. After any break-up, the following actions will help you and your children to manage the emotions you may be experiencing:
- Talk about it -opening up emotionally is not easy for many men. The strong-silent stereotype of the ‘capable’ man still rules in the media (sadly). But talking about what you’re feeling, also encouraging your kids to do the same, will help you all to come to terms with the changes in your lives and move on in a positive way
- Reassure the kids¬†– they need to know (and be told repeatedly) that the separation of their parents was not their fault. It’s also vital they understand that ‘fixing it’ say, by getting back together, is not an option. Tough to hear, but healthier for them than clinging onto false hope
- Don’t fester on it – constantly revisiting and rehashing the separation prevents you from moving on. Look forwards, not back. What’s done is done
- Reflect on what went wrong – this is different from festering. It’s about taking an objective view of your relationship with your ex, working out where it went bad. The idea is to help prevent you from being drawn to someone new with whom similar issues may arise
The Practical Issues
When a Dad suddenly has to assume the role of homemaker as well as financial provider it can take a while to adjust. Of course, many Dads already contribute extensively to the household, if you are familiar with the juggling act that is daily home life, then all power to you. Your adjustment to life as a single Dad will be all the easier for it. For those who haven’t been so involved (for whatever reason) in running the home, here are some tips from Dads who have been there, to help you get organised:
- Clothes – work out what your kids like to wear, what they don’t, what fits, what’s old and whether you need to add a few new items to the mix. In short, get familiar with your children’s wardrobe – this will make your life infinitely easier on busy mornings
- Washing and Ironing – enlist the help of your kids (if they are old enough) to sort their clothes into washing piles as they take them off. Have a regular washing schedule and stick to it. Learn which items can be tumbled dry (if you have access to a drier)
- Ironing – not all clothes are created equal and not all need to be ironed. If you deal with each wash promptly you can often hang items to dry, or ones fresh from the drier, avoiding the need to iron at all. For very creased items you have a choice – iron when you need ’em, or set aside some time to tackle it all in one go each week
- Cleaning – work out a schedule that fits around your life. The bathroom can be done right before or after a shower or while little kids are in the bath. The kitchen can be tackled while you wait for a meal to cook. Older kids can be tasked with vacuuming and dusting. Prevention is better than cure with cleaning. Establish a few house rules to help you out – no drinks and snacks in rooms where there is carpet; shoes off at the door; hands off the walls; all dirty dishes go straight in the dishwasher (if you don’t have one make it the norm for an all-hands-on-deck approach to cleaning up after every meal.
As a newly single Dad you may not be aware of what floats your children’s culinary boats. So take a little time to talk about foods they like, what they don’t eat, and set your own expectations about things they will need to eat. It’s a great way to talk about eating healthily; also it will get your kids on board before mealtimes even begin.
Work with your kids to make a meal list for each week, then shop together if you have the time. Getting their input before you even hit the kitchen will help to avoid dinner table battles later. Be flexible in your planning. Make sure you have a few quick fix, crowd-pleasing staples in the freezer, for those days when making a meal from scratch is never going to happen.
Timing is Everything
Finally, be realistic about the time you have each day. If you are working full time and managing the children and household alone, you may need to find some extra hours. This may mean getting up a little earlier and going to bed a little later. Many single parents who operate this way report that, despite the fewer hours of sleep they feel more rested, simply because they know that all the necessary task are completed.