Raising Children as a Single Father
Life happens and sometimes you end up holding the bag. Whether being a single father was a sudden change or a result of a whole process, it can be overwhelming at first. Being the sole adult responsible for the life and well being of a child is tough on anyone. Learning the ropes and making the best choices is often a hard road, but it’s a road worth traveling.
Being a single dad is one of the most rewarding, hardest, and most stressful jobs a man can have. From dealing with social stigmas to figuring out how to find time to do it all, it’s definitely a challenge but with a few adjustments, you’re going to do fine.
Call for reinforcements
The first thing is to find help, a chain is only as good as its weakest link so building up a group of people you can count on through thick and thin is important. You may not be ready to ask for help, but remember it’s good to float the idea before it’s really needed. Having some friends who have your back is the best strategy.
Check with your work about flexible leave and other benefits they may have for parents that you can use to make life go smoother. You may be able to use flex-time, adjust your breaks and lunches or even work from home some days to help support your children.
Local parenting groups are definitely worth looking into if you need extra help outside of friends and family. Bartering time and skills can be an amazing way to give back and also get back. Having a network of other single parents on deck can help you when you need it most, and being that help for someone else can be just as rewarding.
Make a foolproof plan
The easiest way to make sure everything gets done is to have a well thought out and easy to enact the plan. Make sure you have a place for everything and a routine for high-stress parts of the day like getting out the door in the morning, arriving home for dinner, and what happens at bedtime.
Letting older kids have input into the plan is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page and has the same goals. Cooking dinner together is an important way to spend time together and can also be a way to help spread the work around.
When it comes to bedtime having a routine not only makes children feel secure and calm, but it can really help to make it easier to keep track of grooming and other things that can slip through the cracks when everyone is tired.
All the good plans in the world won’t come to fruition if someone throws a wrench in things, so have a backup plan for when everything is going wrong. If a pipe bursts in your kitchen who do you call to come to take the kids to school while you wait on a plumber? What happens if you get the flu? What happens if you all get the flu? Having a good idea of what your resources are and where reinforcements are needed is key to acting quickly when things go awry.
Keep a notebook just for these situations, make sure you have your children’s doctors, a basic medical history, and some numbers to trusted sitters and friends on hand so you don’t waste precious time having to look things up when it’s time to act.
Thinking on your feet gets easier the longer you do it. Knowing when to change priorities and when to defer to others is a skill that is learned over many years.
Don’t let guilt get in your way
It’s easy to let the media and your own upbringing get in the way of your mental well being. All people fail at times, all of us. We just have to pick up and keep going. Don’t let your minor mishaps keep you up at night. Tomorrow is a new day and you’ll have another chance. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good. Not everything will always work out and it’s not your fault. The world is a chaotic place and you’re doing the very best you can which is more than you realize. Your children will always remember how much you sacrificed for them, not necessarily that they missed wearing silly socks on silly sock day. Whatever the current crisis is, it’s only temporary.
Make peace with the idea that good enough is actually good enough. While you’ll have days where you’re the perfect parent, you’ll also have days where you’re not, and that’s okay. Learning to smooth over the rough spots is more important than not having any.
Take care of yourself
Self-care is a big thing in women’s circles, but men often miss out on this important factor in keeping things under control. It’s tempting to push past your limits, to keep going when you’re tired, to play through the pain, and to show up and work just as hard when you’re sick but you can’t be your best if you’re not at your best.
Taking regular time to keep yourself running at peak efficiency is important. You’d never run a car with bald tires and no oil. You shouldn’t expect yourself to put up with a similar situation regarding your own mind, body, and spirit. Make time for yourself to refresh and calibrate a priority. You’re the only dad your kids have, take care of yourself.
Putting the kids to be a bit earlier than you go is a great strategy to give yourself some time to relax and recharge. It can be hard to take this time when there are chores to do or things you can prep for tomorrow and while those things are important they are not the only things that are important.
Call in a sitter and go out with your friends, take a weekend off if the grandparents are willing to step in, make time for yourself even if it’s only a few minutes a day, you’re important.