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What are the challenges of being a Single Dad?

Updated on July 21, 2015
Fathers parenting alone ... taking their job seriously.
Fathers parenting alone ... taking their job seriously. | Source

Being a single dad is hard! But, you are not alone - according to the US Census Bureau in 2011, there were 1.7 million single fathers in the United States. Ten percent of these men were raising three or more children younger than 18 with about 45 percent being divorced, 31 percent never married, 19 percent separated, and 5 percent widowed.

The figures may be startling, but they are a reality in today's generation. No longer standing alone as the only single dad in the neighborhood, fathers parenting alone are not only a fast growing number, a responsible lot are taking their job seriously.

Mike should know. He's been a single parent dad for eleven years. "My youngest was 2 and my oldest 16," he says when a divorce thrust him into single parenting his five sons. Although not the custodial parent, Mike's sons visited two days a week after school with an overnight stay on the weekend. "Not nearly enough time," he says sadly.

Single-parent families are less likely to rely on traditional gender-specific roles . . .
Single-parent families are less likely to rely on traditional gender-specific roles . . . | Source

And Mike's sadness is not unfounded. According to the Better Health Channel, the challenges facing a single parent father are many and commonly include:

  • The need for ‘extra hands’ around the house which may sometimes reduce the time a child can take part in typical child activities such as hanging out with friends or playing.
  • If a child is used to having a near-equal say in the household, they may clash with teachers and other authority figures who expect unquestioning obedience.
  • The child may not appreciate that their parent needs adult companionship at times.
  • The child may feel torn between their two parents and feel they must ‘pick sides’ – this is especially the case if the parents are hostile towards one another.

Mike agrees that the challenge of being both mom and dad is not easy. "Sometimes", he says, "It would be nice to have help with all the cooking, cleaning and other errands that come with running a household." Mike provides a structured environment, however, and the boys are involved in many of the chores such as helping with cooking, dishes and outside yard work.

These are important lessons for the boys as the Better Health Channel points out:

  • Single-parent families are less likely to rely on traditional gender-specific roles than two-parent families.

Other benefits of the single-parent household include:

  • The relationship between parent and child is close.
  • Single fathers are more likely to use positive parenting techniques than married fathers.
  • Single parents tend to rely on positive problem-solving strategies rather than punishment or discipline when faced with difficult child behaviors.

When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more...
When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more... | Source

Mike would agree, "I'm a better father because I've learned more about myself and what I'm capable of - maybe more than I would have otherwise." His love and dedication to his sons is obvious. He survived adjusting to being a single parent by reaching out to other single parent dads and developing a support network.

Keeping a routine, planning fun activities and developing new traditions are all important to Mike. But there is one thing he feels is most important and that is making his house a home for his sons. "My goal has been that the boys feel equally comfortable at my house as they do at their moms. They don't have one home," he says, "they have two." In an effort to make the boys comfortable at his home, Mike has included them in home improvement projects and, in particular, he has allowed the boys to turn their bedroom into a shrine for their favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But it's not all fun and games. Mike has expections for his sons. As a school counselor, he expects them to contribute to the family in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. According to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, "When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior. Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact."

Mike has seen three of his sons off to college and with the 2 youngest now in junior high and high school, he is relishing evey moment he has left. "Being a single parent has been one of the greatest challenges of my life", he says thoughtfully, "yet it has given me the greatest of rewards."

Source

REFERENCES

"Dad Stats | National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse." National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.

"Facts for Features: Father's Day: June 17, 2012 - Facts for Features & Special Editions - Newsroom - U.S. Census Bureau." Census Bureau Homepage. N.p., 2 May 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.

"Single parenting | Better Health Channel." Home | Better Health Channel. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhc

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    • carlajbehr profile imageAUTHOR

      Carla J Swick 

      4 years ago from NW PA

      I agree, Tina - it's strange you should mention this as just today I was talking to a single dad who has paid huge amounts in child support and is a great dad. A lot have stepped up to the plate in many ways for their children. Kudos as well!!

    • Tinamariecincy profile image

      Tina Marie 

      4 years ago from Cincinnati, Ohio

      Kudos to all the men who step up to be a real father! Most pay ridiculous amounts in child support and struggle to make ends meet yet still manage to spend time with their children and make them feel valued. It's no easy feat!

    • carlajbehr profile imageAUTHOR

      Carla J Swick 

      5 years ago from NW PA

      My goal in my divorce was always to remember that we were all still a family. I worked hard to promote getting along. As always, I appreicate your thoughtful comments, Teaches!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      Great hub topic and one that many will find useful. I hate that so many families have only one parent, even so, they learn to adjust and work through the challenges.

    • carlajbehr profile imageAUTHOR

      Carla J Swick 

      5 years ago from NW PA

      Thanks Billybuc! Much appreciated!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A very well-written hub. You are a good writer. As a former single father of fifteen years, it was interesting to read how many of us there are out there. Thanks for this!

    • carlajbehr profile imageAUTHOR

      Carla J Swick 

      5 years ago from NW PA

      Thanks Lizam - I am a single mom of 4 grown girls. I certainly relate and I did most everything as well. Mike, in the story, was a great example of what a positive effect dads can have on their children. Thank you for sharing.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 

      5 years ago from Victoria BC

      I am a single mother of two teen girls. The girls do visit their father regularly but I do most of the parenting in terms of decisions, routines, activities etc. I work professionally with many single parents and fathers included. The fathers when fully involved with parenting of their children, and not engaging in belittling, having power over or abuse of their ex. bring a very positive and important stability to the lives of their children.

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