Being a single father can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be incredibly challenging. Single fathers often face a unique set of issues that can cause a great deal of frustration and stress. Here are some of the biggest frustrations that single fathers experience these days, along with some solutions.
Lack of Support for Single Fathers
Single fathers may experience a range of emotions, from guilt and sadness to frustration and anger. They may feel like they’re not doing enough for their children, or that they’re not able to provide the same level of support as a two-parent household.
This is compounded by the fact that single fathers often feel as if they don’t have anyone to turn to for support. They may feel like they’re on their own, without anyone to share the burdens or pressures of suddenly being a single parent. This can be especially difficult when dealing with behavioral issues, medical concerns, or financial stress.
Single fathers feeling that lack of support often find connecting with a fathers’ rights helpline helpful.
Strained Relationships with Their Co-Parents
Single fathers who have gone through a divorce or separation may find themselves having difficulties dealing with their ex-partner when it comes to co-parenting. This can create a lot of tension and stress, particularly when it comes to parenting time arrangements. We always recommend co-parent counseling for these situations.
In addition, if you are a single father having issues with your co-parent, you may want to consider setting some co-parenting boundaries.
Balancing Work and Family
Single fathers often have to juggle the demands of work and family responsibilities. This can be incredibly challenging, particularly if they don’t have a flexible job or a support network to help them with childcare. Of course this is also true for single mothers, however men are often in the less flexible jobs (and are often the primary breadwinner prior to splitting up), making it sometimes more difficult for men to adjust their lives and create the flexibility needed. On top of this, however, men also are often more reluctant – sometimes much more reluctant – to share what’s going on in their personal lives with their colleagues and managers.
It’s important to at least let your colleagues, or a trusted manager, in on the fact that you are now a single parent. It’s also not a failure if you find that you need to change roles, or even jobs, to accommodate being a single parent. No single father ever looked back and said “I wish I’d spent less time with my children,”, but they often look back and say “I wish I’d spent less time at work, and more time with my kids.”
Lack of Understanding from Others
Single fathers may feel like they’re not taken seriously or understood by others. They may feel like they’re judged or stigmatized because they don’t fit the traditional mold of a caregiver. One of the best ways to combat this feeling is to get together with other single fathers, and that is exactly what fathers’ rights groups offer. You can find a list of fathers’ rights groups at VeryWellFamily.com.
Bias in the Legal System
Back when we first were founded, in 1998, there was a great deal of bias against single fathers in the family law system, and at the same time a strong bias in favor of single mothers. Sadly, while this has changed a little bit, in some places more than others, these biases still exist in most courts in the United States and other countries. To compound this, many fathers don’t understand these biases, and don’t know how to work this biased legal system, making things worse for themselves, and often even shooting themselves in the foot.
Fortunately, our founder was one of the very first fathers’ rights lawyers in the U.S., and her book has helped thousands of fathers to arrive at far more satisfactory arrangements than they otherwise would have. You can check out her book, They’re Your Kids Too, here.
Financial Strains on Single Fathers
Single fathers may struggle with finances, particularly if they’re paying child support, spousal support, or other new financial obligations. The strain of having to make one salary do all this, especially if they were a two-salary family before the split, can feel enormous. And on top of all of this they may feel like they’re not able to provide their children with everything they’d like to, which can be an added source of stress and frustration.
Even though it may seem obvious, often this situation is created, or at least exacerbated, by not recognizing the need to take a good hard look at finances, and recognizing that with the paradigm shift to single father there needs to be an equal shift in spending and, if need be, budgeting. Certain things may need to be recognized as less of, or even no longer, a priority (such as a lease on an upscale car when a smaller, more family-friendly and fuel efficient car may make more sense, or the deluxe cable package with the outsize monthly bill instead paying only for the few channels that you actually watch). Keeping in mind the true priority – your kids – will help here.
Lack of a Social Life or Life Outside of Parenting
Single fathers may feel like they don’t have time for a social life or to pursue their own interests. They may even feel like they’re constantly on call, without any time for themselves. For example, whenever their co-parent calls asking them to take the kids they jump at the opportunity, both because they want to see their kids and also because they don’t want to be seen as not wanting to spend time with their kids. Even when their kids aren’t with them, they may be too exhausted from burning the candle at both ends, or too financially strapped by the new arrangements, to feel motivated to get out and do something. But, and we can’t emphasize this enough, it’s important to get out once in a while without the kids, and to recharge.
Here are a few things that you can do as a single father either on your own, or with a buddy, that are easy to do spur of the moment and that won’t break the bank:
- Sign up for a membership at your local rec center and hit the gym
- Take yourself out to a movie
- Spend an hour browsing the stacks at a bookstore or library, and don’t leave without a book in your hand
- Set aside time on the weekend to read that book
- Schedule a walk outdoors with a friend, or with yourself
- Take a magazine or newspaper (remember those?) to a favorite coffee shop, or just go to the coffee shop and people watch
- Find the closest dog park and observe for half an hour, nobody can watch dogs at play and not feel uplifted!
One Last Thing: This Too Shall Pass
Being a single father can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be incredibly challenging. Single fathers may experience a range of frustrations, from lack of support and strained relationships with ex-partners to financial pressure and emotional strain. It’s important for single fathers to know that they’re not alone, and that there are resources and support available to help them navigate these challenges. And it’s also important to keep in mind that all of these frustrations and challenges are temporary, and that there will be a time when you can look back on them and, at least if not laugh, say “I’m glad that’s behind me!”
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