People always say that having a child is one of the most rewarding jobs you can ever have; however, it doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing all of the time. It can be especially challenging if you’re a single parent. But, for each problem there is always a solution. Here are some common challenges single fathers face and helpful ways to overcome them.
Challenge: Feeling alone and overwhelmed
How to beat this: Build a good support system
Your family and friends are in your life for a reason: They love you. When times are tough, don’t be afraid to lean on them for help or to ask for advice. It’s likely they’ve been there before too, and if they haven’t, at least they can provide a listening ear.
Another way to strengthen your support system is to build connections outside of your inner circle by meeting the parents of your child’s friends, and other parents at your child’s school functions and extracurricular activities. By doing this, you create an opportunity to develop new relationships, as well as the possibility of scheduling future playdates (providing you have a young child). You also can further extend your support system by looking online. Parent meetup groups allow you to unite with others in your area through social events and meetings, while online forums generally offer support and advice. If time is an issue, the good thing about forums is that you can access them anywhere, anytime.
Challenge: Spreading yourself too thin and losing sight of the big picture
How to beat this: Invest in yourself and your family
More responsibilities and roles means a longer to do list, which inevitably creates a buildup of stress. It’s easy to spend all of your energy on your job and household duties, but the reality is that when you don’t make time for yourself, the stress of managing everything will catch up with you. According to Behavioral Wellness and Recovery, “It’s important to learn small ways to face that stress head-on and reduce it no matter where you are, because having effective coping mechanisms handy will allow you to get through even the most challenging times. You can use your new skills to immediately start feeling better, and to prevent the emergence of chronic mental health problems.”
One way to be happier overall is to prioritize things you need or enjoy everyday, even if it’s only for a small amount of time. As long as you remember you somehow, you will actually become more emotionally available to your child because you’re taking care of yourself. Self-care comes in several forms: physical exercise (e.g. going on a run); hobbies (e.g. playing video games); activities (e.g. watching your favorite show); and relaxation (e.g. meditating). Additional investments in your mental health should be made if you find yourself not being able to cope or push through a challenging situation. Seeing a licensed mental health professional or psychologist can provide unbiased opinions, and assist you with moving forward as needed.
It’s equally as important to consider the kind of love and care you provide for your child, too. During a time of transition, children need to feel more secure. This is usually achieved by maintaining consistency with daily routines and discipline. Establish set times for dinner and homework and stick with them. If your child’s bedtime has always been 9 p.m., continue to enforce that. Also, don’t forget to schedule family functions and make room for quality time on a daily basis. Your child isn’t going to remember whether you let the pile of dirty dishes stay in the sink for two days; however, your child will remember things like the time you played football in the pouring rain for almost an hour.
Challenge: Society’s view of single fathers
How to beat this: Be the change
You know you’re a single dad when you can’t find a changing table for your child in a public restroom or when you get that odd look from someone after sharing that you’re raising your child solo. While single father households are on the rise, it’s obvious the stigma persists. Progress with society’s view, or things like offering changing stations, and resources and programs for working dads will only continue to evolve over time. Be the change.