Bias and Burden: The Challenges of Being a Single Father

Bias and Burden: The Challenges of Being a Single Father

This article is one of the many useful parenting resources you will find on the The Dad Hoodie blog.

 In many ways, single parents struggle against an inherent stigma that identifies them as somehow flawed, no matter what the reason. For single fathers, it’s a prejudice rooted deep within the conviction that women make better parents and that, somehow, there’s something wrong with men raising children on their own.

That such a belief should have persisted is remarkable given that there are more than 6 million single-father households in the United States according to Statista. It also speaks to an ingrained belief in the sanctity of the two-parent household, which remains strong, even though approximately 50 percent of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. That bias does a disservice to the millions of men who work hard to raise and provide for their kids despite being without a partner. It also works against men in the courts where women are granted custody at a higher rate.

Keeping Up With the Kids

Kids grow up today faster than ever. As a single father, men face the challenge of staying engaged in their children’s lives while meeting professional and financial obligations. Unfortunately, some men either have trouble relating to their kids as they grow up or become disconnected because they have to spend so much time at work. Whatever the reason, it places additional strain on single dads, who are already hard-pressed to make it work.

Subtle Disapproval

Families with school-age children become part of an extended social network. When children become alienated from friends and schoolmates, or when a parent is rejected by other parents in the group, it complicates the situation. Children of single-father homes are often teased about being motherless, and other parents may hesitate to let their kids attend sleepovers in a house where no woman is present. Dads may find themselves having to explain such behavior to their kids, even though they may not understand it either.

Making Ends Meet

When you’re raising children as a single father, money is always on your mind. However, it can be tough to find a way to make more money without cutting into the time you have to spend with your kids. One way to solve this dilemma is by starting a side gig that you can manage from home. With remote work growing in popularity, this could turn into a full-time income eventually. Begin by outlining your business plan and structuring your company as an LLC. This step is essential as the LLC status will enable you to protect your personal assets and become eligible for certain tax breaks, but make sure to research what your state requires to register this business entity.

Staying Healthy

A study released in The Lancet revealed that single fathers have a higher risk of mortality compared to partnered men and single mothers. They face the same stress factors as women, often in situations where a low income or job loss has complicated an already difficult situation. Yet single dads are less likely than single mothers to seek treatment or counseling, fearing it would be an admission of parental incompetence. The stigma that a patriarchal society places on such things can have negative effects on a single father’s long-term health, and that’s bad news for your kids.

With this in mind, single fathers need to find time for a little exercise and make sure they’re getting enough sleep (at least seven hours a night). If time doesn’t permit, find small chunks out of each day (five minutes here, 10 minutes there) to run a few laps up and down the staircase, jog in place, or do a few jumping jacks — anything that’ll get you moving and your heart racing.

Also consider getting rid of any bad vibes in the home. Taking a few steps to ensure positive energy has a place in your abode goes a long way toward staying healthy and maintaining a good outlook -- this goes for the kids, too. Declutter to remove unnecessary hindrances to getting around the house, and be sure all the entryways are clear and without obstacles. A good house cleaning is another idea, as is incorporating a few houseplants to help purify the air you breathe.

Emotional Sharing

This is a tough one for men. Divorce, separation and death take a toll on children as well as dads. Be honest with your kids. Let them know that you’re sad, too, and that it’s alright for them to show their feelings. It’ll take a little emotional pressure off you and bring everyone closer together. If you have a close friend or someone you trust, spend a few minutes telling them how you’re feeling and what it’s like to be a single parent. You might be surprised — sometimes a confidant can show you a whole new way of looking at things.

Try not to be too hard on yourself and try looking at your situation candidly and honestly. Your everyday habits and routines play a big role in the state your mental health is in — as well as having a solid financial plan. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you and your kids — and not the easiest thing.

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