There are days when a single mom is faced with child-rearing issues that make her feel overwhelmed, confused and anxious.
I have those days. Thankfully, they are few and far between. But, I have them. In those moments of parenting frustration, I don't pick up the phone and call other moms to debate the pros and cons of how to deal with the situation. Nope. Never. I pick up the phone and call a single dad.
Their answers? Succinct, decisive, rational, fair and consistent. It is a hallmark of single dad parenting.
Being a single parent isn't easy. Between working, sports, all-nighters with sick children, housework, yardwork and the gazillion other things a single parent has on their daily "to do" list, there isn't much time for yourself. There isn't much time for dating, either. No complaints here. My life is a beautiful, fulfilling life. And, despite the exhaustion most single parents accept as a constant in their lives, I think most would agree.
And while, for many years, the media has documented the financial, emotional and physically demanding plight of the single mother, there's someone out there who has been woefully overlooked: the single dad.
And, folks, these guys aren't getting the credit they're due.
While their stories are all different, they share a common thread. Some had to fight to get custody of their children from an insufficient mother. Others became single dads when the kids' moms just walked away. In every case, these men stood up without a moment's hesitation and took up the daunting task of raising their children alone. Our society would think that they didn't have to do it. These men would disagree. Their hearts told them they had to. And, they did, no matter the personal sacrifice that decision entailed.
The stories of how they became single dads will touch your heart. Some made the decision when they really weren't much more than boys themselves. As each of them cradled their newborn babies in their arms, they knew that they would do whatever it took to be the parent that child needed. In that tender moment, each of them made clear their lifetime commitment to being somebody new. Somebody irreplaceable. Somebody important. A man that tiny little wiggling person would soon call "Daddy." They made sacrifices. Sometimes putting their own dreams and hopes on hold to instead commit themselves to being single parents.Walking away was never an option for these men. Their love was too strong.
Some of you are probably thinking, yeah...so what? Women do that all of the time. Yes, we do. Societal pressure and common thinking make most of us think that raising children is a female's role or even duty. Most Americans accept the fact that dads can, and sometimes do, walk away from their children without much societal repercussion.
Walking away was never an option for these men. Their love was too strong.
The evolution of these men into Dad-Moms is quite astonishing. They've found ways to fill the maternal hole in their children's lives. They often utilize the help of their moms, sisters, etc. to offer the female perspective into their parenting models. But, I use the word "help" loosely here. Each of these men I have met take full responsibility of the daily child rearing. In other words, they aren't pawning them off for someone else to raise. They wipe tears. They spank little butts. They hold tiny hands. They spent all night tending to children with raging fevers.
The single dad is an extraordinary creature. But, the numbers are growing. Between 1995 and 1998, the number of single fathers increased 25 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Some things I've learned from single dads...
- Don't sweat the small stuff.
- Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.
- Don't make threats. If you say you're going to do something, do it.
- Be open. Most single dads are totally approachable by their children. They don't shy away from talking about sex, periods, peer pressure, drugs, etc.
- When disciplining children be rational and fair. Never let your emotions get the best of you.
- You can be tender and loving without being a push-over.
- Be careful of who you introduce your children to. Don't introduce them to every person you date.
- Keep your personal life personal.
- Remember your ex is an ex. Put your feelings aside and always do what is in the children's best interest.
- Don't expect to remarry and have someone else raise your children for you.
- Take pictures with your children, not just of your children.
- Take advantage of weekends or other times away from your children to take a "mental break" from being a parent. It will revive and rejuvenate you.
- Your home does not have to be spotless to make it a good place for raising your children. A home needs to be full of love and acceptance...not cleaning products.
- Respect your children and, in turn, they will respect you.
- Put healthy food in your kids' bellies.
- Expect them to do their fair share of household duties when they are old enough.
- Your children will always love you but they may not always like you. And, that's okay.
- Be clear about your expectations about everything from grades, to behavior, to morals.
- Don't let guilt guile you into buying everything they want. Teach them the value of money and to appreciate what they have.
- Don't just watch your children play. Play with them. That other stuff can wait.
- When it comes to clothes, make sure your kids have what other kids have. Always make sure they "fit in" until they get to an age to make their own decisions about what they wear.
- Tell your children you love them. And, show them you love them.
- See your child's uniqueness. Embrace it.
As young girls, females are given baby dolls. Women also possess a natural instinct when it comes to mothering their children. Men, as a whole, are not encouraged as young boys to play house and role-play being a dad. To me, it makes that moment when they are handed that wrinkled little person, wrapped up tight in a blanket, all the more special. In that moment, a father begins an evolution into a Daddy.In that moment, a father begins an evolution into a Daddy.
Most single dads, especially those who were raising newborns on their own, will admit that in the beginning they were bewildered. Some had never even held a baby before their own arrived in the world. But, they fumbled and stumbled and eventually they learned.
In two-parent households, the mom and dad counterbalance each other. Where one is too emotionally driven, the other is more rational. The discipline of the children is therefore, theoretically, somewhere down the middle of the road.
I've found that seeking the Daddy wisdom of single dads provides me an alternative viewpoint. When I mix their thoughts with my own, I often find new solutions that work out best for me and my children.
So where do these amazing dads come from? Their own amazing parents! Most of these dads have moms that they're still very close to. And, their fathers were phenomenal dads themselves.
These men are proof that being being born to parents who love you and dedicate themselves to rearing their children to the best of their ability is a legacy. That legacy lives on in the calloused hands of single dads who tenderly hold their children close to their hearts while holding them firmly to the rules.These men are proof that being being born to parents who love you and dedicate themselves to rearing their children to the best of their ability is a legacy. That legacy lives on in the calloused hands of single dads who tenderly hold their children close to their hearts while holding them firmly to the rules.
To you amazing men... Much love, appreciation and admiration. You didn't have to do it but you did. Society thanks you.