Today, things have changed mightily for single dads. Keeping up with the new expectations can be a little confusing for the recently separated. As a single dad, you have to be the male role model. You are expected to participate in your children’s lives in a way older dads didn’t have to. Parenting advice has changed quite a bit over the years.
When I was a child, my dad was a stereotypical 1960’s man. He went to work, came home, put on the news, spent the weekends with his boat and his tools and kissed us goodnight. In order to get his attention, I would have to climb into his lap and settle in with Walter Cronkite, a cigarette, and a Scotch.
Not too long ago, dads were elusive creatures. powerful, aloof and somewhat mysterious.
They came and went to work, threw us up into the air when we needed a giggle and showed up when mom was at her wit’s end to maintain order at home.
After my parent’s divorce, my dad remarried and became a dad to my youngest sister. We would share the VW bus up and down MA Rte #128 each Sunday and watch him carve out time for us amidst his busy life. These were hurried visits, just a long afternoon, filled with six kids longing to know what it felt like to have his love. It was tough to be a divorced dad in the 1970’s.
How parenting advice has changed for dads in general, never mind single dads!
I think one of the principle reasons why divorce rose during the latter half of the 20th century is because of the enormous changes parenting went through. Including having dads learn how to become more involved with the raising of children. Dads went from staying out of the delivery room to not only being inside but also pushing the stroller, feeding, changing and staying home with the kids.
In the quest for equality, single dads see their kids more than on just Sunday afternoons. Single moms no longer have to do all the day-to-day raising of children. Both parents are expected to help raise the kids. Oftentimes, both fund college educations and cover living expenses. The world post-divorce has become more fair and equitable.
Managing the responsibilities of being there for your kids and dating or creating a new home is a balancing act most men find difficult. Certainly at first.
Many single dads know how to run a home. They know they are the new role model for being a father and a man. Consequently, single dads who don’t do these things are looked down upon. Single dads who have to work and travel or who choose to not participate in their kids’ lives are looked down upon. Even among other guys.
You are the male role model for your child: who your sons will be like and your daughters will marry. The commitment is deepening among single dads. Yes, the kids need you to have clothes at your home and a set of school books, and you have to keep their schedule top of mind. But you’re also now required to be the male role model you never had yourself. The parenting advice for divorced dads is deepening because the stakes are getting higher.
Divorce is a generational disease. It doesn’t occur in happily married families.
Your children don’t need perfection, they need your respect and your love. It really doesn’t matter if for the first few months you simply live on eggs and toast each evening. Make it fun and greet them with that big smile you’ve got especially for them. Show them how proud you are and help them establish new traditions with you. Give yourselves the time to get to know each other away from mom.
You need to be the rock – strong, dependable, masculine. Your children are going through their first divorce. They need to feel safe. When your kids are with you, you have to be super aware. Most men find this a bit difficult at first because usually, mom was the one with eyes in the back of her head.
Your children need and want you to show up for them especially as a single father.
Daughters can be emotional roller coasters… needy, scared, wanting their moms. When you have a daughter, you must be with her while she is flipping out. It will scare you. You will probably want to ‘shut it down’ and distract her the way you were able to when she was two years old. But you can’t. You can’t do anything but be with her while she is having a breakdown. This will happen a lot at first – her entire world has been flipped upside down.
By simply being there for her, you’re being a great male role model, teaching your daughter that a man can be with her while she is being a mercurial female. All women need the men in their lives to support them. Her emotions don’t mean she is sick or needing therapy (unless it is 24/7). So, while your marriage has fallen apart, try simply being there. Because she needs you, as her father, to be able to handle her. This is an enormous lesson for all of us.
When you trust yourself enough to be there for your son, you give him permission to feel his feelings without having to hide them. You’re teaching him that men are human too.
Your son will be on his own emotional journey. He may appear more stoic, organized or disciplined than your daughter. Or he may revert to being unable or unwilling to make a decision or be unable to get through his day without help. You will want to draw him out, force him to make a call, join a team or a club. Forcing him to get to like your new girlfriend, you may insist upon a hug but you can’t. You must give him time to create new memories. As the male role model, you show him how to face the changes in your family step by step.
As the male role model, you show your children what being a healthy guy looks like today.
When I was young, I knew that my parent’s fighting wasn’t healthy and I was always afraid. My parents’ divorce forced me to live differently and my world expanded. Even so, in order to be a single dad in touch with a strong, happy bond with his children, it’s important to understand how parenting has changed and what your new role is.