Working with single dads going through a breakup, I find guys need to know that they’re doing a good job. Single dads are raising their kids on their own and co-parenting with the other parent. These men worry about how to survive being a single dad. They want to be there for their kids but also need to get their own needs met at the same time. They worry that they “need a woman” as I’m often told on social media. As if having sex will fix the problems co-parenting brings. Or help deal with the legal separation cause. In order to leave the pain of divorce behind requires more than just dating and parenting. Single dads need to know they will survive the sacrifices they’ll have to make in order to raise healthy and competent adults coming from the experience of a broken home.
There are a lot of single dads who are stronger, wiser, and more competent than men have ever been.
Single dads focus on their families and their commitment to raising kids well. I’m the first to affirm they’re doing a great job. There are enormous benefits for young kids when single dads commit to them wholeheartedly.
The problem is that most men (and women) going through a divorce force themselves to make crazy decisions. They either choose to act like teenagers seeking sex and relationships with a lot of new people. Or they instead do the opposite and put the well-being of their kids first forgetting everything else. On a personal level, it’s not always so black or white. On a social level, there’s way too much data supporting you to get on the bench. You put your kids first while they’re dealing with your divorce.
What price are you willing to pay as a single dad?
If that’s a price you, as a single dad, are not willing to make, you need to ask yourself if you have the skills and knowledge to survive raising your kids with all the demands right now. Raising kids requires lots of time, money and attention. You know that. How will you balance the demands of doing so with the energy required of a new relationship? More importantly, what makes you think you can’t survive being a single dad without a woman in your life? And what’s keeping you from figuring out how to be the best single dad around?
Sex… it usually comes down to needing to have sex. (Which we all need!)
Without a commitment to parenting first and enjoying oneself second, your kids are more likely to be exposed to future abandonment issues. The legacy of divorce is real and kids of divorced parents typically experience their own divorces later in life. What’s worse, is that without taking some time, statistically, you’re more likely to go through another divorce. Your kids will lose another person whom they’ve loved. It’s not a very pretty picture and one that sets you up for what I call Post Traumatic Divorce Disorder.™
This isn’t to say that you can’t have a relationship.
Or that you can’t date away from your children like when they’re with the other parent. You just have to decide what’s most important: the 18 – 21 years you’ve committed to raising this small person you’ve brought into the world or your own sexual needs. What’s more important, getting along with their other parent or continuing the fight by engaging in a constant war? Are you ready to mature the parts of you that got wrapped up in the fight? Do you want to know how to do this marriage thing right?
To survive being a single dad requires you to leave behind the pain of your divorce.
Your children didn’t ask to be born (well, they may have on a soul level but that’s another article). They didn’t have the affair, the arguments, do the drugs or whatever else that caused the rupture. Consider their perspective. They’re dealing with their first divorce. And they’re afraid of being abandoned by both of you. Nearly every day, they try to win your approval while doing their best to stay away from your anger. They’re caught up in their own grief and loss. Too often, they’ve got no way of talking to you about how they’re feeling.
That’s a lot for a little person to be dealing with and they’re counting on you to help them.
I want to address the #1 thing you must do as a single dad in order to survive (and thrive) through your divorce and raising your kids. You must change how you think about things. Mix it up and step outside of your pride and ego. You’re going to want to get on the bench for a period of time. Please be discrete about your sexual needs. Keeping your dating away from your children if you must date. And you must remember not to bring your dates around your children until and only if, you’re 100% committed to marriage.
Are these old-fashioned ideas? Yep. Any day of the week!
You’re the #1 male role model for the young people you’re raising. Your daughters will marry a man just like you. Your sons will become men that mirror you.
That’s what happens when you decide to become a father whether you want to admit it or not. That’s what we all do and have done to the parents who raised us. Without pressing pause and getting some training on being a single dad so that you can leave behind the pain of your divorce, you’re bound to make mistakes. (News Flash: you’re going to make mistakes anyway but at least with some help, they won’t be monumental – like putting your kids through another divorce.)
You’re allowed to thrive and even simply survive being a single dad!
So seek some competent help – a great role model, a wiser man you admire, someone who’s been where you’ve been. Slow down… your sex drive is not going to go away.
And then trust yourself. You have an innate wisdom that comes with being alive. I’ve no doubt you want to protect your kids, you want to do what’s right, and you know you’re doing the best you can. You’d never want your kids to marry someone who will hurt them. It’s a great time to remember who you are away from the dating, the courtship, the marriage, and the fight. Give yourself some time to heal and to rebuild your life before you spread yourself too thin. Stay connected to what’s really important to you.
How you live your life is the legacy you will leave your kids.
You are their number 1 teacher. They will mirror and model what you do. And, unfortunately, they will most likely date someone just like you and their other parent. They will watch and follow your lead. Then, of course, they’ll rebel for a bit until they return to what they know. We’ve all done that until we stop and think and learn, and mature up the parts of ourselves that need help.
I believe you’re capable of surviving and thriving as a single dad. I know that you do not have to carry the pain and stigma of being divorced into your future. You don’t have to leave that legacy for your kids either. It just requires you commit to learning a different way – not a harder or longer path but the shortest way through healing from your divorce.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of The Better Divorce and doingDivorce™ School – online coaching programs for those ready to shed the pain of breakups. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com.