Let me first say that being a single dad isn’t hard, it’s fucking awesome!
But I must admit that it’s much more challenging to get it all done when you don’t have a spouse to help out, especially in tough situations like when your child is sick and you have to go to work or when you’re sick and you have to suck it up.
When I started my “new” life as a single dad in December 2012, I was ready for a change. The writing had been on the wall for a long time and we had mutually decided that it was best to separate.
No tears. No breakdowns. No second guessing.
Just time to move on.
The hardest thing by far was leaving my family knowing that I wouldn’t get to see my daughters (aged 4&7 at the time) every day, and it broke my heart. It was a feeling that only a parent can know and it’s brutally painful.
But I knew we were doing the right thing for the girls and I never wavered in my decision to move out.
And I was ready for the challenge of going it alone and taking on single fatherhood and it’s been a learning experience to say the least.
In the three years since my separation, these are the things that have challenged me the most.
1) My daughter asking me about our divorce
This one kills me. When we first split, I explained as easily as I could, that mom and dad just didn’t get along as well as they should and it was best for all of us if we lived in separate houses.
To a 7 and 4 year old, that was sufficient. But now when my 10 year old asks me those same questions, she really wants to understand what happened and why. Of course, she can’t really understand the depth of a marriage or divorce, but I try my best to keep things honest and positive and never talk badly about her mother.
She still struggles with it some times and I guess that’s normal. She’s a sensitive girl to begin with and just wants everyone to be happy.
What makes it so hard is that my parents divorced when I was 6 and it was a nasty and bitter split. I know how angry I was with my mother and resented her for years because I believed she took us away from our dad. I never wanted my girls to experience those types of feelings towards either one of us and do my best to help her understand.
2) Feeling powerless against our legal system
Because I was so worried that the legal system would somehow fail me and I’d wind up getting my rights taken away, I chose to play it safe and gave in to some demands that, looking back, were bad calls on my part.
I’ve seen too many things go wrong and have heard from too many dads who were chewed up by the system and lost custody of their kids, been ordered to pay ridiculous amounts of money, or both.
Up to this point I’ve avoided getting into any legal battles although we’ve come close a few times. In each instance I honestly felt like I had a winnable case but just don’t trust the courts to make the right call.
I’m sure that the day will come when I have to find out and I’m not looking forward to it. Having my custody rights hanging on the discretion of a judge, who may be overly sympathetic to mothers or is just having a bad day, scares the shit out of me.
Plus, when you see cases like this, you have to wonder just how much we want to risk going to court..
3) Allowing them to get close to another woman
This one was really hard for me and the last thing I wanted was to have my girls introduced to a new woman, get close, and then break up. So I played it safe. I dated a few women and let them meet my girls in public settings a few times, but never too close.
After a year or so, I started dating a woman (my current girlfriend) and I still took it very slow. A meeting at a park once in a while or a short visit was about it.
But after several months, they started to hit it off very well and I slowly brought her around more. Today, we all live together and her relationship with the girls is amazing. I honestly couldn’t ask for anything better and she cares about them so much.
And I honestly believe that if I had rushed things or forced her down their throats, it wouldn’t have turned out this way.
And as Dan Pearce once said “the most difficult thing about dating as a single parent is deciding how much risk your own child’s heart is worth”. I agree wholeheartedly.
4) Being broke
When we first separated, I lost myself in work and other stuff to keep my mind from wandering back to my girls. And after 9 months, I left my job of 11 years to pursue a full-time job managing a gym. Unfortunately the pay sucked and barely covered my expenses and obligations and I was still on the hook for my full child support and alimony payment.
This meant that I had to hustle before and after my full-time job, which kept me moving from 5 am to 10 pm every weekday. And on the weekends I had my girls. I was exhausted every weekend but refused to sit them in front of the TV so I could rest. We went out, did fun things, and were pretty active.
Fortunately, things have changed and I’m in a slightly better financial position, but it’s still a struggle some months to cover everything.
5) No control over bad decisions
When I was married, my ex and I made the decisions for the girls together. Some were bad (like catering to our first born daughter’s every need and creating a very difficult child) and others were good.
When I first moved out, our intention was to try to co-parent as much as possible and be on the same page about the decisions for the girls.
And it worked. For a short time.
The problem soon became that she didn’t agree with some of the the things I was doing with the girls and I didn’t agree with what she was doing. So now we are at an impasse and just seem to be agreeing to disagree.
There Are Plenty More
I could list dozens more struggles and I know many of you have the same issues, but I love being a single dad and wouldn’t trade any of it. And I’m willing to bet neither are you.
Now tell me: what’s your biggest struggle as a single dad?
My biggest struggle was that I was so mad at my ex for taking my child away from me for half her life. I still struggle with that. I want the hug every day when I leave and come home which I don’t obviously get. My ex also babies her to the extent she is a very sheltered child. I wish I was her only parent. Money is also hard too. It’s just sad to me. However I can say she, my daughter is also the best thing ever also.
Jules I feel your pain. I was separated from my son when he was six months old. I get to see him and he’s my bestest buddy ever but the separation is just awful.
I’d have to say the worst part about being a single Dad is the attitudes and judgements of people based on formed opinions.
I wouldn’t worry too much about that to be honest. People will judge us, but so what? If you’re a good dad it doesn’t mean shit.
Recently became a single dad, due to my ex-wife not wanting to get off the drugs. I feel like I just wasted the last four years of my life with her. I thought I married my best friend of 12 years, 4 years ago, and I thought were doing great, but things totally changed. She gave up on our family we just started. Somebody gives me some advice. This is hard doing it alone now. Please any advice is good advice.
Doesn’t sound like you are a single Dad, sounds to me that you are a divorced dad that is single. Don’t be ashamed, I get that all the time, Men telling me “yeah, I’m a single dad too, and my ex wife only has them two weeks a month”. I am by all definitions a single Dad, single parent meaning I have sole and single custody of my child, 24/7, full responsibility, physically, financially and emotionally and you have no idea the struggles associated with that. Talk about being broke, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lingering in the grocery store isle, trying to decide on a can of soup, or a cheap pack of toilet paper. rationing the food like we were trying to survive a post apocalyptic society. Dating? women? have no clue? I haven’t been on more than 3 dates in 6 years. Me time? what does that mean? I get up at 3 in the morning, clean, do laundry, prep meals, get my child to school, commute over an hour, work through lunch so I can leave early and commute back home over an hour to pick my child up after track practice, only to drive him 20 miles to wrestling practice, help coach the practice, drive home, cook the meal, do homework with my son, feed the animals, shut the house down, and pass out, only to wake up the next morning at 3 to do it all over again. That’s my routine EVERY DAY! No one cares, the electric company doesn’t care when I can’t pay the bill, no one offers to help, no one really understands what it means to be a single dad. I had no clue until I became one, the day the judge gave me full custody when I wasn’t seeking it, giving mom 3 hours a month, and I have to take my son and pick him up on that day. Imagine if you only got 3 hours a month to live your life? Yeah, only 4% of children from divorced parents live with their dad full time.
I am with you Richard. Two kids, 6&10; full time, no support. I am fortunate enough to be self employed and to have a flexible schedule with a second job on the side.
While difficult, being a single dad is rewarding. I have a great relationship with both of my children and we try to live life to the fullest. The freedom of being the one in charge and the ability to lead my family are points of pride for me.
Dating? My second job is as a bartender…. I planned it that way. Now my second job is also my social life. It gives me “adult time ” to be social and hopefully the possibility of meeting someone some day.
My son was 4 and my daughter was 7 she chose dope over them. It’s been a rough three years, and I have failed many times. One thing though, they know I am always there..
Good luck to all in our shoes and god bless our children.
Im 33 and a single dad of a 10 yr old son whom i had custody for 8 years now & we living with my mom & her husband due to hard times……i have had a good time in a while….Dating? Whats that…..i havent had a sucessful relationship in 5 years and only date 1 person about a year and a half ago…..so yes its very hard being a single dad while living with your parents and dealing with they issues and being set in their ways its takes a toll on you emotionally & Spiritually especially if your parents at times talk down on u and belittle you! But it only makes u stronger i guess!
Hi, I’m a solo dad. Have been since the beginning. I had 3 hrs of skin to skin in hospital, due to compaction. Postpartum was our next obstacle. Counseling medications, did not help separating her from home was next step. Didn’t work. Then she went a facility because she wanted to hurt herself. This turned into 16 facilities over a 20 month span. Ultimately she moved back in under a month she was gone for good. Bailing out on us on my first Father’s Day weekend. He’s now 4 legal battles are done for now( 100% custody) she has 0 visitation. I allowed it when scheduling permits. Now I found an old friend who is a single mom and deathly scared of commitment being she has been so hurt after divorce. So my biggest challenge is the conflict of moving my child from stability to increase my happiness….. she now knows I have caught some feelings for her and her daughter…. I found your article today being I never thought I could be happy again ( outside of my son). Great read thank you
My biggest issue, is feeling, and partially knowing, I’m probably not doing enough as a dad, my mother raised me right. But after her passing, I lost my foundation, my guidance in her that helped drive me through each day knowing…that if I made a mistake, she would always be there to help me understand what I did wrong, and how to overcome it, and move on to new obstacles.
Currently my son just turned 3, he is as bright and as fun as I could have ever been, he’s actually a sweet and sensitive little lad, I’m just broken inside his mother and I had to split, and break up our little family unit.
Now, I’m just a dude, that goes to work, goes home, and sees my son every other weekend…..at times it doesn’t even feel like I am a father, (I know that sounds strange but it’s just how it feels)
I know I am, I feel the connection between us, and obviously he looks like me.
It’s just that, he used to be with me each day and night, and he was always my end goal, he still is, but now it’s different and I don’t know how to put it into words.
Tears and tears and anger have led me to somehow keep motivated and the love burning inside me,
But it just gets hard.
She’s the winner in this(his mom) she’s blessed to have this little guy in her life day in day out..
I’m just lucky enough to see him when and if I do.
To anyone out there in a similar situation,
“movement is key, never stop moving whatsoever, Listen to your instincts, let them guide you, and always…always question everything.!”