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Supporting Single Dads

Why We Need to Be Better at Supporting Single Dads

It's not easy to be a single mom, and as mothers we know this whether we are one . . . or not. It's common for women to support other single moms and to appreciate how that can be a tough journey as a mom and person, but it's rare that people offer sympathy for single dads. Every Father's Day, there are people on my social media feed as well as major corporations acknowledging the women who are pulling both mom and dad duties, which is heartfelt and amazing.

But what about single dads?

Let's be honest, Moms. There's not a ton of sympathy to go around when it comes to Single Fathers, and isn't their plight just as hard? Perhaps if they're "weekend dads" or not very good fathers, no — no, their plight isn't as hard. However, there are many single dads who have custody time as active fathers and some who have sole custody who could really use our support.

Why should it come from single moms and all moms alike? Because as "natural-born" parents who, historically, are used to being the ones raising the kids and who are expected to raise the kids without hesitation, we know first-hand how hard it is to parent, especially alone. We need to support the great dads who are out there wanting some acknowledgment, too.

The Stereotype of the Deadbeat Dad

Yes, there are plenty of deadbeat dads. We all know this. Let's put that aside for a moment though, shall we? Not every man who is a single parent or a parent, period, is a bad dad. There are plenty of dads out there who are parenting alone or coparenting, and trying to do their job as Dad with the same level of dedication as moms. When we assume that men or fathers are the "enemy," so to speak, we're shortchanging fathers who could use our support.

Men Lack Networks

I have more married friends overall than single friends, but I have a few single moms in my pocket to consult about life as a mom, post-marriage. Not many fathers have a support network of single dads to turn to when they need advice about coparenting, parenting alone, or divorce, period. My ex has his family to help him daily, which is way more than I have in terms of hands-on help, but I have more friends who have "been there-done that" than he has. Women create pockets of support and families, whereas men are less apt to do so and less apt to ask for help. If we are supportive of these men and offer advice and friendship, it doesn't just benefit him. It benefits his children!

Learning New Skills

Some dads may exit a marriage or start out single parenthood as an already active father, knowing the ins and outs, so to speak, about their kids, but there are many dads who may have never had this level of responsibility with their kids before. Now here they are, a single dad, learning the art of raising their kids in a brutal crash course. Women are most commonly the caregivers, so when a relationship or marriage doesn't work out, they find single parenthood hard but they already know their kids like the backs of their hands.

Being there for single dads and offering support makes them better parents. We all remember how it felt when we had our first child. We wondered how exactly these babies worked. We wondered how we would do this. Keep that feeling in mind when you're interacting with a single dad who may be playing catch up on their kids' favorite foods, methods, and habits. Even a wonderful dad may have not had as much one on one beforehand to really know their kids as well as they would have liked.

They Won't Complain

Women, we love to talk and vent together. When we have a bad, lonely day, we reach out to our fellow moms in single and divorced motherhood and share a good cry. A single father may have many bad days, but won't share it as they don't want to look "unmanly." Reaching out or asking a single dad how things are going can be the olive branch he needs to unload some of his fears and stresses.

This Isn't a Competition

Coparents coparent together. If a man is an active coparent, his opinion should be valued. There is no "winner" in parenting, unless the other parent is such a deadbeat parent. So instead of brushing up your accomplishments and proud parent moments in an effort to be the "better" parent, reach out to the other half of the parental equation, the single dad, and combat any issues your child may have together. And note: this isn't easy. As a mom who's getting a divorce, this might be the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but at the end of the day I have to do what's best for my daughter and try to work together.

Who Has It Harder?

Sometimes it seems as if I and many of my single mom friends have it infinitely harder than the single dads we know, but the fact is, it doesn't matter if we think our lives are harder or easier than our single dad coparent. It won't make anything better or easier to win the contest of who has the tougher life. Instead, try to see each party's unique challenges — both Dad's and your own. For my ex, he works later and lives with family. This means nighttime routines can be more chaotic than at my house, and over time I have tried to empathize with this. Even if he may not empathize with my challenges — i.e., no one to help me — it doesn't matter.

Try to assist as a coparent where you can to make things smoother for your single dad coparent, because it will make life better for your kid. Even if things are tough and thorny on your side of town, do this because you know your child will reap the benefits.

Parenting alone or with a coparent is not a piece of cake, but parenthood was never supposed to be easy, just rewarding. Reach out to a single dad friend, your single dad coparent, or single dad family member, and ask him how he's doing today!

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