Single mothers make countless sacrifices. For me, one sacrifice really hit hard. Recently, I suggested that my daughter’s father and I create a more equitable visitation plan. That meant, I would have to give up something (my time) to get something in return (a solid father-daughter bond for my child).
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always wanted my child’s dad to have a presence in her life. But when both sides focus on past relationship problems, broken promises and the need to be right, those things blur the bigger picture. What matters most is your child.
This point was driven home thanks to Henry Brown, a divorced dad raising a daughter and celebrating their bond. His words helped me see things from a different perspective.
What is the hardest part about being a divorced dad? What is the best?
The hardest part about being a divorced dad is no longer having someone to share the responsibility with each day. So, if you don’t have a routine in place, you can easily get overwhelmed. For instance, after I pick my daughter up from [childcare], I help her with her homework, get dinner started, throw some clothes in the washing machine, eat dinner and get ready for bed. In between, I do housework and get in some daddy-daughter time. Once she’s tucked into bed, I get ready for the next day and do some things around the house. There are a lot of late nights, but if I didn’t have a schedule, I would be a mess.
The best thing about being a father is watching a beautiful child grow, learn and love unconditionally. Hearing the words “Daddy” and “I love you” all the time make it all worth it.
Misconceptions people have about single fathers?
I’m not sure if I consider myself a single father, because my daughter’s mom is a figure in her life. We have a shared custody agreement. I really wanted to make sure that we both had a big impact on our daughter’s life and that we never went a week without one of us seeing her.
A lot of people make comments like, “It’s rare to see a father want to be so involved in a child’s life.” I must always have a strong presence in her life. I do her hair, take her to doctor’s appointments, cook real food and shop with/for her. We also pray and play together,
How do you stick to a budget? What sacrifices must you make?
You have to be diligent and sacrifice some things, but you just do it. You can’t go out and splurge and expect to pay daycare and child support. I know some dads who fear child support, but I don’t know why. They are looking at it from the wrong perspective. Who cares what your child’s mother does with the money? If your child is happy, healthy, loved and taken care of, then that’s all that matters. Yeah, child support can hurt your finances, but your joy is in your child’s face.
How do you create a co-parenting plan?
You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes with the child being foundation of all decisions. Don’t be selfish.
What advice do you have for other divorced dads?
Keep your head up and remember the most important thing is not money. It’s spending time with your children and being there for them.
1) Attitude adjustment
Focus on the benefits of single parenting, such as less conflict and tension at home.
2) You’re the boss
Kids need limits, so set clear expectations for their behavior with appropriate consequences.
3) Deal with overload
Manage time wisely and to ask for help when necessary. Give children appropriate chores and tasks. Arrange car pools when possible and ask other parents for help when needed.
4) Recognize that you’re one person doing the best you can
Don’t let your children make you feel guilty about the situation. Remind them that you’re a team and have to work together.
5) Create a stable, nurturing home
Tell your kids how much you love them and how proud you are of them.
6) Establish schedules and routines
Establish predictable schedules and routines for your children. Of course, things come up, so it’s important to be flexible, too.
7) Take care of you
Pay special attention to diet, exercise, stress management and getting a good night’s sleep. A stressed-out parent results in stressed-out kids.
8) Develop a support system
Develop a wide network of people who can provide you with emotional support, companionship, help in emergencies, childcare, reality checks, etc.
9) Don’t treat your child as a peer
Allow children to be children, and find other adults for companionship and support.
10) Have realistic expectations
Focus on successes, set realistic goals and work together as a family to accomplish these goals.