The Hardest Things About Being a Single Dad

In this article, Daniel Sherwin, creator of, shares with us an interesting perspective and tips for surviving life as a single dad.

It’s lonely out there as a single dad. Sure, there are a million articles and blogs about single parenting, but when they all cater to moms, it feels a little alienating. While single dads share a lot of the same challenges as single moms, they also have unique parenting experiences of their own. Here are some of the things that single dads say is toughest about their role:

1. Sharing Custody

Men comprise only 17 percent of all custodial single parents, according to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, which means that most single dads are sharing custody with another parent. That could leave you with less time with your little one than you’d like. It’s hard to know you’re missing special moments in your child’s life and not let resentment seep in. But blaming your ex won’t give you more time with your little one, it will only stress you out and make it harder to co-parent. Understand that your child benefits from time with both parents and focus on making the most of your time.

If you’re the sole parent, sharing custody isn’t an issue. However, you face a different challenge: Never getting a day off. While mommy groups serve as community support for single mothers, parenting groups for dads are harder to come by — and not all mom groups welcome single dads with open arms. Finding other dads or like-minded moms to connect with gives dads someone to turn to whether they need a hand or just an ear to bend.

2. Adjusting Career Expectations

If you were the primary breadwinner in your marriage, you may be used to working long hours to get ahead in your career. Sometimes, that came at the sacrifice of family time. Now that you’re single, you have to make time for both parenting roles. For many men, that means cutting back on hours at work and potentially moving the next promotion a little further down the line. It’s hard to come to terms with changing your career trajectory, but the reward is a better work-life balance and more quality time with your kids.

3. Dealing With Stereotypes

If you’ve ever watched a sitcom or a late-night infomercial, you’re all too familiar with the trope of the bumbling, incompetent father. Unfortunately, those portrayals also influence real-life stereotypes about dads. It’s hard to be a single dad when so many people expect you to fail, or are surprised when you accomplish basic parenting duties like doing your daughter’s hair. The plus side? When expectations are low, it’s easy to seem like Super Dad to other parents.

4. Coping With Difficult Emotions

OK, this one affects every parent — male or female, single or married — but since men tend to bottle up their emotions, it bears repeating: The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and sadness all play a big role in the state our mental health is in. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing. For single dads, that means learning how to process difficult emotions in a productive and healthy manner, even when it’s easier to remain stoic. Not only does facing your feelings head-on prevent chronic stress from building up, it also models healthy coping mechanisms to impressionable kids.

5. Making Healthy Choices

We all fall victim to the convenience and ease of the drive-thru line, and it’s much easier to please your kids with frozen chicken nuggets than a home-cooked meal. As a single dad you are on your own, and the lure of convenience is awfully tempting. However, by making healthy choices, you become a positive role model for your children. So, how can you provide the nutrition everyone needs without breaking the bank and taking up precious time? Plan meals a week in advance for a solitary grocery store trip, and always check the daily specials and local coupons. Freeze any and all leftovers, and consider making a meal in bulk for an easy dinner in the next few weeks. Be mindful of how you snack as well. Rather than a family trip to the ice cream parlor, give your outing a healthy twist by checking out the juice bar for smoothies and acai bowls whose colorful hues leave kids begging for more (plus, it’s chock full of fruits and veggies for a win-win). The best part is you can make your own smoothies at home for a quick snack or on-the-go breakfast.

Don’t get us wrong, being a single dad is awesome. You get to watch your children experience the world for the first time on their journey to adulthood and know you played an important role in shaping the people they become. But just because being a dad is great doesn’t mean it isn’t also hard — just listen to these dads’ stories at Huffington Post. But day after day, hurdle after hurdle, you know it’s worth it.

Image via Unsplash

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