According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 13.6 million single parent families. Of this 13.6 million, 16% consist of single fathers. While there is plenty of love shown, respect earned, and songs written about single mothers, what about the 16 percent? Who is showing love to them? In a society filled with empathy toward the struggle of single mothers, are we forgetting about single fathers? How does the famous rap phrase go? They hate what they don’t understand? Not to say that we hate single fathers, but perhaps we show less empathy due to lack of understanding. Luckily, I was able to speak to a few single dads about their experiences. Take a look at a few things that occur in the life of a single dad:
1) A lack of support and resources
It is much easier for a single mother to find support networks than a single father. Single fathers often have difficulty finding networks of other single dads, and experience even more issues finding programs geared towards their experiences. Most policies (especially in family law and court proceedings) benefit the mother. Jobs seem to be more sympathetic to the time of mothers, and less thoughtful of time off for dads. Even learning resources and tools are scarce. Many times single dads must rely solely on family support or work to create their support system.
2) Becoming a nurturer
Rather you were a tomboy or a girly girl; every woman possesses an innate ability to nurture. Blame it on our natural mammalian instincts. However, men tend to learn these things over time. While most dads eventually ease into this role, it isn’t the easiest the thing to do. Many fathers struggle to find the balance between manliness and emotion. Things that come naturally to women are a bit more difficult for men. Little things such as hugs, kisses, emotional conversations, all of these things come with experience and patience.
3) The Pity Card
I am sure that all of the single fathers appreciate your empathy, but your pity is not what they desire. No parent wants to be treated like the poor lost soul. There is nothing wrong with showing your support, but try to remain respectful. It is no secret that moms and dads tend to operate differently, but different does not mean wrong. Just like single mothers, single fathers are usually doing the best that they can. As long as the child is healthy, thriving and happy, that is all that matters. Keep your perfection and pity to yourself.
4) Dating Woes
Coming from someone who has dated a single father, there is one thing that I know for sure. When it comes to long-term commitment, single parents are looking for the total package. This is particularly the case for men with younger children. It is important for fathers to be with a woman who can potentially be a role model. This is particularly the case for men with daughters. Single fathers struggle to find work- life balance even more so than single mothers. It is rare to find another male friend raising his or her child alone. It is not uncommon for a “boys night out” to slowly become a distant memory.
5) The Stereotypes
Whenever someone meets a single mother, they automatically assume that there is a deadbeat in the picture. When someone meets a single dad, they think that there must be some catastrophic explanation. Why else would a father take care of his child alone? It couldn’t be that he was the most suitable parent or that the father desired to have full custody of the child. This is especially true with black men. Many black men are automatically attached to the deadbeat dad stereotype. There is also the assumption that a single father must have someone helping him – there’s no way he’s doing it alone. Many men who are doing it alone, and they deserve their credit.
Although father’s day is long gone, I encourage you to celebrate a single father today. Regardless of gender, single parenting is difficult. So never forget about the sixteen percent!