When my daughter was twelve I became a single father. I was working, and I was alone to manage my responsibilities as a home maker, father and full time worker. I was separated for several years leading up to my divorce. Some might dispute my definition of my status. Was I single? well yes I was, was my daughter’s mother around? yes for a time.
I feel it’s important to share my story however as I continue to read many articles about working mother’s, single mother’s and single working mothers and hardly hear anything from the male perspective when men are similarly affected. Of course “men don’t talk” which is something I will also dispute. This is one of the perceived reasons why we are the silent half of the story.
My journey taught me that each individual, male & female creates their own path when parenting, working and being alone with their child as a small family unit. But again I wanted to share uniquely what I experienced from the male perspective. I might therefore be able to help other men who find themselves in a similar position. I think it’s important to share:
My daughter’s mother did not die. I wasn’t always a “singleton” but emotionally she might as well have disappeared or passed away. Despite this I was able to help keep Mum close through financial support and a legal agreement to make it happen. There were times I had to restate these conditions which is where a solicitor can help. It all made it tough for my daughter.
If you can, its important to keep the former marital home and maintain continuity of school, friends, the same bedroom etc. for your child or children. I was lucky, I had some financial building blocks to make this happen.
I decided on a very clear strategy as home maker to do very little domestic chores! My decision to “outsource” what I could was made with conviction & I made sure I followed through! I know how fortunate I was to have the required resources.
I never created “To Do” lists from a domestic perspective. I asked my home help to prioritise and if needed she could do extra chores. Typically though she only did 3 - 4 hrs once a week. The home could be untidy at times but so what? I called it lived in!
Most men deal with what’s directly in front of them and don’t waste energy on planning for the shopping trip or the dinner party two weeks next Tuesday. Similarly it never occurred to me why the curtains need to be changed in order to match the colour of the bedding ideally on Sat before the relatives arrived! If our home was functional & clean then that’s all that mattered.
Weekends and holidays were for activities & fun & later as my daughter grew up, for Dad’s taxi duties for extra maths after school and swimming lessons etc. If my girl was with friends I tried to use the spare time I had for exercise or catching up on my own interests.
My job was THE most important thing in my life immediately behind my daughter. I was lucky that my employer knew about my circumstances and were supportive. I never used my status to purposefully skip a meeting or duck out of volunteering for something at work. Long days were the norm and a few more hours in the evening after my girl was in bed helped to keep on top of things.
I had always fancied myself as a reasonable cook and I was happy to devote more time to this when I could. A priority was a home cooked meal even when my energy was through the floor at the end of the day. There’s nothing to feel guilty about though if a takeaway is the only solution.
Family dogs are great but if you’re a single father don’t bother to have one because it’s you that will be doing all the dog walking all year round in all weathers. And the cleaning up!
I trusted my daughter more as an independent person developing in her own way, growing up for herself. She had a key to the front door at 12 and I put no pressure on her regarding homework. We talked as much as we could about everything. Consequently, I think she did her homework and discovered interests naturally through choice and for the most part she enjoyed school and later college and University. My heart goes out to singletons who struggle to keep it all together. As the song goes I think it’s important to try to “Always look on the bright side of Life”. It’s harder of course to have an active and full social life as a single father.
I decided life is too short for crap wine! Again I was lucky in that I could afford to expand my horizons here! Get to know what you like through experimentation and don’t stop experimenting!
My daughter was with her mother on and off and often there was a shared care structure, which meant ok I wasn’t a “single parent” but I had made it so for my girl and to this day I have no regrets. I sure felt like a singleton though during these times & more acutely than when my girl was with me. In order to be with a new partner you have to learn to be alone again and know what that feels like. I made mistakes.
I often hear single mothers say that they have to make sacrifices but surely that’s the deal? If we have a child or children, it’s a gift and for me at least I never felt I was making sacrifices when being a Dad.
You get used to parent’s evenings and school events as a singleton. Initially this is hard. People do understand and they know you’re doing the right thing.
Its important to have friends and family in your lifeboat. I had a circle of men friends and found myself seeking out more male company for a while for sports and social man stuff. Men do talk but we tend to discuss things at times in code, for laughs or as a series of short sharp instructions. Keeping it light is light relief.
What’s your story?