It’s Father’s Day this Sunday and a time when we think about dads everywhere.
Similar to our experience of working with different families, the makeup and role of a father is very different from one family to the next. But what we do know is that dads are important, and wherever possible, having a positive father figure in a child’s life is enriching. And sometimes dads need support too.
Being ‘dad’ might not be as straightforward as seeing your children every day. You might be providing shared care that sometimes comes with complex relationships, parenting within a blended family, or struggling to keep a connection with children that you don’t have contact with as regularly as you like. And it’s not always easy to ask for help, perhaps even more so if you are a man.
One of our volunteers has written this personal and insightful blog about being a father to his daughter – the balances, struggles and challenges he has faced, as well as the moments that make every bit of heartache worth it.
Home-Start is here for parents, mums and dads too who are struggling. If you are a dad, coping at home with young children and feel like you could do with some support, then drop us a line and we can see what we can do to help…
A single dad’s perspective…
Much is often written about the very real challenges single mums face in bringing up their children, a feat which has my complete admiration. But often, little is said from the perspective of single dads, with all the perceptions that may bring. As men, I guess we are often reluctant to ask for help. Even less so, express our feelings or admit to the difficulties we face. However, that does not mean they don’t exist.
I have recently joined Home-Start as a new volunteer. I am a single dad with a beautiful teenage daughter. I am currently riding the waves of constant uncertainty in my professional life, driven by the pandemic that has rocked our lives. I guess there is no such thing as a stereotypical single dad.
I separated and divorced five years ago after a long relationship. Having been involved in every aspect of my daughter’s life up to that point, I suddenly found that my world had been flipped on its head. I now had to share and allocate my time with my daughter around my job and ex-partner, trying to remain very much involved in the day-to-day upbringing, school runs, meals, bed-time routines, and all the challenges and rewards it brings.
Then a few years later, my daughter’s mum announced she was moving to another part of the country. I was given two weeks’ notice. My world turned upside down again. Seeing my daughter would be even more difficult, and military-style planning was required to ensure I could. The nature of my work meant I often worked weekends, and I was now too far away to do the school run. Day visits would now be a 5-hour return journey.
But like anything in life, you eventually brush yourself off. With the support of family and friends, I slowly worked out a path to ensure my relationship with my daughter remained close and loving. Weekends with my daughter are precious. I often go 4/5 weeks without seeing her. Facetime is a lifesaver. Leave for school holidays must now be planned a year in advance to ensure my daughter and I can still spend quality time together, despite the constraints.
There are logistical and emotional challenges to being a single Dad. My daughter’s needs are at the heart of everything. I try to ensure she has everything required here (her clothes, medication etc.), so that she doesn’t feel she’s living out of a bag – even down to duplicating her favourite teddy! Despite facetime and calls, I often feel like I live snapshots of her life, almost like a grandparent who doesn’t see the child change day-to-day. I often get caught out by such changes, her periods being one example!
Emotionally, I do my best to provide continuity in her life. But this can be tricky. If I pick her up, having not seen her for some weeks, and she is upset, I often don’t appreciate the back story. She may have fallen out with a friend (girls!), she may be moody or tired, it may just be nothing. And as I miss out on these normal day-to-day swings, it is easy to over-estimate them or get the wrong end of the stick. Weekends become precious, and you try to make them perfect, which is clearly unrealistic.
Turning around a clean school uniform in a day and a half can be a challenge when all I want to do is spend time with my daughter. It’s also difficult not to spoil her, as I try to compensate for lost time, something I have become very conscious of. Like any teenager, my daughter has her moments that require the appropriate parenting responses! As a single dad, this becomes more tricky – it’s difficult to tell her off for something, knowing that you won’t see her for weeks in a few hours.
I often feel like I live two lives. The life with my daughter: I am a dad. Then when apart, I am an individual with a close group of friends and family. During the first few years of adapting to being a single dad, I’m not sure I would have been confident enough to ask for outside help. Neither was I aware of the outstanding support charities such as Home-Start can provide. I cannot stress enough how important it is to reach out.
There is no rule book for parenting and there is certainly no best way for single parenting. However, despite all the challenges, heartache and worry, it is all blown away by those magical moments when out of the blue, you get an unexpected hug or smile, or “I love you, dad”. That’s when you know, it’s all perfect regardless of your circumstances.