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Challenges for Single Fathers

by Natalie Smith, studioD

Most dads don't set out to become single fathers. However, many men find themselves raising their children by themselves. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 16 percent of custodial single parents were dads. Single fatherhood is challenging, but being aware of some of the greatest challenges and how other single dads have successfully dealt with them can make parenting less stressful and even more rewarding.

Needing Advice

One of the challenges to being a single father can be simply not knowing a lot about parenting. Some men have never baby-sat and may have had no experience with child care before they had a baby of their own. It is important to have a good support system in place to ask questions about the daily parenting challenges that arise, such as what to do when the child has a rash or how to deal with defiant behavior in toddlers. This support system can consist of family members, other parents or a support group for single parents.

Supporting Your Family

Any parent can find supporting a family challenging, but many single fathers feel particularly stressed by the challenge of being the primary, or only, breadwinner. Some men find the challenge of living primarily on one paycheck difficult. If you have a low income, it is important to be aware of the state and school services that can help, such as the free or reduced-cost lunch program or child care subsidies. These programs can help make ends meet and reduce your financial burden.

Becoming a Nurturer

While some dads are naturally caring and have always taken a hands-on approach to parenting, some single dads find becoming a nurturer challenging, especially if their ex-wife or partner did most of the hands-on child care. Single dads have to care for children while they are ill, comfort them when they cry and listen to them talk about their daily problems. However, single fathers can learn to take on the additional responsibilities.

Balancing Work, Home and Leisure

Striking the right balance between work and home life is a challenge for some single fathers. The tasks of working full time, caring for children, and creating a clean and safe home environment can be overwhelming. Some men become frustrated because they are not as familiar with many of these tasks, such as cooking or doing laundry. It is also important to take time for yourself to relax and regroup, or you may become irritable with the children or overwhelmed by stress.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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