I received an email survey from a college student at Ohio University asking about life as a single parent and, more specifically, as a single father. Instead of just answering it back in email, I thought it would be fun and interesting to turn it onto – ta daaa! – a blog post. So here we are. If you’re a single parent, I invite you to answer the questions in a comment below too so we can compare notes!
Hi! I am currently enrolled in a community journalism class at Ohio University and am doing a project covering a non-geographical community. I chose single parents. I was wondering if you had a couple minutes to answer a few questions if possible and any other additional comments you want to add…
1. What is the most difficult thing in your opinion about being a single parent?
I’ve had many years to figure out the complicated world of single parenting and fortunately most of the chaos has eased off by this point: my oldest two are in college and my youngest is in high school. Still, the hardest part is that there’s just one of you, so if one child needs help with homework while another is acting up and dinner has yet to be cooked, well, there were many times a clone would have been darn useful. That’s also true with transportation: in the old days we all just socialized with kids on our street and in the neighborhood so “going to Susie’s house” involved walking or a short bike ride. Now it’s all about driving them around and that can get quite daunting, particular if they’re involved in clubs or sports.
There’s also no emotional support for parental challenges, which is a sort of slow-burn in the background for single parents. No commiseration and often quite the opposite: an ex who you just know will criticize your handling of a situation regardless of what decision you make. That can be incredibly difficult when it’s stressful. Sometimes all you need is someone to say “well done ” and give you a hug. Single parents don’t tend to get that sort of feedback much at all.
Us single fathers who are committed to our children and an active part of their daily lives have it even more tough because institutions generally see the mother as “the real parent” and us guys aren’t as good at being emotionally supportive of each other too. Have a tough day as a single dad? You ain’t gettin’ any positive feedback or support, chum, so suck it up. That gets old after a while, as you might expect.
2. What do you think is the most common stereotype you face that is not true?
That men can’t be good fathers and supportive and loving parents. I recall one time in kindergarten when the assignment was to make thank you drawings for mommy. Not thank you drawings for parents, for mom. So my daughter did just that, even though I dropped her off and picked her up after school that day. That gets old pretty fast, as you might imagine.
(if you’re curious, I had a long talk with the head of school after that incident and they promised to “be more open minded”)
3. Did you ever imagine that you would be a single parent?
Nope. Not a big fan, really, and I can see the cost on my children over the years. But sometimes the person who seems like a great life partner at one point in your life turns out to be, well, not quite that years later. Add the stress and challenges of parenting and it can be quite an alarming change! 🙂
4. Why do you believe there is more media covering single moms versus single dads?
There are more single moms who are actively involved with their children’s daily lives, and while women often find their identity through motherhood, it’s much more common for men to find their identity through their professional pursuits. So a man will proudly tell you that he’s an engineer or manager or cop, but a woman will lead with her role as parent. That’s then reflected in media coverage. Plus, most media – including TV series and advertising writers – are lazy and so the common tropes of super-mom who does it all by herself and looks good in the process and the incompetent father who can barely change a diaper, let alone help their children with homework or counsel about dating.
I hope that helps out this particular student and as I said earlier, I invite you, dear reader, to add your two cents too!