Our Story Begins:
Single Fathers, We’re Growing in Numbers!
I never stopped to think about the responsibilities I was about to shoulder.
Make no mistake, it’s no easy task. There are many days I’m not particularly certain I handle them well, either, but I am doing it. Three years ago, after my wife – mother to my four children – passed away, my entire world changed. So did the world for my children. We went from being a dual-income family to a single-income.
We went from being a dual-parent family to a family with a single parent. No . . . a single father! The common thought is that, in the world of divorce or separation or what have you the prevailing thought is that the Mom generally gets custody or is best equipped to handle parenting alone. It’s a thought I dispute – not that Mom isn’t equipped to handle parenting alone. I feel nobody is ever equipped right off the bat to parent alone. The reality is, though, that those parents just don’t have a choice in the matter.
But when people start to act like there’s no possible way a single father can do this or think it’s totally uncommon it gets under my skin. Just a little.
Turns out Dads can and are getting more involved and parenting more. By themselves. Yes, Virginia, the Y chromosome seems to allow for empathy, knowledge, and the possibility that your Dad might just be able to do a load of laundry without ruining every new shirt you bought.
A new study by the Pew Center on social and demographic trends shows that men are growing in numbers. In fact, 8% of households in the US are headed by a single father; in 1960 that number was 1%. Of those, more than half are divorced, single, or widowed (I always hated that term. Widowed. And widower. Why am I not widowered, to steal from Nora Ephron?).
Take it beyond single parenting. The Pew Research says dads spend more time with their kids today than their own parents did, for the most part. Many are seeing their roles – particularly in dual income homes – converge and they take on more household roles. I know this firsthand, too. Before my wife passed away, for years, I did most the cooking in our home. I helped with the cleaning. The only thing I wasn’t allowed to do was laundry; you ruin one pair of pants that YOU paid for and you’re banned from the laundry room forever!
Perhaps the biggest statistic I’ll share is that the number of fathers struggling with balancing home and work is pretty much the same as working moms.
It’s true, too. I struggle, daily, with talking to my kids, working the hours I need, and making enough money to survive and hopefully get them into college. I cannot afford to lose a job so this is where things stand.
But the best indication that you’re striking a balance comes when you open your card on Father’s Day.
“None of us would be as happy as we are or would be doing what we do if it wasn’t for you. We love you and appreciate everything you’ve done for us,” said the message in my card this year. Even if I think I’ve got it wrong, that message told me I must have gotten a few things right.
Four of them, anyway.
What about you? Do you see the Dad with the stroller and cringe thinking he’ll screw up? Do you think Dads work and come home without getting engaged?