My Life As A Single Dad
My son has lived with me alone since he was 4 years old. He moved out when he was 18 but has been back with me for over a year now. For 20 years I have been a single parent. In all that time I don’t think I have got to know another dad in a similar situation. I haven’t tried to seek them out. I have enjoyed my uniqueness. I know my own experiences and feelings are just that and I wouldn’t want to generalise. How different would things be for me if I had more than one child, a daughter rather than a son, if I moved here from a foreign land?
Being a lifelong idealist I have always considered myself a feminist. To me that means an equality that goes beyond gender. Being a single parent has meant being a part of a mainly female grouping which I have felt comfortable with. It has always seemed to me to be the best of all worlds. Apart from the economic reality of living somewhere around the poverty line, it’s been nothing but positive. Here I’m not thinking so much about the highs and lows of my relationship with my son but more about the self-image of being a single parent and other people’s attitude to my role. I find almost without exception men treat me as a conquering hero. In the battle of the sexes parenting is probably the only area where men feel doomed before they step into the ring. Many times in a pub I’ll be in conversation with a bloke who will refer to children he no longer sees. Others will warmly shake my hand and slap my back. Meanwhile women tend to want to know my story. I’m not seen as a threat, more a curiosity.
Being a single parent means you have to try to be good at all kinds of things. You need to have a loving relationship with your children while setting boundaries. You need to budget on a limited income. You need to run a household in a practical sense – shop, put food on the table, housework. You need to be able to share your problems and worries but also grit your teeth and get on with things. You need to make big decisions on your own. Maybe that’s where being able to cross the gender divide helps with single dads needing to learn roles and tasks usually left to the mother - to be able to cook, wash up, clean the toilet; to be able to talk and listen to their kids; to talk to others about their doubts and anxieties; to admit they don’t have all the answers. With a positive attitude, willingness to learn and make mistakes, and with lots of luck I think being a single parent can be a genuinely liberating experience. Crossing that gender gap is one of the main challenges of being a single parent. For me? I can cook, tidy, clean and run a household as well as anyone. I’ll seek advice and talk about problems. What I’ve struggled with is showing enough physical affection and emotional openness towards my son. For me to be otherwise would be forced or false. It’s one reason I’m pleased his mother came back into his life – her natural warmth and spontaneity must be welcome to him.
I’ve never shouted out ‘I am a single parent!’ I usually only tell people when they ask. It’s a label I’m comfortable with. There are things I wished I’d done differently and, yes, a few regrets. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure but most of all a great adventure.
Written by single Dad Seb