Adventures In Single Parenthood

This is a guest post from Michael Denmon.  Michael is a Dad who is working on being a better man, one project at a time. Catch up with his latest attempts at Dad Level Viking.

Being a single parent isn’t ranked very high on most people’s wish lists. As part of a couple, you will have someone to pick up the slack when things get overwhelming. You get to share knowing glances with your partner when a child misbehaves, or giggle together over seriously hilarious firsts for a baby. You feel like you are a part of a club as a couple when parenting together.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the way things work out all the time.  Going down the path of single parenthood doesn’t mean that the experience can’t be rewarding or impactful, however. You just have to be open to change and have the goal of being the best parent you can be. If you’re lucky, you will have a communicative co-parent who sees things the same way. If you’re not so lucky, you will have to learn to adapt. And if you are very lucky, you will grow from the experience of being a single dad.

A Brand New World

I didn’t grow up with younger siblings or cousins. I didn’t have any close friends with young kids as an adult, either, so the joys of parenthood were unknown to me. I expected to lean on the experience of my son’s mother, who had grown up in the middle of eleven children. I figured that she had the experience needed to get us through without a child-rearing manual. However, when our relationship ended, I had to adapt fast to make sure that my son was provided with experienced care. And that is where the fun happened.

Healthcare As A Single Dad 

One thing you don’t realize before becoming a single father is that kids are walking and talking germ factories. Germ factories that enjoy forming cooperatives with other germ factories and then build new germ factories that maximize their germ-producing capabilities and variety of said germs. There is no defense for these germs. So understand that your child may be sick regularly and that you will get sick just as soon as they get better. And then, the vicious cycle will repeat every four weeks unless there is an event like the start of school, a birthday party, or the wind happens to randomly be blowing from the southwest, in which case quarantines may be necessary. You will seriously consider buying stock in Kleenex at least once per financial quarter, and certain bodily fluids will cease to disgust you or even be noticed when expelled forth from your child’s nose onto your work shirt.

You also get to enjoy the snuggles of your children when they want to be comforted. You will adapt to realize that when your little loved one is sick, there is nothing you won’t do to help them feel better. You will find stores of energy that you didn’t know existed so that you can take care of your child and nurse them back to health. You will also make friends on Facebook with lots of nurses, doctors, and parents in general, who have been there and done that. 

Becoming A Social Butterfly

Another joy of single parenting is the need to become more outgoing so that your child grows up with the experience of familial friends and access to all of the events that go along with these types of relationships. Single dads can tend to be reclusive. Most husbands tend to lean on their wives for the social networking chores (outside of fantasy football), so when you no longer have that safety net to cover for you, you have to learn how to be social. You want your child to be invited to events, so you learn to be cordial, and how to discuss things other than your hot takes on “what’s wrong with this world these days” related topics. You learn to smile more, reach out more, and generally be a more likable person. For some of us, that isn’t the easiest of tasks. So, the gentle nudge of being more affable so that your kid has a group of friends and bonus parents is a good thing. And if it feels like too much of an ask, just remember to fake it until you make it. It’s for the kids.

Learning to Co-Parent

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a co-parent for their child who is active and involved in their child’s life. For those children, my heart breaks. So if you find yourself fortunate enough to have someone who does fulfill the role of parent, even if it is not within the confines of the traditional family unit, make sure to be thankful for what you have. Also, be thankful that you will learn how to become a master at seeing the bigger picture.

Adults make a myriad of choices that impact their own lives and thus the lives of their children. Those decisions might not support your preferred or ideal choices, and you will be forced to accept the decision of your child’s other parent at times. Often with a married couple, the decisions can seem like they are pre-determined. You give in to the wishes of your partner so that equilibrium is maintained. As a single parent, with an opposite single parent sharing time and resources, you can feel like some choices are out of your hands, and you may be tempted to be obstinate about it, which can lead to animosity and take up the focus of your energy.

But then you see your children. You understand that they didn’t ask for this scenario either. They are even more helpless than you are when it comes to the realities of relationships and their discontinuation. All your kids want is to be loved. To have someone pay attention to them. To have someone be there when they need them. To have someone go on adventures and be creative and entertaining. Have someone to hug them when they are sad, chase them when they want to play, and provide a safe and warm environment, under all circumstances.

Being a single parent isn’t necessarily more or less rewarding than being a parent in a committed relationship with your child’s other parent. You will experience the freedom of self-determination as a single parent and also the despair of feeling like your failure in a relationship will negatively impact your child’s life. You will face frustration about what you thought life might be but isn’t, and you will also have the opportunity to over-indulge your child to overcome your sense of guilt. 

Ultimately, being a single dad boils down to your outlook on life and your ability to make your child’s well-being your primary focus. You get to choose how you provide the support your child needs, and how you respond to challenges that will ultimately teach your child to respond in the same way. You get to choose to make this new life an adventure or live it as a punishment.

For many, becoming a single parent may signify the lack of choice because of the decisions of others. However, you can choose to take control of your own life and how you live it for your child. You get to choose to see singlehood not as a burden or a lesser experience, but as an opportunity to make the most of it and make it an adventure for yourself and your child. 

Succeeding at being a single parent is saying “I choose” even when you may not have had a say in the choice that led you to where you find yourself. So choose the adventure that comes with a new experience, a path to be taken. Choose adventure for yourself and your kids. 

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