Father who is not in heaven…The travails of a single father!

  • By Team TDO

Fatherhood normally brings out the worst fears in a man. It all begins in those first nine months when the man realizes that he is going to have to share his affections with the little one about to come. Next comes the new arrival and with it hundreds of minor adjustments to make. Every parent, be it mum or dad, would gladly do it all over again if need be! However single fatherhood is a different ballgame altogether! Single fatherhood is when a man has to raise a child with the mum either divorced or separated or at worse dead!

Losing a wife through divorce or death is never easy to come to terms with, especially if you have a baby or a young child. Hats off to the unsung heroes of the world: The Single Father!

None of the above possibilities augur well for what is to come, especially for the dad involved, as it calls for some rather serious adjustments. We are so used to saying mother and child and even for a single parent, motherhood doesn’t quite seem far out of place. Even the very picture of a dad struggling to restore order in the house with a bunch of kids singlehandedly, can bring on a grin. However, we are sure it isn’t quite as funny as the movie “Three Men and a Child” make it out to be.

Some men have the support system of a mother or elders in the family due to which they are exempt from their extraordinary duties and well insulated from the innumerable things that go with single parenthood. Yes, sometimes you can’t help but admire how mothers can go through so much! They can go about their normal work routine with fewer problems. However, with nuclear families on the rise or with no help available the poor single dad is between a rock and a hard place. Depending on the number of children and their ages would certainly determine the worry quotient in the single dad.

Frank was about 31 and ran a prosperous chain of stores across the states when he lost Martha to cancer. He had 2 children - Mary who was 9 and Phil who was just 6. Frank had to depend on caretakers initially to tend to his children but he was torn every time he had to travel out of time and leave his children to the mercy of a distant aunt or baby sitters. He finally decided to sell off his business and do something locally so that he could be near his children.

This is a typical example of single dads. Most times these men date or settle down with women who have children of their own. This is a good arrangement if it clicks. If it doesn’t then it can lead to more bitterness and sorrow for the children who are too tender to understand why this is happening to them. Tempers are frayed and dad doesn’t seem to like them any longer is the impression that children realize quickly. New relationships don’t happen overnight. They take time and in the meanwhile, a father really has to grapple with his everyday realities plus the added role of mother to his children.

If you are in this situation then my heart goes out to you. However, just hold on to the thought that there have been hundreds of men in a similar situation as you, and have come through shining forth as a mother to their children. And, some of these children have been extremely happy and thankful at the way ‘Dad’ handled the task single handedly to raise successful and balanced children.

So, if you are a dad who has just separated or divorced remember:

  1. Never drag your children in your marital bickering. This can only make children feel responsible for your spilt and can fill their innocent lives with guilt which can ruin their self-confidence in the long run.
  2. Always try to explain gently and patiently without pointing fingers towards the missing mum. Even though you might have a valid enough reason to say mean things about the mother, refrain from doing it, particularly as she is not there to defend herself.
  3. Try not to play ‘Martyr Dad’ in front of your children especially about the sacrifices you have had to make to be with them. Your children are your responsibility and mum not being there does not change that one bit. Your children will, in time, understand and appreciate all that you have done for them.
  4. You might have to entrust your children to the care of relatives or baby sitters. Do call up regularly even if it is for a few minutes to reassure that dad hasn’t abandoned them. Children are very sensitive to these feelings and will be more secure in the knowledge that you care.
  5. When you are in a new relationship, obviously your attention is going to be divided between the new love and symbols of old love. Try to involve your children as soon as possible in your serious relationship. The sooner the better as your children will know what to expect and orient themselves to new beginnings.

If you are a bereaved father

You have to be strong for your children in this situation. Yes, it is going to be a painful thing indeed to lose a partner at whatever stage in life. Though you don’t want to appear weak in front of your children remember holding on to sorrow can only make it worse.

After all, you have a task at hand don’t you? Yes it will be difficult to remember feeding times and all those things that only women instinctively know. If you have a small baby then it is best for you to get the advice of the local council or elders in your family as to baby care. You might have to consult a pediatrician about bottle feeding and all of your baby’s cycles. It will be difficult initially, but then with a little faith and help from friends, nothing is impossible.