By CELA on 27 Feb, 2018

Amplify posts are widely shared by TAFE and university lecturers, by training managers and learning coordinators.  We know this because of the emails and calls we receive asking for permission (of course you can!!).

Today’s post is a little different in focus, yet we think it’s also very shareable.

Daniel Sherwin contacted Amplify after setting up his website last year, Would we be interested in him writing something about the experiences single fathers had with their children’s early childhood services and schools?

At the time, we were also preparing a feature article on the minority of male educators in the sector (see Rattler Issue 124) so we followed the flow and said, yes please.

While he’s based in America, Daniel describes situations that arise for single fathers in Australia too. You may not agree with his views at every point, but if you have any single fathers, uncles or other male guardians with children enrolled at your service or school you might consider sharing this post with them and with the other parents too, regardless of their situation or gender.

Single dads on the rise

Single fathers are on the rise around the world. While still outnumbered by female sole parents, in Australia nearly one in five solo parents is male and in America the number of single dads has doubled since the year 1980, according to the National Center for Fathering.

By 2011, more than 2.6 million American households were headed by a single father. That’s a growth rate of 6 percent, twice the rate for single mums. There are several reasons men end up the sole head of the household:

  • death of a partner or spouse
  • the abandonment of a co-parent
  • gaining full custody after a divorce
  • inheriting guardianship from a sibling or other family member
  • the simple drive to be a parent despite being single

A challenge for any gender, but…

While being a single parent is challenging for everyone, being a single father presents particular trials specific to the situation. Like it or not, our society still adheres to beliefs attributed to traditional gender roles. Some people still see women as the natural caregivers and dismiss fathers as unable to provide a nurturing environment for children.

As a single father, you will probably meet people who are happy to bestow undue credit to an ex. You constantly have to deal with other people’s opinions regarding your situation and the lack of a female parent in the household. While you probably receive a lot of support from friends and family members, administrators and educators at your child’s school may be some of the most common perpetrators of these types of judgments.

The Assumption: You Can’t Be Soft

When children are raised in a dual parent household, often the father is more of the disciplinarian while the mother is more the nurturer. Because of these traditional gender roles, your child’s teachers may assume that your child is not receiving the affection and gentle care they need for proper development. When a child suffers from a lack of affection, they suffer from a lack of self-esteem and may act alienated, hostile, aggressive and antisocial.

The Assumption: You Don’t Have Time to Help Out

Educators often rely on parent volunteers to help with things such as chaperoning field trips and donating treats and goods for in-class parties. As a single father, you may notice your child’s teacher passing you up when it comes to asking for help in the classroom because they assume you are too busy with your job. If you want to be more active in your kid’s education, you may have to be a little more vocal than your kid’s friends’ mothers when it comes to volunteering your time.

The Assumption: You Aren’t Interested in Being in The Loop

Mums tend to do a great job creating little communities for support and information regarding their kids. Most of the time, they’ll make a spot in these mommy groups for single dads without hesitation. However, sometimes they may assume that you are not interested in joining these kinds of groups based on your gender.

Single Dads: The Importance of Self-Care

Parenting is rewarding, but nothing good in the world comes without a lot of work. With all that work often comes stress, which can really take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health. As a single parent, it’s really important you take time to care for yourself.

The idea of “self-care” often seems selfish on the surface, but in reality your self-care is as important for your children as it is for you. Most of the information about self-care as a parent, especially as a single parent, is aimed at women and found in magazines and websites you might not know about.

Forgive yourself

If you are not your happiest and healthiest self, you can’t be the best parent possible for your children. Remind yourself to not get caught up in the details and look at the big picture to help reduce stress. Furthermore, be kind to yourself. No parent does everything right all the time. If you think you’ve made a mistake, be honest with your children about your feelings and learn to forgive yourself. Not only will this help you, but it will also teach your children healthy habits for their own development.

Special challenges

Being a single parent is never easy, but being a single dad comes with special challenges. People – especially your child’s educators – may make assumptions about your parenting style based on your gender. While you can’t control what other people think, you can do everything in your power to be a good parent. Working hard for your child’s well-being is important, but don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Self-care keeps you healthy and happy so you can be the most effective parent you can be while also providing a positive example for your children.

Meet the author

Daniel Sherwin

Hi there! I’m Daniel. I’ve been a single dad to my daughter (9) and son (6) for three years now. I’ll admit I don’t always know what the heck I’m doing, but every day is definitely an adventure and a blessing. And for that, I’m truly grateful. I noticed that there aren’t a lot of resources out there for us single dads so I thought I’d share some of what’s worked for me.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.



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