Whenever we can give a different perspective on parenting we are thrilled to do it. We all know that men and women tackle parenting different. Today, we are fortunate to share the perspective of Daniel Sherwin. Daniel, has a blog called DadSolo.com. He has been a single father for three years. If you’d like to reach out to him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are his experiences and words of wisdom for other dads:
Few men aspire to be single parents. Raising kids alone usually is the result of a shattering experience: divorce or the death of a wife. It won’t be easy, but you can rise to the challenges of single parenthood. How do I know that? Well, I’m currently doing it. Some days are harder than others, but the hope is some of my first-hand experience can help other single dads out there. Read on for some ideas.
Your children come first
Raising children and teenagers to become awesome adults is not rocket science. You have to show up. That means you will want to hammer out a work schedule that gives you work/life balance. Be upfront with your boss about your need to spend time with your family rather than working late every night. For me, this meant learning to put down the work at home too. It can be so tempting to answer a quick email or take a phone call, but all that time adds up. I owe it to my kids to be present, so I silence my cellphone when I get off work and focus on family.
If, heaven forbid, your job doesn’t give you the flexibility you need, look for another job. Single dads have been known to switch jobs and even careers to get more time with their kids. Keep in mind that they don’t care how much money you make, as long as they are safe and fed.
Don’t try to be “friends”
Don’t try to friend or follow your teens on social media. Especially not as a substitute for being there in real life. Social media is their space to be rebellious. You’re needed at the dinner table, not in their Facebook photo gallery. However, it’s a good idea to check in from time to time to make sure their online habits are safe.
While we’re on that subject, don’t be your teenager’s friend in real life either. Your children and teenagers need you to be a parent. That means they will not always like you or approve of your choices, especially choices relevant to them. While you don’t want to be a tyrant or bully, you definitely want to be an authority figure. Let your children know that your family might look like a democracy, but you get to make executive decisions. However, remember that your family will look different from other families, so resist the temptation to make that comparison. Whenever I found that I was getting down on myself, I took a step back and named five things that made my family unique, no matter how big or small they were. Sometimes it takes a little reminder to make you realize how good you really have it.
Prioritize your mental health
People who have a lot of stress need to learn daily stress-relieving methods. There is a lot of rhetoric surrounding mindfulness, but, in its mosts basic form, mindfulness is a useful coping strategy that can be incorporated anywhere with no equipment.
To be mindful, take stock of how you are feeling in the moment. What are you most worried about? What is the worst thing that can really happen? Be aware of your breathing. See if you can slow it down with deep breaths. Be aware of your heart rate. It’s okay if your heart is pounding, just be aware that it’s doing that. I know it seems too simple, but this little exercise has helped me get some distance on problems. I’ve found that re-focusing my attention elsewhere is the best form of stress relief, as it allows me to step back, regroup, and return refreshed, so I’m not above playing a few levels of Candy Crush in order to get a moment away from my own thoughts. We all need time outs now and again.
Make time for stress relief
Incorporate short bursts of exercise into your day. If, for instance, you are waiting for an important phone call, use the time to run up a few flights of stairs or do some squats and lunges. Some people swear by stress balls. But the truth is that a more active spurt of all-over body exercise that gets your heart pumping is more stress relieving and better for your health. Even just taking a brisk walk around the office will help you cope with pressure.
Behavioral Wellness & Recovery says, “It’s important to learn small ways to face that stress head-on and reduce it no matter where you are, because having effective coping mechanisms handy will allow you to get through even the most challenging times. You can use your new skills to immediately start feeling better, and to prevent the emergence of chronic mental health problems.”
Give yourself a break
Learn not to trash talk yourself or your ability to handle stress, especially in your thoughts. If you hear yourself thinking, “I made a mistake with …” or “I shouldn’t have …” or “I am crap at …” clamp down on that thought and divert it to something positive about yourself. That shouldn’t be too hard: You’re a hero for sticking around and raising your kids. Focus on that.
Losing a wife or partner and landing the job of full-time parent can devastate men just as much as it does women. No one is a perfect parent. I have learned the key to being successful is to be present in my children’s lives while doing daily checks on my mental health – and to enjoy parenting every day!