Ten Things No One Tells You About Being A Single Dad

The single dad experience isn’t something that gets much coverage in pop culture. You don’t often see movies or books focusing on dads as solo parents the way they do on single moms or typical two-parent homes. With very little exposure, it’s not surprising that single dads are often overlooked by society. It’s also not surprising that many step into this world with little knowledge of the experiences they’re about to have. These are the ten things no one tells you about being a single dad.

  1. Mom made it easier. When you were with the mother of your children, you never really grasped how much she did for the kids. Now that you’re a single dad and it’s your weekend with the kids, you realize how much you took for granted. Getting them ready in the morning is no longer just waiting on the couch watching Sportscenter while they magically appear in the doorway, ready to go, looking presentable. There’s actual work you have to put in to making them look like little functioning human beings.
  2. You actually have to learn how to cook. Never are you more aware of how inadequate your cooking abilities are than when three little pairs of eyes are staring back at you in the kitchen, anxiously awaiting their Saturday morning breakfast. Sometimes you have to abandon the cause and just go for the Uber Eats. But at some point, you have to face the music and start learning how to put together some meals, even if it’s just spaghetti or mac and cheese.
  3. If you have daughters, prepare to turn into a fashionista. We’ve all seen Big Daddy. It’s great that Adam Sandler let’s his son dress in rain boots and t-shirts that go down to his ankles. But that doesn’t quite work in real life. Dressing your children requires the single dad to find his inner fashion designer, especially when you have girls. Combing their hair or putting it up in a bun doesn’t come as intuitively as you might expect. YouTube or Pinterest is your friend.
  4. Kids are so damn expensive, especially when you’re working with one income. After you’ve paid your bills, paid your fatherly dues to their mother, and filled up the fridge, you still then have to pay for the things you do when they’re actually with you. The money drains rather quickly, but every dollar spent on them is well worth the investment. Word of advice: spend your money on experiences instead of things. It’s what they will remember ten years from now. A trip to the local children’s museum will stick with them longer than the doll that will end up under the bed in a couple of weeks anyway.
  5. They grow up faster now that you’re not with them 24/7. There are some pretty significant life events you might only get to experience in bits and pieces while missing out on others entirely. You might miss out on seeing their first step, hearing their first word, or seeing them go potty for the first time. Often times, when you pick them up, they’ll have gone from speaking two words to saying ten new words while they were with their mom over the last couple of weeks. Growing up fast takes on a whole new meaning for single dads.
  6. It can be terribly lonely. It’s simple math. The average standard custodial agreement outlines that the father can see his children every other weekend and on Thursdays for an hour in the evening. For the purposes of being realistic, that one hour during the week doesn’t allow a dad to do much. By the time you pick them up and get to wherever you are going, it’s time to turn back around to drop them off.  Learning to cope with the reality of not seeing your children is often one of the toughest parts of being a single dad. In fact, it’s usually the single most difficult part. The adjustment can be painful and can take years to get used to. It might sound a bit blunt, but sometimes bearing it and allowing time to heal is the only way to go.
  7. It’s not like when you were a kid. The way your dad raised you is likely different from how you’ll have to raise your own. We live in different times. Kids don’t seem to want to go outside with their friends and explore their neighborhood or play a game of basketball with a makeshift hoop. At younger and younger ages, children are enamored with technology and the trends that come with it. There are 8-year-olds with their own YouTube channels making slime or dance videos. This is a foreign concept to many parents, even young ones! Most kids have a phone by the time they’re in middle school. This gives them access to sites and information we could only dream of at this age. Anyone recall having to go to the library to complete a book report.
  8. The step-dad worries us. We worry about this new man in their lives for several reasons. Is he a good man? Will he treat our children right? What role will he play in their lives from a parenting standpoint? Will our kids favor him one day since he’s spending more time with them? Is he a better dad than us? These are all normal worries that no one prepares us for, but they exist nonetheless. What makes it even harder is coming to terms with the reality that we don’t often have much of a say in any of this. Who our ex decides to spend her life with after us is up to her, and rightly so. We have figure out a way to ensure our standing as “dad” is always respected without overstepping our boundaries.
  9. Your daughter will change pretty much overnight. It’s not something any dad is ready for but it happens to us all. You will feel a tinge of sadness and nostalgia because you have to accept that she is no longer the same little girl who wants to spend every waking second clinging to your leg, but you will also feel pride because the young girl standing before you has grown into a smart, beautiful person ready to carve her path in the world.
  10. Every weekend counts. You aren’t going to have nearly as much time with your children as you would like, but when you do have them, you have to make every weekend count. When it’s your turn to spend time with them, cherish each day because when they aren’t around, you’ll wish they were. When they’re with you, leave home and go out to do things. Plan activities. Go to the park. Visit museums. Ride bikes. Go to festivals. Play board games. Learn about the things they enjoy and take a vested interest in it. Create lasting memories. When they look back on their childhood and think of their time with dad, these are the things they will remember fondly.