Back in the late 1960s, two psychologists named Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe created a scale of life events with a rating of the level of stress they inflict on the individual. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale rates the death of a spouse, divorce and marital separation as the three most stressful events an adult can endure.
If you've found yourself cast in the role of single dad, then you've likely experienced one of these three major life changes.
The problem is that you're not the only one that needs care. You've got your kids to think of as well. Daunting is a good word to describe the life of a new single dad. Fortunately, men have successfully raised kids alone for decades. Even more fortunately, many of them have shared their experiences as advice to other single dads. Here are some things you should know about single fatherhood.
You're Dad, Not Mom and Dad
Finding yourself suddenly a single parent will almost inevitably lead you to this simple conclusion: You need to "replace mom". It's perfectly natural to want to give your kids a female presence in their lives. It's also perfectly natural to feel terrified at the prospect of raising your kids, especially your daughters, on your own.
Getting into romantic relationships obviously isn't out of bounds when you're a single dad, especially when someone special comes along. What you should avoid is succumbing to the urge to base a relationship on your desire for some help with parenting. You should also avoid taking on the role of both mother and father. You're a father and can offer only what a father can offer.
Look around and you'll find there are female figures in your life that can fulfill the void left by the absence of a mom. If you lack female relatives who can step in and help out, organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters can help. Just remember not to be hard on yourself for not being mom and dad. No one expects you to be.
Find Time to Make Good Meals
It's not like you don't have enough to do. In addition to work, you've also got your kids -- all to yourself. If you have help from family members or friends, you're lucky. But even the closest friend or relative can only be called on but so often. In short, you've got plenty to do. There's an abundance of corners that can be cut in any given day; don't let the meals you provide your children become one of them.
Grocery stores offer so many cheap and easy meals in the freezer section and in the aisles that it can be hard to get creative. Creativity, however, is just what it takes to come up with healthy family-style meals. Take some time to plan out meals for a month and see how it goes.
Any time you can cook a meal, whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch, try to take advantage of it. Dinner is the meal that commonly takes place when the most members of the family are around to partake together. Preparing a roster of meals you and your kids like will ultimately make both cooking and grocery shopping easier. The confidence you develop from cooking will also help you to get more creative with meals. Plus, knowing how to cook doesn't hurt with the ladies.
You're Not Alone and Don't Forget to Share
Whether your single fatherhood was the result of a divorce, a death or some other event, becoming one is a rough transition for both you and the kids. Don't think this change is easy for anyone. Even more importantly, don't think that you're the only man who's going through this.
Luckily, you live in the age of the Internet, which is rife with online support groups and forums where other single dads offer advice and parenting tips. There's absolutely no shame in asking questions on parenting. Parenthood is a work in progress and now that you're a single dad, you may find times when you have to think on your feet.
One single dad came to realize how much easier things can be with two parents after one of his two daughters had to use the bathroom during a movie at the theater. Parent Magazine recounts how he had to ask a mother seated nearby to keep an eye on his older girl while he took his youngest to the bathroom. What's more, he wrote about it and shared his experience with other single dads.
You Should Create Daily Routines
You're going to need a steep learning curve, especially if the onset of your single fatherhood was sudden. An onslaught of responsibilities that were once borne by the kids' mother -- and are suddenly yours -- can be overwhelming. One of the best ways to traverse the pitfalls of raising kids alone is by forming routines.
You're seriously pressed for time in the mornings. You've got to get ready for work as before, but now you've also got the kids to prepare for school as well. Get a head start by making lunches the night before. Practice braiding your daughter's hair the way she likes it on the weekends. Make sure everybody has clean clothes for the next day.
Don't be overly tough on yourself if you find that you're late to just about everything at first. After a little while, you'll realize you've become an ace at getting everyone ready on the fly.
You Should Leave Time for You
Remember how difficult it was to think of taking the time to sit down and coming up with 28 different meals? Yes, there are tremendous demands on your time; work, kids, dating, life in general -- all of these things can keep you away from time with yourself. You should actively work to find time to spend alone, or, if you prefer company, to do things that you enjoy with others.
Try to set aside some money to splurge on babysitters once in awhile. You should also ask around to find the most trusted child care providers; ask friends and family who they use. Keep a list of sitters handy in case your first choice on the list isn't available. When your poker buddies call to ask you to sit in as a fourth or you feel like getting in a round of golf by yourself, you'll have the money and the babysitter to relieve you for a little while.
If you feel pangs of guilt at the thought of leaving your kids, remember this: There's little benefit to be found in the wisdom or guidance of a frazzled single dad. Take time out to recharge your batteries -- for you and your kids.