If you are raising a child or children alone, you know how difficult it can be to be a single parent. If you are a dad raising a child or children alone, you might find it not only difficult but also isolating, as you do not have a large percentage of peers doing the same. Only about 16 percent of parents are single dads.
If you go to a school function, for example, you might find that you are one of the only single dads there. Self-care is important for everyone, and single dads are no exception. Read on for some great tips on taking care of yourself as you raise your children on your own.
The Many Facets of Self-Care
Like all single parents, you are likely doing it all, from holding down a job and running the family budget to getting your children ready for the day (and ready for bed) to helping with homework and attending parent-teacher conferences. In the same way that it is impossible for single moms to do it all perfectly, it is also impossible for single dads to do it all without ever missing a beat.
The fact is you need to have other adults in your life who can help you out on occasion. There are many ways you can ask for help. Think about physical logistics. If one child has a soccer scrimmage while your other child has ballet practice, it can be nearly impossible to get them both where they need to be. Ask a parent with a child in one of the activities if they can give your child a ride.
You might also look for occasional babysitting. If your own family does not live nearby and you can’t afford to pay for a private sitter, you might consider finding a church or recreation center that provides fun programming for children one night per month or something similar. This can give you the time you need to go holiday shopping, to catch up on laundry, or to simply take a nap!
Making Regular Self-Care a Habit
When you have children, particularly when they’re young, it can be easy to fall into the routine of taking care of their needs while neglecting your own. This is not solely an issue experienced by single dads, of course; single moms (and married parents of both sexes) often do the same thing.
But it is important to take some time each day to take care of your own needs. This might mean sitting your toddler in their highchair in front of the television for a half hour so you can shower, shave, and put on a fresh outfit. It might mean asking one of your buddies if he can watch your little one for a couple hours so you can make a doctor’s appointment.
It means being sure to get in three (preferably healthy) meals per day. If you don’t have time to cook healthy meals frequently, try cooking on the weekends and storing portioned meals in the refrigerator or freezer. You might also sign up with one of the services that delivers ready-to-cook food to your door each week.
Do not feel guilty about using before- or after-school care so you can hit the gym or go for a run. Find times in your day when you can take some deep breaths. Learn some grounding techniques so you can reduce your stress quickly if you are in a high-tension situation. Remember that you need to take care of yourself even as you are taking care of your children.
You should also be sure that you are getting enough sleep. It can be difficult when children are small or if they have nightmares, but try to get in your 40 winks as often as you can. If you need to take a nap on the weekends while the kids nap or go to bed at 8:00 pm when you put them to bed, that is perfectly fine!
Ignoring Your Self-Care Warning Light; Neglecting Your Health
You cannot be the best dad possible if you do not feel good. If you have not seen your doctor in a while, make an appointment for a physical and bloodwork. Make sure you are being tested for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other chronic conditions at the frequency that your doctor recommends for someone your age.
If you already know that you have chronic conditions, be sure to get the medication you need or make the lifestyle changes you need to make to stay healthy. Mental health is also important. Single dads who are struggling with the financial and emotional pressures of raising children may be prone to depression and anxiety.
If you think you have signs of these mental health issues, ask your doctor for a screening. You can also find screenings online; if the results indicate that you might have an issue, set up an appointment with a counselor to go over how you are feeling. If you are feeling a lot of anger or sadness or if you are simply having trouble coping, please get the help you need.
Legal Counsel and Support for Single Dads
If your children’s mother is no longer in the picture, this might not be an issue, but if you have sole or primary custody of your children and your ex is threatening to sue for custody, it is important that you know how to handle the situation. While a private attorney can help, it is not usually necessary to go that route. A family lawyer can be very expensive, and, in many cases, you can represent yourself to fight for your rights and children.
A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can be the answer you have been looking for. We work with people in all 50 states to help them get the best legal outcomes for themselves and, most importantly, their children. If your children’s other parent is making threats or trying to take your children from you, please contact us so we can go over your options and see if National Family Solutions is right for you.