No matter how you slice or dice it, single parenting brings in brokenness: a broken home, a broken marriage, and often a broken heart. I was a single father for over nine years, so I get it. I also remember the wave of emotions, struggles, and challenges during those years. Using the old If-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now adage, please allow me to share some wisdom I have picked up along the way. Although there are multiple “traps” a single father can fall into, here are three major single parent problems, how the trap is set, and how you can avoid or overcome them should you find yourself trapped.
I run a small group for single fathers. Our number one rule is we NEVER slam the moms (or anyone else for that matter). Sure, we may do a lot of venting, but when expressing frustration becomes slanderous and toxic, we need to put the clamps down. When we allow unresolved bitterness, unforgiveness, or resentment to fester, it will eventually consume us and spill over into other areas of our lives. I highly suggest finding someone you can talk to, such as a mentor, friend, family member, or pastor. Allow them to be a sounding board, but seek ways to keep your heart soft and forgiving too. Your children will be the biggest beneficiaries if you are able to master this.
2. Competing With the Other Parent
Unfortunately, this is something I excelled in early in my daughter’s life. I often found myself trying to one up her mom when it came to the time I spent with her, gifts, and acts of affection. What should have been given out of selfless sacrifice became fueled by my own selfishness. When we focus all our energy on trying to out-do the other side of the family, we take our eyes off of our primary responsibility of parenting our kids and giving them what they need the most: us. Once I was able to stop doing this and slow down enough to enjoy the time I had with my daughter, my eyes were opened to multiple traditions and little quirks that were special between me and her. Today, we have plenty of memory-makers that are still ours.
3. Not Leading Their Children
Whether a father is married or single, has full or minimal custody- he still plays a vital role in his children’s overall sense of well-being and self-perception. Dad, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of you staying zeroed in when it comes to investing in your son or daughter! Do what you can with the time you have and be on alert for other traps that can deter you. Stay involved in their schoolwork. Speak words of affirmation, life, and love into their hearts, and keep modeling the life you want them to live out as adults one day. When a father steps up as one of the primary leaders in the life of his children, he establishes a foundation in their lives that is not easily shaken.
I once heard a man say, “Our decisions today have the ability to affect at least three generations: ours, our children’s, and our grandchildren’s.” What steps must you take today to be the physical, spiritual, and life leader your kids need, despite current circumstances? Taking small steps now to protect your family will have a generational impact down the line. I’m pulling for you, dads!
SOUND OFF: What traps have you had to overcome as a single dad?
Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry, the coauthor of The Daddy Gap, and the co-founder of the Midwest Single Parenting Summit.
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