When it comes to single parents trying to raise young ones, we often think of moms but not dads. Perhaps that’s because statistically there are more single mothers out there than fathers. Or maybe it’s because the image of a mum with her young baby is just one we’ve seen so many times over the years. Either way, at least three single fathers think it’s time they get their due.
Meet Mike (middle), Paul (right) and Jason, three of the five single fathers being featured on TLC’s latest reality series, Single Dad Seeking. Yes, that’s totally a working title, and oh yes, they’re seeking love. After all, when you’re a dude, finding someone to snuggle with after the kids have gone to bed isn’t exactly the picnic it’s often made out to be. But it’s just one of several problems that come with the job:
1. It really is hard to find a “soul mate”
According to the guys, they’ve dated plenty of women who just weren’t interested in meeting their kids or else they felt that the relationship would be too short-lived for them to bother introducing the ladies to the kids. Then there was the fact that they really did just want to put their kids first. That’s why, Mike tells us, he stopped dating for at least two years, until his son had gotten through kindergarten.
“This show came at the right time,” he adds.
2. People look at you like you’re doing something wrong
At least that’s the experience Jason has had, especially when his kids were younger. He recalls experiences of getting the “stink eye at Target” for being a single dude with young children.
“Especially when my children were younger, people would look at me like, ‘What is this single guy doing with a baby? There’s no mother around.’ That was a legitimate thing that happened more than a few times.”
3. The “deadbeat” dad stigma is real
And it’s one that they’ve gotten in addition to strange looks over the years.
“Society kind of accepts the single mom thing, but we don’t get any credit. Not all of us are deadbeat dads that people tend to think of when you’re not with the mom and you’re not paying child support,” Mike says. “You don’t hear of that when the roles are reversed.”
4. They do feel a lack of “mother’s instinct”
Of the three guys, Jason admits that he had more of a natural instinct in his original relationship than the mother did, so had a bit of an easier time fulfilling both parental roles. But for Mike and Jason, it was a steep learning curve.
“Women typically have a more nurturing intuition,” Jason explains. “I have to take a little more time to think about that, and make sure to give that to the kids also.”
5. Having young daughters that need to use the restroom in public is awkward
In fact it’s just as awkward as you’d imagine it would be. For Paul, who has three daughters, it was something he dealt with for years. Now, his eldest daughter is 12 years old so she can at least go in with the other two, but before then it required a bit of a coping strategy.
“They would go in there and I’d stand outside… if they took too long I’d have to ask someone, ‘Hey, are there three girls in there? Are they having water gun fights or whatever?'” he remembers. “It’s come a long way, but it is a learning curve. You have to do what you have to do.”
6. There are few support groups
When you’re a single mom, it’s absolutely hard. But there are resources (in general) that you may or may not be able to take advantage of depending on where you live. For single dads, there are just too few of them out there for there to be much help. In fact before joining the show, these dads felt they had no one else they could really talk to about their situation.
“It’s a unique situation. In fact, other than these guys, I don’t know of any other single dads that have full custody of their kids,” Jason says. “It is a unique situation and it is something that you have to go through on your own.”
7. Only some of them are remembered on Mother’s Day
Everyone knows that when it comes to holidays that celebrate parents, mother’s day is the cash cow, so to speak. But when the annual celebration comes around, it seems to be a split reaction in terms of who is actually recognized for taking on both roles. Jason admits he gets cards from friends and family members, while Mike reveals he goes into his kid’s school and does the mother-son breakfast with him.
For Jason though, he admits the day can be a little awkward for his daughters and therefore for himself.
“You try to make it the best you can for them, but we kind of focus on father’s day,” he says. “The school they go to is actually really good; for every muffins with the mothers they have bagels with dad or whatever it is. We try to deflect and kind of go with that.”
The struggle is all too real.