Psychology of Single Fathers

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; yet you are the one who gets burned” – Buddha

On The Psychology of Single Fathers

How do single fathers become single fathers? Is it because their significant other/life partner passed away?

Or is it through irreconcilable differences?

The list of reasons why a man becomes a single father is unfortunately vast and often overlooked.

Most single mothers and fathers would agree filling such a role was not part of their long-term life plan. Like what Michael Pittaro Ph.D. says, “we all have a story”.

Throughout Pittaro’s own personal story as a single father, he often cites the 2013 Pew Research Center Study. In it, he cites “a mere 8% of households with minor children in the United States are headed by a single father, up from just over 1% in 1960”. For context, he calls for more education and assessment of single fathers, hoping one day a lesser stigma will loom over aforementioned fathers through better education on the subject matter.

“In order to truly sway the court’s steadfast and most often, negative view of fathers, we need to step up and prove that while some men are genuinely deadbeat dads and deservedly so due to their own behaviors and actions, there are some who take this role seriously and therefore, they should be held in the same regard as dedicated, committed single mothers.”

What Happens Next?

What happens to men who become single fathers? Is there as great of a support group for single fathers as there is for single mothers? I’m sure you’re asking yourself right now, “why is this picture-book author writing about the psychology of a single father?”

Soon, I will become a single father; circumstances, out of respect for the mother of my child, I shall not reveal. For the sake of this post, it matters not what the circumstances are. 

Two years after my divorce, I met a beautiful woman who is now the mother of my child. Not until some time after we met when it was decided I wanted to be a father someday. Blessed, it was only after the second try we believe conception took place. Let’s fast forward through “the circumstances” out of respect.

Depression, bitterness, anger, resentment, guilt, shame, humiliation…the list of ebbing and flowing feelings felt with each new day. As the reality of becoming a single father continued sinking inward, the pressure became greater.

By The Numbers

In fact, mortality rates for single fathers are three-times higher than the corresponding rates in single mothers and partnered people. In the 2018 Lancet Study, there are six risk factors potentially associated with this climb rate.

  • 1) Single fathers were more likely to be older than single mothers or partnered fathers and have cancer or cardio-vascular disease at the beginning of the study 
  • 2) Single fathers had a lower fruit and vegetable consumption, thus a less healthy diet
  • 3) Single fathers had greater monthly binge drinking
  • 4) Single fathers were more stressed out

Single fathers having to work full time and take care of their children at the same time had a higher stress level exposure than single mothers and partnered couples.

Single fathers’ difficult relationships with their ex’s could also increase single fathers’ stress.

  • 5) Loneliness and social isolation

Single fathers seemed to have fewer trusted friends to rely on and confide in, and used fewer support networks, leading to more loneliness…Loneliness has also been associated in other studies with poor sleep, higher levels of stress hormones, weaker immune system and accelerated cognitive decline.

  • 6) Single fathers were less likely to seek needed medical care than women

Stress Kills

Numbers four and five are particularly worth noting as I have, at times, dealt with the consequences of compounding stress, pushing the needle past the red line, sort of speak. In 2019, being a full-time business owner with rising medical debt now taking on my first child with equal if not majority care/time, must ask myself what I can do better for my physical health. Expecting my first child has been my primary motivator for lack of a better phrasing, “getting my shit together”.

And since the news broke, found a new physical health provider, mental health, dental, and vision provider.

“Single parenting is hard. Single fathering is even harder…..I think it’s tougher on us men, however, because we aren’t raised to nurture and be empathetic. In fact, Western society does its best through a culture of shaming, bullying, crass images of masculinity and dismal media portrayals of fathers to teach us men that we’re just not going to be successful parents.” – Dave Taylor

When it comes to the attention of male care and how et sociatis hominibus valiturum views a man’s role for their child pre-2010’s, we’re left with a toxic and murky version of what that looks like. Forward through 2010 and beyond we begin to find men taking refuge, solace, and more through support groups for single fathers, if not for single men, period. Forward through 2018 and beyond we find more men finding the aforementioned through friends rather than through his own family. As familial perceptions continue changing and evolving, so shall both single or partnered men and single fathers.

Why I find that both wild and wonderful all the same is because as I am expecting my first child, born into a complicated situation and an even more complicated world, finding greater support through friends than family.

Jim Walter of Healthline wrote a fascinating article on the differences between a single dad and a single mom. How are single dad and single mom “goals” and responsibilities reached and performed & how each one is perceived by society at large. In it, he poses a hard-hitting question for aforementioned society: 

“Single men … are we all this pathetic? Are women just that much better at being parents? Or do we as a society set up expectations for women and mothers that their male counterparts are never expected to live up to?”

As I sat here reading the article as an expecting father, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of shame as a single man. Are we psychologically malformed as men, being led to believe we are less than what our true capabilities are?

Reading each “expected” condition, goal and responsibility of a single mother compared to that of the single father, it’s plain to see it is our deeply embedded and self-imposed expectations of one over the other contributing a level of stress not reported in both earlier mentioned studies.

Conclusion

While I have another five months before the baby arrives, I remind myself we each have it within us to be a catalyst for change. As a single father, lead by example. And the more we are consciously aware of our faults, the less likely repeating the same mistakes of our fathers and grandfathers.

Looking to the future, I can only hope and pray I will be the best father and friend I can be for my child.

One day they will carry the lessons I’ve taught them, creating a better world for those around them and beyond.

 

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“Not belonging is a terrible feeling. It feels awkward and it hurts, as if you were wearing someone else’s shoes.” – Phoebe Stone.