As a parent, fathers try to do their level best to provide for their children no matter how much their annual income is. Whether under or over the poverty line, a father’s love for his child cannot be compared.
However, have you thought about the hard work, love and care the single fathers put in single handedly? Taking care of a child, or more than one kid, emotionally, physically as well as financially can be taxing as a single parent.
Globally, around 2.3 billion children (14%) are being taken care of by a single parent. In the US alone, there are 4% of single fathers who are taking care of their children without much help. There is not much data about single fathers in India, however, single fathers are not unheard of.
There has been a rise in the number of single dads in India and this includes the celebrities as well. You can count single fathers such as actors like Tusshar Kapoor, Chandrachur Singh, Kamal Hassan, Rahul Dev, Hrithik Roshan and filmmaker Karan Johar too.
Being a Single Father
When Dr Ravi K Dhar, who is the current Director of a private college in Delhi, separated from his wife, life took a nasty turn as he became a single father and had to raise his two sons all alone. He was not from Delhi, where he currently lives and initially had to find his bearings in the city. He decided to shift from a public sector job to a private sector one where there was no sense of job security. However, as life got tough with him, he got tougher to make sure that he could become a good father to his sons.
When talking about his experience as a single father, Dr Dhar says, “It is not easy. You have to manage not only your professional work but also the work at home. Besides, as you have kids at home, you have to take time out for them too. So, the demands on your time are multiple but the time at your disposal is limited.”
Whether a divorcee or a widower, single fathers struggle a lot in life while raising their kids, especially if they have to make ends meet. There is suddenly a lot on their plate and it is emotionally and financially draining. Once you don’t have your partner by your side, it can get hard to get back on your feet, initially. However, we know that kids completely depend on the single parent when they have only one parental support.
Dr Dhar says, “When I was in office, I knew my son would do the right thing back home and not while away his time. As a parent, I have always trusted my children. If you let a child do what he/she wants to do, where is the need for constant supervision and goading him/her to do the desired thing. And if the child has decided to spoil his life, you can at the best counsel him and make him see the folly of such a course of action. If he/she is unwilling to see reason because he/she is driven by inner motivations to do something that I as a parent know is going to land him in a soup, I as a parent believe in withdrawing and letting him taste the bitter pill of his experience. I have always applied it to my children. Yes, they did lose out when they did not see reason. But they also turned out wiser after that and bounced back with a sort of vengeance to succeed in life.”
With no emotional support from a partner anymore as well as having kids to support emotionally and financially, it can be a drastic transition for any man when he becomes a single father. While families with two parents are found much more caring and nurturing, single fathers are still stuck with a stigma and win custody battles much less than single mothers as their parenting abilities are questioned most of the time. Apart from that, a lot of single fathers are also filled with guilt of their partner’s absence while raising their children. Their partner’s absence can become a financial issue for them as well if both of them were earning. Suddenly, half of their family’s income has vanished. All though this is not everything they have to go through.
Single fathers are often criticized as a parent as well as may hear rude, off-the-cuff comments, like suggestions that they’re babysitting. In fact, previously supportive families may suddenly believe that their single status means that they are not enough to provide and care for their children. They often face logistical challenges as they cannot be at two places at once and they don’t have their partner to support them. Another thing to notice is that in our society there is still a lack of changing tables in the men’s washroom and they are always looked at with suspicion from strangers when they are out with their children.
When it comes to the mental health of single fathers, there is a high rate of mental health issues. According to a research by the Brock University in the year of 2011, 33.6% of single fathers had one or more disorders of depression, panic disorder, specific phobia, obsessive– compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, compared with 13.3% of partnered fathers, 28.4% of lone mothers, and 16.0% of partnered mothers.
When it comes to remarrying or dating, it is still a tricky business for single fathers. In India, being a single father is still a taboo. There are women who still don’t wish to marry or date a single dad just because he has a kid, no matter how stable he is. If they are divorced, they have to pay alimony to their ex-wives. However, if they do get married, they need to sustain the marriage financially.
Dr Dhar says, “Life has its own twists and turns, just as the game of snakes and ladders. When you think all is going well, it is then that the snake of a challenge opens his fangs for you. Before you know it, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. But, all problems in life are disguised opportunities.”
The Impact On Children
When it comes to spending time with their kids, single dads have a hard time as they have to provide for their family and most jobs are not too flexible so they find it hard to spend enough quality time with their kids. Simple tasks like playing video games with their kids or taking them on weekend getaways becomes too stressful for them. If that wasn’t enough, they are unable to take care of all of the household duties and most of the time the kids are pressed into taking care of that. This often leads to the children not being able to enjoy the most obvious things in life such as hanging out with their friends or playing sports.
Apart from that, whether a couple is going through an ugly divorce or a father has just lost his spouse, it can be very stressful for his children and can take an emotional toll on them and might even lead to depression. At such a time, most single fathers do not want to get on the bad side of their kids and prefer not saying ‘no’ to anything that they want, whether it is an iPad or a new phone, even if they cannot afford it. Which in the longer run can very easily turn to a bad habit.
According to Dr Dhar, “A father should groom his children in a way that they can choose what is the best for them. A father needs to make his/her children realize that growing up is all about taking responsibility for one’s actions. It is only a child who keeps giving excuses or blaming others for his/her failures. Once you do that children can never go astray. That’s what my experience tells me.”
Parenting is a hard job already, so when it comes to single parenting as a father, we understand the hardships and challenges that men have to face from time to time. From taking their kids to birthday parties to having ‘the talk’, it can be difficult, however, not impossible.
Single fathers are capable enough to raise perfect gentlemen who respect everyone and are well-educated to get high paying jobs. It is high time that the stigma stuck around single fathers be blown away. Happy Father’s Day to all the single dads.