In a society where being average is applauded, I’m careful not to pat single fathers on their backs for doing what they are supposed to. Men should love and care for their children, provide emotional and financial support, and give guidance and instruction. Many men do. We just hear about the ones with 15 children by ten different women, or the ones behind bars for failing to pay child support. Or the dad who doesn’t raise his own kids but will show up at baseball games, birthday parties and cub scout meetings for his girlfriend’s children. But they are the exception, not the norm.
There are many men who take it a step further than your typical dad. They have their sons and daughters’ best interest at heart. They put aside petty differences with their past partners to put their kids first. They speak highly of their exes to raise their children’s self-esteem. And they give up dating, shopping and even dreaming to make sure they don’t miss a single second of their offspring’s lives. One such man is B.J. Butler. He raises two daughters on his own, which humbles him more and more each day. He understands how hard it is to keep a roof over his family’s heads, and doesn’t have a problem trading in a fancy ride for a station wagon, or cutting off cable to keep food on the table.
What is the hardest part about being a single father? What is the best?
For me, it was doing their hair. Money was extremely tight, so anything I could do to save money I did it. Another challenge was adjusting to the weekends of staying in the house. As a single father, I never felt like I could drop my children off with someone just so I could go out and have some fun. They were/are my responsibility and no one else’s. That was a hard pill to swallow as I felt deprived of adult interactions/conversations.
I did feel odd many times carrying around my daughters all the time with no woman by my side. People would think they are my sisters since I look very young for my age.
The best part about being a single father is that it gave me the perspective that many single mothers have of raising children alone. I developed a genuine appreciation for anyone who is raising a child by themselves. Another great thing about being a single father is that I know I’ve always been there for them, not out of obligation, but out of my fatherly duties, and seeing them grow up into beautiful intelligent young ladies.
What misconceptions do people have about single fathers?
One misconception is that the children’s mother must be in the picture or nearby. It’s hard for people to imagine that a father can raise children on his own, especially girls. People think he has to look for a woman to help him. The reverse is true for every single mother out there.
As a single dad, how and when do/did you start dating? How has your dating life changed?
The first person I brought around my girls, they loved her. I thought I could have a balanced life. But the relationship was short-term on the woman’s part. What I did not expect was for my daughters to grow so fond of her. They were really sad when she stopped coming by. That’s when I realized it’s not good to bring everyone around my children unless I’m planning to marry them.
Dating as a single father””I still find it a challenge, since I’m on a strict budget and drive a station wagon. That doesn’t attract a lot of prospects. I must have a lot of conversations on the phone, or the internet, verses in person. I can’t have company come over off the bat. I think giving someone a year is sufficient time before you introduce them to your child(ren).
I don’t think one gender has it easier when it comes to dating as a single parent. I will say that single moms tend to have a larger support system and more resources. That might make having a social life a little easier.
When you Google “single dad,” most of the results are about finding love, single dads and dating and single dads and sex. It’s as if men can’t raise children without help, since the same results don’t pop up when you search “single mom.” Do you find that offensive?
Yes, very much so. Even before reading this list of questions, I did a similar search on my own and on Facebook. There’s little to no support for single fathers. I attempted to get some support and was told most, if not all, programs are only for women. Our society lacks temperance in our judicial system as I understand women have been taken advantage of, or simply abandoned. Now that happens to single fathers as well, and the only ones that truly suffer are the children.
What can moms provide that dads can’t? What can dads provide that moms can’t?
Most moms can give affection, emotional support and a nurturing environment while many dads are not as abundantly gifted in those areas. Both can teach their child(ren) about sacrificing and working hard. Dads can and do give their child(ren) their identities. We tell our kids how beautiful/handsome they are. We set the standards for our daughters on the kind of man they date/marry. We instill in our sons how to become God-fearing, productive, hardworking men.
How do you stick to a budget? What sacrifices must you make? Do you think some single dads fear filing for child support?
Since I grew up managing money, sticking to a budget wasn’t that difficult. With me working two jobs, there was no freedom to deviate from a budget. That meant no new clothes or shoes for me for a few years. It meant depending on grandparents to help out during the holidays and to buy additional clothes throughout the year. I sacrificed going out to the movies, entertaining friends and having cable. Sometimes it was on; other times it was cut off! When I went to the grocery store, I had a precise list. I bought only what was on sale and what I had coupons for. The Sunday paper became a part of my weekly reading.
I feared filing for child support despite having full custody of my daughters. Most of the time, the system is designed to blindly side with mothers. Many single fathers may not file out of fear that they will waste their time, receive a lack of support or run the risk of losing custody of his children.
How do you create a co-parenting plan?
This one will truly depend on the parents””how cordial they can be towards each other and remember that their decisions should be in their children’s best interest. For me, alternating holidays depended on my work schedule, since I had custody unless the non custodial parent was willing to meet me somewhere to pick up our kids. I believe it should be created fairly, however not place too many demands on the custodial parent and make raising the children more difficult.
One struggle men have when raising daughters is doing hair. Have you had any problems? Do you plan to seek some help in that area?
I had problems doing my girls’ hair in the beginning. I didn’t realize how much attention women give a little girl’s hair. A female co-worker taught me how to part their hair and tie some pig tails. That lasted for a month or two before she saw my (failed) attempts and offered to do their hair for free when she had time. Then ladies from my church and my caregiver began to help do their heads as well. I couldn’t survive all those years doing their hair on my own! Now, I make sure they get their hair done every two to three weeks. I had to ask for help.
What advice do you have to give other single dads?
Being a single father is a humbling experience. First being a single parent is not a decision you want to make. The children deserve both parents. However, if this is not the case, then raise them to the best of your ability. It is OK to say, I need help, I don’t understand, or would you show me how. Being a single parent means you have to forego some of your ambitions as your kids come first. Your child is your responsibility””no one else’s””so don’t drop your child off to someone’s place every weekend so you can have fun. Schedule your time wisely. Make sure you schedule time for the kids as well, as they will want your “undivided” attention. Be prepared to give it to them. Take 10 minutes for yourself when you come home from work and tell the kids you will check their homework, listen to their day at school as soon as you get up, and keep your promise. Be consistent. All kids need guidance and learn from consistency”...good or bad.
Take pictures, laugh with them, be silly with them, but don’t be their friend””be their father. They will make and have many friends but they will only have one earthly father.
Hope this encourages you.
Hey BMWK family, what advice would you give single fathers? And should they receive child support from noncustodial mothers?