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Single Fatherhood: Letting Go of Old Ideas of What Makes a Family

Every man who has found himself as a single father has probably been put through the wringer emotionally. We live in a society that remains stuck in the idea that a family is supposed to have two parents of opposite genders and any other kind of family has an air of brokenness or dysfunction about […]

Every man who has found himself as a single father has probably been put through the wringer emotionally. We live in a society that remains stuck in the idea that a family is supposed to have two parents of opposite genders and any other kind of family has an air of brokenness or dysfunction about it and the kids involved are going to suffer. This is just not the case anymore! The more all of us can collectively release feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy as parents, the sooner our children can truly prosper from watching us set ourselves free from the shackles of outdated social norms.

We found ourselves to be single fathers for all kinds of reasons. Some of us have had our spouses wrenched from our arms by illness before their time, and there’s that undeniable grief that touches everyone. Some of us have had messy divorces that we are trying to walk away from with our dignity intact. Some of us have been lucky enough to have loving and individually empowering separations from our former partners with the mutual agreement to be our most authentic selves apart while working hard to parent amicably but separately and maybe eventually create blended families down the road.

We’re coming from all different places as we begin our journeys as single fathers. However, there’s one thing that can benefit all of us no matter what level of stress or grief we are experiencing and possibly helping our children overcome. One of those things is striking a fine balance between retaining meaningful life structure and beneficial daily routines from the past while simultaneously creating an energizing fresh start to our new lives. It is this fine balance between grounding in the old and ushering in the new that healing happens.

Let’s focus on the second: We create fresh starts by decluttering our lives.

You and your kids are going to want to keep the objects and routines that make you feel safe and comfortable the same. You’re also going to want to get rid of everything that doesn’t serve you and potentially stirs up unnecessary negative memories. You may also just be done with a certain phase of life but it’s not the right moment to sell or responsibly get rid of the item yet. Or maybe you’re saving some of the stuff for someone else who can use it. Enter storage units! Rent yourself an adequately sized storage unit and just put stuff in there to create a fresh feeling of out-of-sight, out-of-mind, for now. You can deal with all of it later when emotions are less raw. Putting old stuff in storage allows you to focus on the present and keep moving forward with your new start in life. Car storage allows you to store a vehicle that you’re not using. Maybe you’re downsizing homes and you need a place for the motorcycle, or the bikes, or the boat. Into the storage unit, they go. You may find that next year, the same things will take on a new energy and offer newfound adventure. Everything knows its time. Everything knows when to hibernate, too.

When you’re decluttering your lives and making room for a new life, make sure that comfort objects and sentimental items that do support your children’s old structure and routine stay right where they are. The same goes for yourself. A man can allow himself some comfort objects just like anyone else, whether it be a piece of furniture, a “toy,” or something else sentimental.

The next step is creating something new for your family. Start something new together with the kids that you can all do together routinely. Try communicating in new and different ways. If you weren’t formerly a verbal sort of dad, try complimenting your children in a deep, sincere, authentic, and direct way. They need to know they are loved and that nothing is their fault. Give them more hugs. Write them love notes. Tell them the things you trust them to take care of so they know you believe in them, and that you’re all still family. Finding happiness as a single father will come before you know it.

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