One in ten parents bringing up children on their own in the UK are men. If you are struggling alone, please read on for places where you can get help. The article entitled 'Lone mums' applies equally of course to you and we therefore reproduce it here with some extra comments. Gingerbread, the organisation for lone parents, has published a handbook for lone fathers and this can be downloaded or ordered over the phone. (Read about Gingerbread and One Parent Families Further help section). Yes, it is so very difficult for you to cope alone. You have the same problems as a lone mum and probably have to combine work with child-rearing too, as many mums do as well, of course. What really matters to a child is stability and love. If you are providing these, it does not really matter about anything else in the eyes of a child.
"Consult not your fears, but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed at, But with what is still possible for you to do."
Pope John XXIII
Looking after children on your own is sometimes one of the hardest jobs but it is definitely the most rewarding. Lone mums - and, of course, lone dads coping alone - are special and so are your children; this is evident in your commitment to them and in your ability to bring them up to be happy and loving children. They can discover the very best in you. You can, likewise, deepen your love for them. At the moment, you may be coming to terms with your changing situation and feel occasionally overwhelmed by the prospect of coping alone but read on for further information on who can help you. There is so much support out there. There is no need to feel alone.
Nine out of ten parents living alone with their children are female and only 3% are teenage mums. The average age of a lone parent is 35. You come from many different backgrounds and ethnic groups but you all have one thing in common, your determination to better the lives of your children as you cope with all the responsibility and challenges that this entails. You are amazing. It can get tough but it can be great. Along with the many difficulties you may have to face, there are so many triumphs to look forward to.
"Who ran to help me when I fell, And some pretty story tell, Or kiss the place to make it well? My Mother." (A&J Taylor 1804)
Mothers who don't get involved
If you are a lone dad and the mother does not want to get involved with bringing up her child, then you have to be truthful and realistic. It is impossible to change things that are beyond your control unless this behaviour is a direct result of your actions. Try to keep any communication open as things could change with time. It is important to prevent your child from feeling rejected. Remind him that he is loved by both parents. Even though it is important, in normal circumstances, to have a mother's input, it is not the most important thing in your child's life. You are. If you are a good father and you are doing your very best, there is nothing to stop you from bringing up your child in a successful and loving way. Leave the guilt behind and focus on being a good parent. Remember, all parents, whether living together or apart, can only do their best.
Come mothers and fathers,
Throughout the land
And don't criticise What you don't understand.
Bob Dylan - "The Times They Are A-Changing."
Be careful not to criticise the mother as this will only hurt your child. It is a direct reflection on him. Focus on the positive but if you have been over critical, be sure to admit this. Relationships change with time and any positive input should be welcomed. Be open to this change for the sake of your child.
Replacing the absent parent
When parents divorce, this affects the adult balance in the family and there is a danger that girls, in particular, try to replace their mother in the home. They could try to comfort you and concentrate on your distress. If you look to your child for emotional support, this can be quite unhealthy and you should reach out for help from other adults. 'She is my best friend; I don't know who else I could lean on,' is a phrase often heard from lone dads when speaking about their daughter. With hindsight, one could see that this may not be the best for the child. She has other important things to contend with - her own life as a child and all that this entails. A child's life does not normally include adult decisions and emotions. Look in the Further help section for a range of people to help.
"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, And it is tiresome for children always and forever explaining things to them."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery "Le Petit Prince" 1943
At first, you may naturally focus all your attention on your child but he will need to come to terms with his own feelings and emotions. He needs to return to his childhood and you must attempt to maintain your own healthy balance of family life and outside interests.
"The truth is that it is not the sins of the fathers that descend unto the third generation, but the sorrows of the mothers."
Seven helpful steps with children in divorce:
"When we truly care for ourselves, it becomes possible to care far more profoundly about other people. The more alert and sensitive we are to our own needs, the more loving and generous we can be toward others." Eda LeShan
"Work is love made visible." Kahil Gibran
"Bless a thing and it will bless you. Curse it and it will curse you. If you bless a situation, it has no power to hurt you, and even if it is troublesome for a time, it will gradually fade out, if you sincerely bless it." Emmet Fox
If you can avoid being negative about the mother, this can only improve the new family relationships. Try to establish some communication without involving your child in rows or hurtful behaviour. Mutual respect is the main aim together with a positive mother/child relationship. It may seem impossible now but look to the future. Make the other parent count. Involve her in your child's activities and friends. Show that this matters to you. This will make her more positive about herself. You are the adults. Do not make him choose sides. Should he be free to love both parents? And in an open way? He is under so much pressure to please you both. Always remember to see things through your child's eyes.
"Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want."
This is easier said than done. Finances and loneliness are a lone mum's main concerns and, to a certain extent, the children have to be made aware of your changing financial circumstances. Money can't buy love. Your time is more important to a child. Try to meet your child's mother together as adults, away from the children, to discuss finances and legal matters. Any kindness to each other will be rewarded as the family heals and moves forward.
"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit."
If you are very unhappy, seek out adult company and assistance. If you are feeling very low, have a chat with your G.P. Have a look at our Health sectionfor information and sources of assistance. Try to have fun times with your child. He needs this. Young children find it easier to express their feelings through play, and, especially, through art.
"It should be noted that children at play are not playing about; their games should be seen as their most serious-minded activity."
M. Montaigne, French essayist, 1580
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; What is essential is invisible to the eye."
Love is all that matters. Children deserve to have the very best that each parent can give: unconditional love, security, honesty and a good example.
"Children reinvent your world for you."
Talk to your children and ask then how they are even though you may think they are fine. Tell them you love them. Listen to them. Teenagers too! Getting through this trauma can lead to compassionate and caring children. Be gentle on yourself.
Life accidents happen without warning and whilst we are making other plans. They can knock us off our feet but if we will ourselves to benefit from this adversity, then we become stronger and more confident people. Life accidents prune us back but as any gardener will tell us, pruning strengthens. This is a time for reflection and then for onward growth for us and for our children. The best is yet to come.
"Let us, then, be up and doing
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait."
Read on to find out about useful agencies, especially Gingerbread and
Lone Parent Families. Joining these two organisations can only benefit
any lone parent and child. Membership is now free.
You are not alone and it will get better.
Mums network. They are interested in other people's children.
They naturally talk to other mums and exchange information and ideas. They also exchange favours. Even very young children love to be invited to tea. Invite one of their friends and go from there. The other parent normally reciprocates. If not, try another. You may think that one more child is too much work but yours will love to play, whatever the age. With older children, they will guide you but, again, it is good to exchange ideas with other parents. Build your back-up system and make new friends at the same time.
Do not shy away from all female gatherings.
Ask if you can come too. If not, invite some mums to your place. You could also try to mark your child's birthday with a small party. Ask friends and family for advice. Children remember the parties where simple games have been played. Take part and have some fun. Again, approach other mums for advice. It is your time and love that is most important to a child. It does not matter too much what type of place you have or how much money you can spend. It is you. It does not matter whether you do things in a masculine or feminine way. You are the centre of your child's world. All parents do their best and this is all that you can do.
"Becoming a father isn't difficult,
But it's very difficult to become a father."
Wilhelm Busch, 1877
Try to be positive about the children's mum
Encourage the children to maintain contact with her. It may have been very difficult for her to leave the children with you. Was this the best option for the children? Were you able to discuss this? Can you leave communication open so that the future can be talked about? If this is not possible, honesty may be best as children will always remember if something is not true. Time changes many things and it may be best to allow for change. Being rigid about arrangements may not be the best for your child.
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When you are hurting so much and trying to cope alone, can you possibly think how she is really feeling? Be gentle and try to be kind. Is it better for the children to love both parents openly?
"I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me."
L. Sterne. 1767