I was a single dad myself for over nine years, in the noncustodial parent category. My daughter’s mom has always had primary custody, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still dad, does it? Absolutely not. We can all agree that many single fathers have full or primary custody of their children. But do non-custodial fathers matter? You bet we do! Whether you are parenting as a one-man team, have the routine every other weekend, or perhaps are striving to see your children at all, I want to offer you some hope and encouragement.
Research around the globe is consistent. When fathers are involved in their children’s lives, whether full or part-time, those children perform significantly better cognitively, emotionally, socially, and academically than kids whose dads are uninvolved. I have hosted a small group for single dads since 2008. I have found that we’ve all got something in common: When dads stay focused on who they are and why they matter, they push through. Notice I did not say circumstances always got better. They might not, but dads are able to push through the difficulties. Here are three quick ways you can stay encouraged despite the challenges you face.
Remember it’s quality, not quantity.
A bit cliché, but true. Whether you are stretched thin on time from parenting alone or see your kids very little, the best thing you can offer your children is yourself. When they’re grown and look back on life, they will be more affected by the little things we did for them than by the big and extravagant.
Remember that your children need you.
“Your presence matters, any way you can provide it.”
Remember the source of your strength.
Think of working out: as we hit the gym regularly and increase the weights we lift, we naturally become stronger. The same is true in life: burdens that once were too heavy to lift eventually become manageable. Why? Because we are more conditioned to handle them. Find the strength based on your life experiences to overcome and hopefully, lift others up along the way.
In my own life, it took me a long time to figure most of this out. My custody hasn’t changed much over 10 years, but the way I parent surely has. I stopped dwelling on the what-if questions and turned my attention to growing as a man and father. You’d be surprised how much we can invest in our kids in several hours, what a few words of love will mean down the line, and how life’s challenges are often disguised as greater blessings. So embrace the role that has been given to you. Fatherhood in any capacity is never easy, but the rewards are priceless.