While studies repeatedly show that the best environment for raising children is a traditional, two-parent (mother and father) household, society is changing and so are families. The number of single-father households has increased from less than 300,000 in 1960 to 2.6 million in 2011. On television, married dads are usually inept, fumbling and bumbling caricatures; single dads are the exact same minus an omniscient wife to save the day. Before my divorce, I hated the stereotypes. After my divorce, I really hated them. Fortunately, stereotypes need not define us! After ten years of raising three children on my own, I have created a list of some of the pros and cons of being a single father. Today, I am exploring dating.
Obviously, time for dating diminishes for single fathers compared to single men with no children. Women face the same challenge. However, single fathers are still relatively rare. Long ago, men learned that single moms are part of the dating pool. In Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding, Jr., cautions Tom Cruise to respect single moms. Quick! Name a movie or tv show with a full-time single dad. Bachelor Dad, My Three Sons and The Courtship of Eddie's Father from the late 50's to the early 70's followed the lives of single men with children, but even Bachelor Dad was about a man raising his niece and not his own child(ren). Interestingly, the television dads all had in-home housekeepers. When those shows originally aired, men still garnered the respect of those around them and the dads were prizes.
Unfortunately, single dads today face different circumstances. Most of us can't afford to hire a full-time housekeeper, so we have to spend time cooking, cleaning, helping with homework and directing bath and bed times. Yes, single moms face the same challenges, but the perception of single dads skews toward non-custodial dads. At their best, non-custodial dads are mere "weekend warriors"; at their worst, they are unreliable or absent. Full-time single dads deserve a higher opinion from people, so you would think that there would be a "market" for such men.
While my family members are proud of me, they haven't introduced me to any of their "available" friends. In one of life's more awkward moments, my mother gave me a book on how to pick up women. Online dating yields compliments, but not very many dates. "That is so great that you are taking care of your children! My ex doesn't even visit our kids," is a common response. Equally common is the finish, "Good luck!" Even when women want men to accept them and their children, those same women typically don't want to accept a man whose children live with him. The Brady Bunch gave us the blueprint for merging families, but few women want that blueprint. Hiring a babysitter for dates is also tough for single dads. Single moms have a wide network of girlfriends and babysitters, but single dads don't have the same network. Even those who know the situation do a double-take when a single dad asks if a daughter can babysit.
So, what are the "pros" of dating as a full-time single dad? First and foremost, the biggest pro is being able to date. As a married person, dating was obviously off-limits, so there is a rebirth possible with dating again. Another advantage is the ability to cancel plans on short notice. Without kids, men have no excuse to back out of a blind date or dinner party. Add kids and - presto! - instant excuse! My kid is sick or my kid has a school project or my babysitter cancelled. Who can argue with those excuses? Privacy is another benefit. Following the groundwork laid by women, a single father politely refuses to open his place for visits until he's "sure that the relationship is going somewhere." Non-parents can't make the same refusal. If they do, their dates will believe that they're married, in a relationship or living in their parents' basement. Finally, most women will self-select out of the dating pool, so single fathers don't have to waste as much time with the wrong women...just more time alone.
While dating is difficult for everyone these days, full-time single fathers represent one of the fastest growing dating pools. People aren't used to them yet, but single fathers are out there looking for love. They aren't bad guys - they're probably better than your last boyfriend - so don't write them off just because their kids are part of the package.