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How to Love a Single Dad

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I enjoy reading the Elephant Journal. Sorta. I’ve been a subscriber for years, but I’m having problems with the content lately.

Most of the posts I have read over the past year are geared towards women and written mostly by women:

  • To the Man Who Almost Tamed Me by Becca Wise
  • How to Attract A Conscious/Evolved Man by Alex Myles
  • Women: How to Get an Unavailable Man to Want You by Jayson Gaddis
  • Can We Retire the Phrase “Real Women,” Please? by Kate Bartolotta
  • When You Love a Mending Woman by Justin Haley Phillips

These are important topics and create useful discussions. They are. They absolutely are. I probably have more female friends than male friends. We share these articles. We talk about them. We debate. We learn, and I love that. I would hate to see these taken from us.

One of my problems is 5 of 22. Only 5 of Elephant Journal’s 22 Featured Authors are male. That’s 23%. When I read titles like these, I think to myself “What about men? Where is our voice?” I’m only going by thumbnails here, but it looks like only 1 or 2 of the 22 Featured Authors are persons of color. Where is the male, minority, voice on relationships, attraction, identity, healing, and sexual health?

I am a single dad. I am a man of color. I have multiple degrees. This puts me in a very, very small demographic. I know I’m not alone, but I know our numbers are few. I also know that we need resources; resources that we can share, talk about, debate, and learn from.

There is a post that I enjoyed reading not too long ago, How to Love a Single Mom. The author wrote that the intention of her piece is to support “the man interested in a woman with children. To offer him a peek inside her life, to help him understand her better.”

The author listed 5 tips:

  1. Be patient.
  2. Be consistent.
  3. Listen.
  4. Feed her with sex.
  5. Follow her lead when it comes to the kids.

I liked the article, but, to repeat, what about me? I remember that as soon as I saw this title, I shifted in my seat, sighed, and saved the link for another day. All I could think about for weeks was “Where is the list for dating a single dad? Where is the support for the woman interested in a man with children. To offer her a peek inside his life, to help her understand him better.”

Oh, there you are.

How to Love a Single Dad

  1. Be ready to accept some pain.

    Men of color have different challenges as parents. This is an important point. Understand that, as a man of color, he has additional burdens to bear in contemporary American society. The numbers suggest he probably didn’t have a positive, male role model of his own growing up. There is a lot for him to learn along the way; and he is oftentimes winging it as best he can. There is pain involved in these situations. As he goes along providing his child with as much as he can; providing those things he never had as a child, he’s ecstatic. He’s proud of himself. He’s also quietly suffering. While providing all of those things he never had as a child, he’s reminded of what he never had as a child. There is pain in that. Don’t pity him. Don’t coddle him. Don’t mother him and think a hug is going to make it all better. Men need to talk, too. Be ready to sit and listen. Accept some hard truths and difficult emotions. You don’t need to fix him. Just be there.

  2. Sex. Yes, but men’s bodies are different.

    Oftentimes, single dad-ness leaves us exhausted. (This applies to all single parents, but I’m focused on dads here.) Single dads work 5-to-9. They are up at 5 AM and are on duty until 9 PM, sometimes later. Get up. Get ready. Get the kids ready. Pack ‘em into the car. Drive them to daycare. Drive themselves to work. Work 8 hours. Pick up the kids. Prepare dinner. Eat. Showers. Clean kitchen. Jammies. Stories. Bed. Sometimes, “bed” doesn’t happen until as late as 11 PM. And it’s only Monday. Do the math. If he’s up at 5 AM and moving until 11 PM and has to get up at 5 AM the following morning, he’s getting 6 hours of sleep for an 18 hour day. And that’s IFF he goes directly to sleep at 11 PM. That means no man-cave time. No reading. No Sports Center. No Netflix. No beer. No downtime. So, when it comes to sex, especially during the week, take the lead. We’re exhausted. We’ve likely been the leader all day long because a) we have to be as a single parent; b) we’re expected to be as men in America. Help us get some rest. Close the door. Lie us down. Say, “I got this, baby.”

  3. Work with his schedule.

    Running a house with children as a single parent is tough, tough, tough. It takes some serious project management skills; planning; forethought; and efficiency of resources including time, money, food, clothing, education and entertainment. Sh*t is hard, man. Support him by supporting the schedule. Give him the space he needs to do what he needs to do. Time is ridiculously scarce. Space is not a measure of how he feels about you.

  4. Please please please don’t be insecure about the attention he isn’t giving you.

    He’s super busy. Did I mention that time is ridiculously scarce? See number 3. Taking the time to reassure you that he wants you in his world f*cks with the schedule. See number 3. It’s not that he’s insensitive to your needs. It just makes him feel like he has one more responsibility. One more duty. One more item to plan. If he’s really into you and feels something, he’ll be sure to let you know and it will be natural, not scheduled. If not, that’s on him. Move on.

  5. Flirt with him.

    Smile with your eyes. Break character. Just knowing that you see him lets him know that he’s doing well as a parent, as a friend, a partner, and a man. He’s still desirable and he needs to be reminded of that.

  6. Help him ideate.

    Holiday coming up? Send him some suggestions for kid-friendly events. Send him some ideas for entertaining kids on rainy and snowy days. Send him some recipes for quick, healthy meals. Don’t overdo it though. A few, well-researched, articles will suffice. Time is scarce (have I mentioned that?) and he doesn’t want to seem unappreciative. He just may not be able to get to 10 links instead of 3.

  7. Share your resources.

    Got a good friend or relative who is trustworthy, qualified, and willing to babysit? Go for it. Make the suggestion. It shows you are interested in alone time with him and you’re willing to take some steps to make it happen. That’ll take some of the burden off of him. That’ll make him feel safe. That’ll make him feel relief. That’ll make him feel good.

  8. Be a good person.

    If you’re dating a single dad, you’re dating a man who is coming out of/came out of a failed relationship; a relationship that birthed a child. If you’re not your authentic self with your single dad boyfriend, your relationship will not last. Period. Facades don’t last when there are children involved. They watch you. They read energy better than you. They’re sharper than you. They see right through you. For his part, dad may be on the lookout for red flags. He may have lost some faith in people, and in himself. Everybody loses when you’re inauthentic. That includes the kids and no one desires that, especially dads. Being a good person lets him know that there are still good people in the world and that he’s still a welcome part of it. Everyone needs that.