Justice

5 Stigmas About Single Dads We Have to Put an End To

June 18th 2016

By:
Laura Donovan

Nearly 10 percent of households are headed by single dads, a major increase since 1960, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center report.

Despite the increasing number of single fathers in the U.S., many of these dads face a number of challenges that go relatively unspoken, some more serious than others. Here are a few of the quiet obstacles single dads often face.

1. Sleepovers.

For many kids, sleepovers are a childhood staple. Kids of single dads, however, may be deprived of the opportunity to have sleepovers at their own homes because other parents are concerned that a mother is not around.

Last month, a Reddit user described this scenario in a thread about dad stereotypes, noting that he doesn't know what to tell his little girl when other parents won't let their kids sleep over at their house:

"[It's] even worse when my 7 yr old daughter wants to have a sleepover. [She] brings home the parents phone numbers from her friends, and [I] call the parents (usually moms). [I] explain she wants to have a sleepover and your kid is invited. [Then] the awkward question: will mom be there? [And] when you explain, no mom here - sorry, there's that long pause. [Sad] to say to this day she still hasn't had a sleepover for this reason. [Every] single one of the parents always say no, they're busy, etc. [She] doesn't understand why, and [I]'m left apologizing."

Many of the other Reddit commenters showed compassion for this user's plight:

Reddit

In 2013, a single dad wrote in to Slate's advice column to ask whether other parents would think it inappropriate for him to supervise a sleepover for his daughter's birthday, and if he should have a female friend over to help. Writer Emily Yoffe responded that she has met parents who don't want their kids staying at the homes of single dads for sleepovers:

"Unfortunately, I have heard from people who refuse to let their daughters stay the night at the home of a child being raised by a father, not because the father makes them uncomfortable in any way, but solely because he's a man. This is ugly and pernicious, and I'm hoping the other parents in your circle are not like that."

2. Public bathroom etiquette.

Single dads with young daughters often face challenges figuring out which public restroom to use.

Single dad bathroom dilemma

Alice Domar, executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, wrote in Parents.com that the "absolute last resort choice would be for the dad to go into the woman’s room." The first choice, she wrote, would be to find a family restroom.

This particular situation sparked a dialogue on Reddit as well:

Reddit

One of the Reddit commenters pointed out another challenge facing all dads: a shortage of changing tables in men's restrooms.

Ashton Kutcher highlighted this issue in a viral Facebook post last year:

That spring, Kutcher launched a Change.org petition to confront Costco and Target about this issue, with both companies agreeing to assist him in furthering the cause. Costco promised to put family bathrooms in all new or remodeled stores, and Target promised to place changing tables in women's, men's, and family restrooms in future stores.

3. Knowing how to nurture and empathize.

Single father Dave Taylor wrote in a 2014 piece for the National Fatherhood Initiative that he feels single fathers struggle with parenting because many are not "raised to nurture and be empathetic." ATTN: has reported before on how men are often shamed for showing emotion and conditioned to be tough and hold in their emotions.

"Western society does its best through a culture of shaming, bullying, crass images of masculinity, and dismal media portrayals of fathers to teach us men that we're just not going to be successful parents," Taylor wrote. "We don't tote babies around when we're little. We aren't the one hired to babysit the twins down the street when we're in our teens. We're instead pushed to physical activities, sports, video games, and other activities that emphasize the testosterone factor rather than help us learn how to balance it with the more traditionally 'feminine' aspects of humanity."

This problem manifests in similar ways for non-single dads as well.

A recent viral Reddit thread included an image of a shirt that challenges the idea that dads "babysit" their kids, which diminishes the role of fathers and suggests that they are incapable of properly taking care of their kids:

Dads babysit

4. Asking for help.

A single dad named Stephen Wilcocks illustrated this issue in a 2010 interview with The Independent:

"Because being a single dad is not the norm, you can feel embarrassed to ask for help, from the authorities and from our friends. I once tried to ask about benefits for fathers raising their kids alone, but the woman at the council office looked at me like I was mad and gave me no help. I also looked up online what I might be eligible for, but couldn't find anything. Since then I've given up; now I just plod along on basic benefits and try to do my best."

A Reddit user reported this exact problem in a thread last year, writing that he thought he was about to become a single dad and felt scared to reach out to family members for help:

"I'm going to have to force myself to utilize my family for help, which is something I don't really like to do. It plays on that anxiety again that he's a burden on others and a pain to take care of. It causes me unhealthy stress and anxiety. Everyone says, 'He's not a bad kid,' but I can see the amount of stress he puts on people and the sighs they make and looks they give."

5. Helping with general appearance.

Wilcocks told The Independent that he has faced challenges knowing how to groom his daughter as a single dad:

"The most difficult thing about being a dad on your own is the silly stuff, like not being able to do your daughter's hair in a French plait, or going shopping for her and struggling to figure out the kind of things she'd want at different stages in her life. It's also tough being the only one setting the boundaries and giving the kids stability on a daily basis."

A French single dad and artist named Yannick Vicente tackled this issue in one of his drawings about single fatherhood:

"[My daughter] laughs at this one, because it's the absolute truth," Vicente told "Today" in an interview about his illustrations of life as a single dad. "I struggled to learn how to do her hair."