While the role of a father has changed dramatically over the past decade, it is still a challenge that is as tough as it is rewarding. Despite the numerous ways in which fatherhood has become easier, progress brings new challenges with it. And so, the life of a single dad has arguably never been more difficult.
There has been significant progress in how society views dads - both partnered and single - but if being the only parent wasn’t hard enough, the modern single dad is also coping with the new pressures and expectations laid upon fathers.
Rest assured, though, we are here to offer support and advice from single dads who have been there, done it, and are still learning. Whether you're a single father by choice, or it's the hand you’ve been dealt, we’ve compiled 55 tips, pearls of wisdom, nuggets of advice and information sourced from across the internet.
Got some advice you’d like to share? Drop a comment below!
Life as a single dad
Becoming a single father brings with it a whole raft of incredibly significant changes to your life. Being a single dad means being the absolute centre of your child’s life; the pillar that their future rests on.
1. ‘Everyone wears different shoes’
As this dad points out, everyone’s path is different. Other parents will be offering up advice to you as a single parent - they’re most likely trying to be helpful - but the truth is that they probably don’t truly understand what your life is like, unless they're single parents themselves.
2. '6 going on 16'
There’s so much to unpack in Anthony’s post. But you’ll find yourself using your kids’ stuff all the time because it’s convenient. Just make sure they don’t find out…especially if they’re six going on 16!
3. Take time to chill
Nappy changes, school runs, cooking (getting them to actually eat the meal, too!!!), play time, nap time, homework, hobbies, clubs, washing clothes, cleaning, and all the rest. It can all feel like there’s too much to do and not enough time. It’s super important to take time to just chill out and spend quality time with your little ones.
4. You’ll notice how things are different from when you were a kid
Back in Claude’s day, there had to be more than a foot of snow for school to be closed. Now there’s a ¼ inch in Maine and he’s having to drop everything to entertain the kids (and presumably work).
5. You’ll get covered in something green
Everyone knows this, right? It’s inevitable, one way or another.
6. You’ll make them smile with the smallest things
As this single dad highlights, sometimes it’s the smallest of things you do that puts a beaming smile on your child's face.
7. ‘What more does a man need?’
We live in such a busy world dominated by technology, social media and advertising. But sometimes all you need is the great outdoors and the people you love.
8. Don’t neglect your own food
When you’ve SO much to do, it’s super easy to not put in the effort when it comes to your own well being, whether it's food, exercise or free time for yourself. It's really important to make some effort in the kitchen, even if it's just for you. But check out these nachos for one made by a single dad.
9. Social life? What social life?
10. ‘Dad mode re-activated’
If you share custody of your child, you’ll want to make the most of your time together. And so activating dad-mode quickly will be a crucial ability in your inventory.
11. Celebrate the little wins
There was a really easy tip in this post about learning to do long hairstyles. But you know what we took from it? Celebrating the little wins when things are so tough will be really important for you as a single father. Kids ate everything on the plate? YES! You rule! They’re finally happy with the hairstyle you did? Great job!
12. Speaking of hair...
You're going to need to learn some styles for when you have the long-haired little ones.
Here's the legend that is How to DAD with the advice!
13. Embrace the fun times
Burping is bad manners, right? Something you should definitely discourage, right? Take a leaf out of this dad’s book and take it easy sometimes and embrace the unrivalled joy of kids laughing and enjoying themselves.
14. Don’t expect a moment to yourself
Got things to do? Yep. Need both your hands? Probably. Doesn’t matter, baby wants cuddles.
15. You might miss your old life, but not for long
When times are tough, you might think back to your life before kids, when you had no responsibilities, plenty of free time, no one utterly dependent on you, and less stress. But then your kid will do something like this and you’ll fall in love with being a single dad all over again.
16. They’ll be hilarious, even when they’re asking for something for the millionth time
Enough said really.
17. Poo stories make great stories (even if they’re false alarms)
I can’t believe we got to No.17 before mentioning poo! Obviously there will be a lot of poo, duh! BUT, no poo story has ever made a bad story.
18. You’ll be creative in ways you never imagined
Take single dad, Cameron. It’s the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, he’s working from home while looking after his girls. He’s got an important three-hour call looming - how on earth is he going to keep the girls occupied? By being one heck of a single dad creative mastermind! That’s how.
19. Some things never change
No, I’m not talking about that annoyingly catchy tune from Frozen 2 (if you don’t know it yet, you will soon!) Remember earlier when we talked about noticing how different things are from when you were a kid? Yeah, it also works the other way. You’ll also realise how nothing has changed. Just like this dad taking his kids to a middle school dance.
20. Single dad life never stops
If you share custody with your partner, you may think there’s a point when dad-mode stops. You can have some time to yourself, watch some football, have a few beers. Then BANG! Your daughter leaves something that she needs for school at your house.
Being a good single dad
One question that plays on the minds of men when they’re becoming a single dad is ‘how do I be a good single dad?’. Good thing we’ve got a collection of top notch single father advice, right?
21. Give them undivided attention
If you’re a single dad, there’s one thing your child needs more than anything in the world - your time. With more flexibility at work than ever before, this dad compressed his hours so that he could focus entirely on his kids on the days he gets with them. Giving them undivided attention is arguably the single most important thing you can do. It works wonders for your child's development and emotional support.
22. ‘Together is a wonderful place to be’
Oh that’s a lovely quote, isn’t it? Okay it’s a bit of a continuation of the last point, but that just goes to show how important it is just to spend time with your kids.
23. Single parent van life
I tried picking out one piece of advice or overarching theme, but this Instagram post from a single dad is packed full of amazing advice - not just for getting away with the kids, but amazing advice that can easily be taking into the day-to-day of normal life.
24. Create memories in the everyday
Do you know what’s so great about this post from single dad Jamie? With a caption about making great memories, it’s easy to assume it’ll be packed full of extravagant experiences. But the images Jamie shares alongside the caption “great memories” are mainly everyday things - playing games, a bike ride, playing with the dog, going shopping. It’s all simple stuff we do every day, but it can mean so much more.
25. Blink and you’ll miss it
One for a little later down the road. This single dad is coming to terms with the fact that his little boy has gone from learning how to comb his hair and brush his teeth to learning how to drive in the blink of an eye. Savour it, it won’t last.
26. “Patience is the road to wisdom”
Every parent needs heaps and heaps of patience. Single parents even more so. Without a partner there to tackle tantrums and strops with, you’re going to have to deal with them on your own. And it’s going to require more patience than you ever thought possible. You don't have to do it all alone, though. Make sure to call on your support network when things get tough.
27. Work as a team
Another one for when they’re a little bit older, and especially if you’ve experienced loss. It’s so easy to let the chaos and grief that Mike talks about take over your lives. Whether you realise it or not, but you'll form your own little support system. That will be so powerful when it comes to maintaining positive mental health.
28. ‘It’s about the person you love, loves the ballet’
Owen’s post reminds me of this scene from The Break Up - I know it’s an adult, romantic relationship, not a father-daughter relationship but bear with me. Just watch the clip and you’ll see what I mean!
“It’s about the person you love, loves the ballet, and you wanting to spend time with that person”
Looking at Owen’s post - Realistically, how many dads want to spend their evening with a homemade coffee sugar face scrub on? But Owen’s done it, because he loves his daughter and she loves homemade coffee sugar face scrubs.
…is to spend as much quality time [as] possible.’
There's a bit of a theme brewing here!
30. ‘The perfect way to spend a lazy morning and afternoon’
There’s not really a specific tip to come out of Braden’s post about cooking breakfast and making art with his daughter. It’s just all of it. If you want to be a good single dad, just follow Braden’s lead on this one.
31. Get on your dancing shoes!
If your kid asks you to do something and you wonder if your mates will make fun of you for it - and the answer is yes - you can guarantee you’re a good dad if you do it. Like this dad…you know he’s getting stick in the WhatsApp group. But he doesn’t care.
Single dad challenges
Fatherhood is hard. Single fatherhood is even harder. It’s one huge challenge interspersed with millions of little challenges. Here are just some of the challenges you’ll face as a single dad.
32. You’ll have to deal with erratic sleep on your own
Mike asks, ‘why oh why are they up early on the weekend, and like zombies when it’s time for school!?’. We can probably all relate.
33. Cleaning will feel like a never ending battle
Even the Queen of Clean gave up after her third child was born!
34. You’ll feel lost without them
There’s a bit of a stereotype of single dads that are separated from the mother - that when they don’t have the kids they’re loving life, doing whatever they want. The reality, though, is that you’ll probably look a bit like Quentin…
35. The battle for the lights is over, the war for the electricity bill has just begun
Whether you’re a single dad like Peter or a dad in a relationship, managing the household’s electricity usage defines you.
36. Stay hydrated
This post seems SUPER obvious, right? Everyone knows it’s important to stay hydrated. But all parents struggle with tiredness and maintaining their overall well being, often forgoing or forgetting to look after themselves. Even something as simple as making sure you’re well hydrated throughout the day is a really simple but valuable way of helping to keep you on top form.
37. Encourage them to express themselves
Children’s mental health is an issue we’re becoming increasingly aware of both as parents and a society. And there’s a lot of focus around encouraging children to embrace their emotions. This post is a great example of the little things you can do to encourage your child to express their emotions. Open communication can have a hugely positive impact on children's lives and be a catalyst to boosting self esteem.
38. Understand what you can and can’t control
It’s really easy for anyone to become too focused on things they can’t control in life, especially as a parent. That also applies to co-parenting your child with your ex. This post from @coparentingpeacefully is a great reference point to help you understand which parts of your life, and your child’s life, you can control and which parts you can’t.
39. They’ll get what they want, and you’ll wonder how
“I don’t know how this happened, but…” Sound familiar? Sometimes you’ll just look at your kids and give in to whatever it is they want, because you love them and you want to see them happy. Just like this single dad did.
40. Spoiler alert, they get older!
As this dad explains, dealing with your children getting older is one of the unique challenges of parenting. Starting the caption with “And like that, she’s five years old” says so much about how we feel when our kids’ birthdays come around.
41. The job never ends
Following on from the last point, Steven raises a few really interesting things in his Insta post. What jumped out at me, however, was the point that the job of being a single parent doesn’t end when the kids are 18. It’s a job you’ll do for the rest of your life.
Parenting after a break up is really difficult. Of course it is, especially if it’s not the most amicable of separations. But it’s so important to remember that while you and your ex may no longer be together or love each other, you still have someone that connects the two of you - and that someone is the most important thing.
It’s 1am. You’re a single dad. It’s a totally normal time to eat.
44. The days without them are hard, but they’ll still make you smile
Just check out what Jason’s kids did for him as a surprise!
45. You’ll probably have to deal with judgement
At some point in their lives, single parents will probably have felt judged by others. Peter’s obviously referring to a fairly upsetting situation, and unfortunately, it’s something you’ll likely have to deal with in some way, shape or form with your own children.
46. Divorce is hard
It’s really common for children to blame themselves for their parents separating. And it’s equally common for parents to try to shield their children from the situation (for all the right reasons!). But it could have significant consequences.
47. Getting them to open up is hard
It’s really difficult to get kids to talk about how they’re feeling, especially if their parents have divorced or they’ve suffered loss. There’s plenty you can take from this post, but what struck me most is how the daughter opened up when they were free of distractions.
48. Let’s end this on a positive note!
Here’s The Fit Dad Nation with 7 awesome things about being a single dad!
Single dad dating
Deciding you want to start dating again is a significant step in the life of a single dad. Just like raising children, it’s a step that can be an incredibly tough challenge but also be wonderfully fulfilling. So, here are some other single dads discussing dating…
49. 'Don’t be so busy trying to remind someone who you are that you forget to remind yourself’
As Devin explains: At times, we get so caught up trying to get the approval of others or show them our value we can end up lost and end up conforming to the status quo.
Instead, remind yourself that you’re valuable, and as long as you stay true to your calling and the “right” people will recognise said value.
51. Build your self-confidence
The folks over at Positive Masculinity Academy know all about how difficult it can be to get over anxiety when you’re thinking about starting to date again. They’ve got a super interesting take on how building your self esteem again can be used as a teaching moment for your children, about bouncing back from hardship.
52. Don’t let the universe stop you
Okay, Fabio’s post is from way back at the start of Covid - the universe releasing a world-wide pandemic is probably something you should let stop you from dating again.
Looking beyond that, though, it's so easy to look at life as a single dad and see it as a huge barrier to getting back out there. It’s hard, but try not to view different aspects of your life as barriers.
53. I don’t really have any advice around this post, it just made me chuckle
54. Don’t rush
This single dad says, ‘I can’t say if I’m ready to date’. And that’s totally fine! Starting to date because your family or friends (or even kids…and society!) think you should is only likely to leave you feeling stressed and anxious about the whole thing.
55. Why someone SHOULDN’T date a single dad
Now this is an interesting take. We’ve had some dating advice for single dads, but The Conscious Dad believes there are three main reasons why someone shouldn’t date you as a single dad. Let’s find out why…
Single dad support groups
Being a single dad, it’s so, so important to get support - whether it’s a close family member who is willing to pop the vacuum cleaner around for you, someone who is happy to take the kids out for the afternoon when it all gets a bit too much, or a group of people to talk to about what you're experiencing.
There are a growing number of support groups for single dads, through local programmes, dads-only or dads-welcome baby groups, or online networks and platforms.
These examples are a tiny selection of what’s available to single dads, but they give you an idea of what to look for.
Not to brag, but at DaddiLife we try to create content that supports and helps every type of dad. Sometimes it can be one of our guides or information pieces that offers the precise support and guidance you need.
There are plenty of organisations out there that offer workshops and talks designed to help you be the best dad you can be. The great thing is that you can usually find a great mix of local, in-person events and virtual ones too - so you can do something that fits your schedule.
Baby groups are typically dominated by mums - understandable given the traditional structure of maternity and paternity leave. But as the role of fathers has evolved in recent years, we’re seeing more and more baby groups for dads, as well as mum-dominated groups encouraging more dads.
There are tonnes of online communities out there. Frankly, we recommend the DaddiLife Facebook group!