Welcome again to the January series covering topics from a Single Dad’s Perspective. I have partnered with Brandi Kennedy at Brandi Kennedy: Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman. For the month of January, she and I will be focusing on issues from a single dad and single mother’s perspective. And as we are speaking today, we are focusing on how we keep up our sanity and mental health through the different things in life. Of course, there are very different issues between single mothers and single fathers. Some of this has to do with how courts treat single fathers and single mothers. Some of this has to do with the amount of time you are given by the courts. And some of this has to do with the relationship you have with your ex. So before I go to my thoughts on staying sane as a single father, I need to explain my idea of a single parent.
I know some of you may disagree with what a single parent is. Certainly, I would never take anything away from those parents who have to do it all on their own. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to take on the role of mother and father when raising a child. It’s hard enough to be just the dad sometimes. But when I talk about a single parent, I am not limiting it to those kinds of situations. I have a more expansive view of what it means to be a single parent.
If I were to define single parent, I would say it would be any parent who spends the vast majority of their time with their child, outside of the view of the other parent, and cannot expect the other parent to be any source of support. I know this seems a bit nebulous. Because would the single mom who receives “child support” be considered in this definition? Or would the fact that the other parent is available for babysitting duties should the need arise negate single parent status?
I believe the answer is emphatically no. The parent who gets money financially, cannot necessarily count on it coming in. And they are subject to whatever issues may arise with the other parent, or whatever may happen with the other parent’s financial situation. And as far as the babysitting, it may or may not be able to work out. You can hope for things, but you cannot count on them. They do not have to fulfill your requests no matter how much they love their kids.
This means essentially a single parent has no one to rely on some of the time in their lives. Even with family support, it is never the same. The ending of the relationship with the other parent changes both your world and your child’s world irreparably. Living locations change; sleeping arrangements change; finances change in ways you cannot possibly expect. This challenges the single parent, even when the other parent is involved in the child’s life.
So with all of these changes come tests to your own sanity. How you will make it through every day becomes a challenge. And sometimes those challenges are unexpected. It’s not only the worries on the days you have your child. Sometimes the worst days are when the depression sets in on the days you don’t have your child. You may have escaped the difficulty of the toxic relationship you were in. But you didn’t escape the loneliness you felt when you were in that relationship. And now your child is gone so you can’t even rely on them to invest your energy towards.
Which means as a single parent, you need to find ways to stay sane. You need to do whatever you can to keep your sanity because you have little ones you still need to care for. I have my own methods for keeping sane in the midst of it all. The following are five things I do to keep me sane in the midst of the craziness that being a single parent engenders.
5 Steps To Stay Sane As A Single Dad
1) Remember The Other Parent Has A Role To Play –
Maybe this is more specific to my situation. I definitely know my co-author this month has an entirely different situation with an uninvolved parent. And I probably have the extreme reverse of this situation with my daughter’s mother being a helicopter mom trying to control every aspect of my daughter’s life. And when I have a helicopter “co-parent”, I know they are involved in my child’s life. The hard part comes when you are afraid of the role they play and how it might damage your child. Nevertheless, the other parent has a role to play, whether they succeed at it or not, in your child’s life. And to give your child the opportunity to thrive, you have to recognize not only the fact they have a role but the fact I cannot replace the other role.
Yes, I will encourage my daughter to find other female role models. And I will hopefully bring women into my daughter’s life she can respect and love. But they will never replace the mother she has. They cannot love her in the way a mother can. And they won’t sacrifice the same way a mother would, no matter how hard they try. I have to be able to relinquish my ability to play the role of mom and let her mom be the mom.
As for me, I am the dad, and so I will step in there and protect my daughter when necessary. And when I have my daughter, I will give my daughter the freedom to fail so that she can succeed in the long run. And hopefully, I will run counterpoint to the things her mom says and does which could be destructive. But ultimately, I have to let go in a way which doesn’t interfere with her mother’s role in her life. Remembering the other parent has a role to play takes away the stress of thinking I have to play every role and would fail at every role.
2) Remind Me Of The Things I Love To Do For Myself –
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in all of the things you have going on in your life when you get divorced. There is a separation of property. You need to separate your living conditions. You have to arrange who has the kids and when. Your job changes because you need to have the flexibility to take care of your children. The changes come fast and furious, and each little change makes you a little more dead inside. So you need to be able to do something about those changes. And part of this is to rediscover one’s self.
That begins with remembering the things you liked about yourself before you were invested in the relationship in the first place. Honestly, part of the reason you may have split was that you lost too much of yourself to begin with. I agree that marriage is making two who people into a whole new person. But if you lost yourself entirely at the start, what were you really contributing to your new whole? The only person contributing would be the other person as you lost yourself and sense of direction or purpose.
So I needed to remind myself how much I enjoyed reading and writing. I needed to remind myself of how much I loved the cinema and going to the movies. So much of myself, I lost over the past several years, I need to reinvest in myself. This begins with trying to do the things I love again and seeing what things give me energy and feed into myself as a person.
3) Exercise . . . Exercise . . . And Exercise . . .
I know why people, when they are going through difficulties in life, turn to drugs or alcohol. They do make you feel better for a time. Actually, they just make you a little nutty and you feel like your problems vanish away. Only then you discover the next morning all of your problems are still there with a few more problems besides all of that. It gets to be scary. And you feel overwhelmed.
Exercise does release some positive endorphins for you. You will feel good about yourself and that all of the problems you have are manageable. I think this feeling that they are manageable instead of gone makes a big difference here. Because they never vanished, you don’t end up with the severe come down you have when you try to pretend they have gone away with alcohol or drugs. I am not anti-alcohol. I am just not for using alcohol as a cure-all for your feelings of being overwhelmed or feelings of depression.
So get your butt in gear and get off to the gym. You will feel better about yourself and your circumstances. And it’s your bodies natural defense mechanism for those kinds of feelings. And I am all for a natural cure as opposed to a drug.
4) Find Positive Things To Meditate On –
Maybe this goes well with my Thankfulness series. But honestly, you need to find things positive in your life from which to draw energy. Yes, your children can be those positive things. So you can do that. But I would think about all kinds of things you can be grateful for. Whether it’s work, family, presents, health, friends, inspiration, or the numerous positive things you have going on for you in your life. All of those things will help you get through the rough moments when the arguments come, or the doubt begins to set in. Spend at least 10 minutes a day reminding yourself of the good things in your life and things definitely will be better.
5) Eliminate Negative Energy From Your Life –
There are things in your life which rob you of a positive sense of the world. So you should get rid of those things. I am not saying to focus on the positive and eliminate the negative from your life and thereby eliminate all rational thought. If you see you go in a bad direction as bad things happen to you, this does not mean to ignore the bad things and keep pushing on. What I do mean is that people have sources of bad feelings in their life which make them focus on the bad things instead of the positive things.
Whether it be people who remind you of all the bad in your life or it is an object which constantly reminds you of the failures of your past, you need to get rid of them. Sometimes they can be as innocuous as a pair of boots your partner gave you before splitting. If they feed into your negative image of yourself, you need to replace them. For me, this meant tossing out a pair of perfectly good boots and making sure I didn’t hold onto any of the stuff I directly associated with failure in my life.
Continue The Conversation –
I realize some of these things seem obvious. But sometimes we need to be shaken from where we are at, just long enough to see things more clearly. It’s always easier giving advice to someone else than it is taking advice from someone, no matter how good the advice is. So I would love to know some of the advice you would give to those parents out there who feel like they have to go it alone sometimes. What are some of your best tips for staying sane in the midst of a crazy situation? And what do you like to do when things feel like they are spiraling out of control? I would love to hear your advice.
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If you liked this post, please like this post at the end. And definitely follow me here by subscribing to the Guide. All email subscribers will be given the password to The Dad Rules. These are ten rules every dad should know about and follow. Thanks for stopping by once again. And tune in tomorrow for the next in my Food Holiday series where I will be doing the fake food history, and Brandi will be providing you with excellent ways to serve this item.
Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life