It is not easy to write about this. I have been around my son ever since he took his first breath. Needless to say, it is terrible even to imagine a scenario where I am not around him. However, not every dad is as fortunate as I am, to get to spend time with their child. Some cannot be there, some are just some anonymous sperm donors. The remaining do not want to be around the child and share the responsibility. To each, his own.
However, the debate is not about the availability of a dad. The pertinent question is, how to raise a child without a father. Being a father, I can see the challenges in doing so. But hey mum, if you are raising a child on your own, that is a monumental task and you deserve an applause. It takes a strong will to be a parent, let alone a single parent.
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The good news, it is not that bad
There is a great deal of research that indicates that the absence of a father has a negative impact on the socio-economic development of a child. But an analysis of scientific studies with a strong design to eliminate the biases says that it is not that bad. Granted, there is going to be an impact on the child’s development, but it is not as bad as it was previously thought to be.
So now, even I feel a bit relaxed knowing that if something were to happen to me, my son’s development would not be hindered much. Here are 5 things that I would recommend to my wife, in case I hit the bucket.
But you all can benefit from it if you are planning/already raising your child on your own, whatever the reason might be.
1# Talk about the father
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Discussing the father is not going to harm your child. When you talk about the father without your feelings biasing the picture, the child may one day understand why his father is not with him. If you are separated, be aware of Parental Alienation Syndrome, a condition where the child rejects one parent as the other paints a bad picture of the former.
However, don’t forget that you did have some good times together. For a child, the positive memories go a long way at developing normally. If I hit the bucket, I would like my wife to tell my son that I made the best omelettes that she had ever eaten! I would hate if the mention of my name would cause an awkward pause in the conversation.
2# Get into a schedule
As a single mum, you would be burdened with a lot of responsibilities. Get your life in shape and things would start looking a bit more manageable from then. Divide the tasks into these 4 brackets: finances and savings, education and developmental activities, routine household activities including maintenance, your own personal life.
On your calendar, mark the important dates – the date to pay the school fees, soccer practices, piano lessons, credit card bills, salary, examinations, possible dates. Try and find a balance between the chores.
3# Lean on
You are a superwoman. But even a superwoman needs a break. Instead of leaning on habit-forming addictions like nicotine to beat stress, lean on the ones that offer help. Let your parents take care of the children on Saturdays. Hire a babysitter to go out on Friday evenings with office colleagues. Your life is far from over, so stop being Hercules and share your chores with the ones willing to support you.
4# Get in touch with other single mums
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This is not only therapeutic but also a good bonding circle. The sad reality of life is people judge. But maybe, not these women. If you find yourself separated, you might notice that suddenly your friends start to call you less frequently. Accept it and move on. It is their loss.
That said, this is also very practical. Sons who see strong mums tend to be more sensitive towards their future spouses. Daughters tend to become independent at a very early age. The circle of friends could share responsibilities like taking the children to school, or enrichment classes, or even step in as reliable childcarers.
5# Don’t try to overcompensate
Don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel miserable. Don’t try to pamper your child, nor be too strict on him. Try and do everything in moderation. Let him have an ice kachang on Fridays, but also make sure that he does well in school. But most important of it all, let him see you happy. He will be fine. Just be there for him. He is going to go through phases irrespective of the father being there. Let him grow up without a hovering parent over his head.
Mums, this is a unique opportunity to shape the child the way this world deserves. Be his mentor as well as his confidante, his admonisher as well as the person who pampers him. In short, be his mother. It is enough.
- The Causal Effects of Father Absence. Sara McLanahan, Laura Tach, and Daniel Schneider, Annual review of Psychology. July 2013.
- Single parent? Tips for raising a child alone. Mayo clinic.
Also read: Single mom teaches her son to do chores because housework “isn’t just for women”