Raising kids under any circumstances is a challenge. Raising them as a single parent is all the more so. And if you’re a dad, the challenge is even greater. How can you work and watch the kids, if they’re still young? Who’s going to show your 10-year-old daughter how to use feminine hygiene products? Suppose you never learned to cook — who’s going to feed you and the kids?
Here are a handful of creative solutions for various dilemmas.
• Become housemates with another custodial solo dad and his kids (or even two other solo dads and their families). Whether you take turns watching all the kids or hire a daytime caregiver to watch them while you work, and babysitters for those evenings when you’re both out, splitting the cost, you can help each other out.
• Find a job at which you can telecommute so you can work at home and keep an eye on the kids at the same time. (WARNING: This one sometimes reads better than it plays… such as when you have a sick kid and an important project to complete timely.)
• Start your own business and work from home… or bring the pre-school-age kids with you to your store or plant nursery or whatever, if such be the nature of your business.
• Move to the town where your mother or sister lives —if she’s agreeable to helping you (remember, she has a life of her own) — and elicit her help in watching the kids, whether it’s keeping an eye on a hyperactive toddler or watchig a 10-year-old after school and on the evenings when you go out.
• Simplest and most effective: Learn to cook. If your kids are old enough, have them learn with you.
• Trade helpfulness with a single mom: In return for her cooking for you on a regular or semi-regular basis, what chores can you do for her? Mow her lawn? Maintain her vehicle? Wash and groom her Saint Bernard? Take care of her swimming pool? Clip her hedges? Build her kids a tree house?
Or purchase enough food weekly to feed both her family and yours, with you paying part of her food bill in consideration for her doing the cooking.
She doesn’t literally have to have you over to her house every night or come over to your house to cook nightly. Many foods lend themselves to advance preparation and freezing, so that all you have to do is defrost and heat the food, but even though you’re microwaving frozen food, it’s home-cooked food, not something terrible tasting and terribly unhealthy from the store’s freezer.
NOTE: I said “single mom,” but it’s possible you’ll find another single dad who’s a kitchen whiz but 10 thumbs at home repair, who’ll be a perfect match for trading helpfulness with! Not all women are cooks, and not all cooks are women. I number several men-who-cook-well among my friends (Hi Jesse, Joe B., Normy, and Stew!), and they’re not all bachelors, either.
• If you’re a widower, or not living in the same vicinity as your ex-wife, you’ll need someone as a stand-in on those occasions when girls just need their mothers. Explaining the facts of life? You can handle that one yourself. But showing your daughter how to use feminine hygiene products? Uh-uh… you need a woman for that. And showing up for such occasions as mother/daughter luncheons? You probably don’t want to be a stand-in for that even if you’re permitted to. A female relative your daughter is close to is your best solution. A grandmother (your mother or your late wife’s/ex-wife’s mother) or an aunt (again, your sister or your child’s mother’s sister), or even your daughter’s much-older sister is usually the best choice. Alternatively, a woman your child is close to: a friend of the family; or the mother or even much-older sister of oe of your daughter’s friends can serve as a stand-in for Mom.
There. That doesn’t solve all your problems — not by a longshot — but it’s a start. And it may set your “creativity gears” in motion and help you think of solutions to other problems.
The important thing is, those problems are not insurmountable.
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Cynthia MacGregor is the author of over 100 books, many of them for parents or kids, many of which help with difficult situations. These include The Divorce Helpbook for Teens, The Divorce Helpbook for Kids, After Your Divorce, and Jigsaw Puzzle Family, all in print, and such e-books as Solo Parenting and “Step” This Way. Learn more about them at Cynthia’s website, www.cynthiamacgregor.com.
Cynthia is available for copywriting, ghostwriting, and editing. Email her at Cynthia@cynthiamacgregor.com.
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