SOLO DADS: They are the minority among the minority. Often left out in official reports, finding them entails combing through women-dominated data.
CNN reports that in 2015, the Philippine Statistics Authority estimated about three million household heads without a spouse — two million of whom were female. This means that only a third of the single parent households is constituted by males.
In as much as women bear the negative stigma associated with single parenthood in a confusingly conservative country like the Philippines, men also experience their own struggles in raising families single-handedly.
This Father's Day, let us get to know two modern fathers whose moving stories prove that the struggles and rewards of solo parenthood are shared by both sexes.
CARL, the Super Dad-Mom
Our first dad, Carl, is a young widow. The abrupt passing of his wife due to an illness left him alone to tender to the needs of a few months' old infant some 13 years ago.
1. What were the challenges that you encountered when you suddenly became a solo parent?
"I hardly had some me-time because both work and child caring demanded so much of my time that whatever was left was spent sleeping."
I needed to devote a large chunk of my time in being both a mother and a father to my infant daughter. And since I don't have a nanny, that includes giving her a bath, feeding her, changing diapers, taking her to vaccination shots, reading her bedtime stories, etc. I needed to ask my mother to take care of her while I went to work. Then when she got older and went to school, it was helping her with assignments and school projects, attending parent-teacher meetings and guiding her to become a good student. (she was first honor from kindergarten to Grade 6). All this while doing a highly-stressful and demanding job (first as a government employee and then later as a nightshift employee) in charge of leading a team.
2. What is the most rewarding part of being a solo parent?
Watching my daughter become a caring, kind and intelligent human being who will probably achieve so much more than I ever will in my life.
3. How are you able to get some me-time or self-care considering that you both work and take care of your child?
During the early years of my daughter's life I hardly had some me-time because both work and child caring demanded so much of my time that whatever was left was spent sleeping. When she became older I was able to sneak in an occasional workout and a book while she was off to school.
4. Has dating or getting in to a relationship been difficult for you? What are your common issues? And how are you able to make things work?
Dating did not even enter my mind in the early years of being a single father. I barely had time to sleep. I only started dating when my daughter settled into her schooling and started becoming more independent during the latter part of her grade school years. Having a daughter and being a single father, in my experience, is more of an issue with the family and friends of the woman I was dating. I find women to be more accepting of my situation but it is altogether different when I get introduced to parents, family and friends. Overcoming this is a function of the strength of a relationship and the distinct relational dynamic between the one I am dating and her family. I am still working on the best way to overcome this if and when I encounter this challenge again.
5. Give us one #SmartHack for women who plan to date a single dad.
It is always a plus when a woman is open-minded enough to understand that there will be times when single dads have to allot some time to taking care of their child and performing daddy duties which means making the most the time they have as a couple.
STEVE, the Awesome Daddy-o!
Steve (not his real name) has been raising his children, ages 14 and nine, as a co-parent with his former wife since 2012.
1. How old are your children? How old were they when you and your ex-wife separated?
Currently 14 and 9. They were 8 and 3 when we separated.
2. How did your children factor into your and your ex's decision to part ways?
"One of my difficulties is not having an instruction manual on how to go about dating a new person, how to introduce them to the children, and how to integrate them into your new life. But you take things step by step and genuinely try to listen to the needs also of your partner."
I was the one who made the final decision to leave because I couldn't take being with my ex wife anymore. I love my children more than anything in the world, but I knew this was not the life I wanted to live. I didn't want to stay in a loveless marriage just for the sake of the children.
3. What were the co-parenting arrangements that you and your ex made to prepare your children?
A legal settlement was arrived at to establish rules on financial support and visitation rights. The agreement also covers a prohibition from permanently taking the children to live in another country.
4. What are the challenges that you encounter as a co-parent? How do you address them?
Lingering bitterness on the side of my co-parent. We have not really spoken since separation. The only thing I have done is keep my end of the obligations to avoid any further conflict.
5. What is the most rewarding part of being a solo parent?
Spending time with your children and hearing from them that they still love you regardless of the separation.
6. How are you able to get some me-time or self-care considering that you both work and take care of your child?
As a businessman, I have the privilege of working on my own hours so this is a tremendous help for me. I can set aside days of the week to devote to my children as well as to myself.
7. Has dating or getting in to a relationship been difficult for you? What are your common issues? And how are you able to make things work?
Hahaha! One of my difficulties is not having an instruction manual on how to go about dating a new person, how to introduce them to the children, and how to integrate them into your new life. But you take things step by step and genuinely try to listen to the needs also of your partner.
8. Give us one #SmartHack for women who plan to date a single dad.
Just speak to him gently, kindly, lovingly about concerns that bother you in a non-accusatory way, and also tell him how he can help.