There’s a temptation to focus on the joy and wonder of birth and the bond between a young baby and its mother. But it’s undeniable that the experience for dads is inherently different, whether it’s pregnancy, birth, taking care of a tiny infant, or parenting a toddler, youth, tween, and teen.

Two Mindsets

After decades of our society striving towards gender equality, I still see that men and women approach parenting differently. Not exclusively — there are outliers and exceptions to the rule — but generally, women are more nurturing and forgiving, while men are more strict and, often, more critical.

That 1950s “Wait ’till your father gets home” mentality is all too familiar, where the mum was in charge of raising the children while the dad represented, what, authority? the system? and was the occasional guest star in the family.

Times change and we dads have had to step things up, learning how to be involved in every aspect of birth and parenting, from being involved in the birth itself to changing diapers, midnight feedings, soothing an upset baby, and even offering a well-timed hug to help alleviate the pain of a boo-boo or hurt feelings.

Doing It All

Become a single dad and the parenting gender role challenge returns.

I know for myself there was a period when I had to learn how to not be just “dad”, but rather be able to offer my young children a nurturing parent, a fun, relaxed parent, and a strict parent who has and enforces household rules.

Good cop and bad cop.

But that’s a lot easier to do when there are two of you rather than just one, and as with many suddenly single fathers, my first year was a bit rough and tumble, just when I wanted to focus on helping my children through this profound change in their own lives.

The fact is, life can be tough, and it’s a sure bet that parenting can be tough, whether you’re the nurturing, loving parent or the strict parent. One way or the other, kids test parents and push boundaries just to see what happens.

Growing Together

This isn’t limited to just teenagers either: my children have had to learn how to work with me as a single dad, just as I’ve had to learn to be both nurturing parent/strict parent with each of them as they’ve grown up. As we’ve all grown up.

What I’ve found is that the most useful traits as a single dad are to remember that you’re a parent first and a friend second, and to retain a sense of humour about everything. Oh, that sense of humour is critical to survival as a dad — trust me on this!

One thing I also work on every day is to be able to differentiate between “fix it” and “get through it” moments. For example: your child is sick. That’s a get-through-it moment, as you can’t really get upset with them for being sick. But if they’re sick every Monday morning as a way to avoid PE or turning in their math homework? That’s now a “fix it”, and it’s time to sit down with your child and their teacher to address the problem.

Many times I have felt my own stress increase as I get into a difficult situation with one or more of my children, determined to force a solution and impose my will upon them. In those situations, I try to step back, take a deep breath, and realise there’s nothing really broken, so there’s no reason to try and fix it.


Find more great articles by Dave on his website here.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk.

Published On: November 1st, 20220 CommentsTags: , , , , ,

About the Author: Guest Writer

Dads4Kids is a harm prevention charity committed to excellence in fathering. Our vision is to transform the nation by inspiring fathers to help their children be the best they can be.There’s a crisis in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 870,000 children, more than 1 in 6, live without their biological father at home.

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