25% of families in France today are single-parent families. Among them, 18% are made up of a single father and his child(ren) (as far as full custody is concerned).
But solo dads aren't just separated dads who have primary custody of the child. We're also talking about widowed dads, divorced dads with alternating custody, and dads who take care of their children every other weekend and half of the vacations.
If single moms remain much more numerous to experience single parenthood, the number of single dads is increasing. From 300,000 in 2017, they are 350000 in 2020. The number of single dads who discover the reality (not always simple!!🤯) of the daily life of single moms, is therefore increasing every year.
Whether the situation is undergone or chosen, a solo dad encounters the same difficulties (hey yes 🙂 ): tenfold mental load, lack of support, constant running, loneliness, managing his career and his love life....
But they also face other problems. Even more than single moms, less publicized, single fathers sometimes feel like the "forgotten ones" of society.
Most importantly, they face a double challenge:
- How to feel legitimate in the face of societal clichés about parenthood?
- How do you let go of the pressure, and feel good about yourself as a single dad?
Focus on these new fathers: their difficulties, their concerns, their joys, the system D and the existing relays to support them! 😌
1. Solo dad: facing a double challenge
1.a Deeply rooted societal prejudices
Even if customs and mentalities are evolving, certain clichés persist.
First and foremost, the roles traditionally associated with the father and mother. Many still think that a mother is THE main reference for a child. That the maternal instinct is stronger than the paternal instinct. In two words, that a mother has more skills to educate and surround a child on a daily basis.
Alexandra Piesen, Doctor of Sociology, in a study published in 2019, looked at the reality experienced by these new solo dads:
His meetings and exchanges with fathers who raise their children alone have brought to light some specificities related to their single parenthood:
- the "pressure" of society's expectations
(Mothers being traditionally and "naturally" often considered more competent in parenting)
- the temptation to be a "perfect parent" to overcompensate for being a man and having primary custody.
(Since primary residence in the father's home is for some associated with "maternal failure," the single father may feel that he is the "default custodial parent.")
- the need to be reassured about one's abilities as a "good parent
It's true that it's not easy every day. We don't have a model of fathers who raise their children alone, so it's complicated, we never really know if we're doing things correctly.
Oliver, 40 years old, 2 children
- finding a balance between being "close" and "framing
(And don't become the harsh father who punishes in front of the "Sunday moms"!)
I am not the mother, but I do motherly work.
Or at least the one we attribute to women: I make food, cuddle etc.
Basically, a single father is a mother like any other.
The difference is that you are suspected of incompetence. You are constantly asked, "How do you do it?"
I always answer "like the others". By dint of being questioned about one's legitimacy, one can begin to doubt that one is doing the right thing.
Omar, 37 years old, 1 child
The stereotypes concerning the distribution of parental roles are now revisited and are bound to evolve...slowly but surely 🙂 Still, it is not necessarily easy to free oneself from the gaze of others.
That the sometimes fragile confidence of single fathers in their own abilities leads them to position themselves as "learners", to doubt more than necessary. For a mother or a father, entering single parenthood is always a destabilizing stage. But because of their "atypical" situation, single dads may feel a frequent need to justify themselves.
"I have had no trouble finding my role with my two children.
It is completely different from the outside world. People doubt my abilities, every administrative process turns into an obstacle course... There is no equality even though I love my children as much as their mother."
Leo, 42 years old, 2 children
1.b The pressure to be a "good" solo father: feeling legitimate
A single dad may therefore feel that he has to continually "prove" his skills. Demonstrate that he is fully capable of full-time parenting "as well as a mother".
This stress is added to the daily grind of managing a house, school/work schedules, errands, homework, unforeseen events...without the help of the other parent!
The anxiety of not being able to cope, of not being a "good enough parent", is inversely proportional to the father's investment before the separation. Even if it can be complicated at the beginning to find an organization, to refocus, time, and the fact of managing on a daily basis allow to alleviate a little the pressure, to regain confidence:
"I found myself a little lost for a while, so I was afraid the situation would get out of hand.
But I stopped feeling guilty, because that's another part of my guilt. For a long time, I thought that it wasn't good enough [what he was doing as tasks], and that more was needed. "
Romain, 49 years old, 2 children
And they are right!
As evidenced by the words of Patrice Huerre, child psychiatrist and author of "Solo fathers, singular fathers?,
"Since the works in ethology and on the attachment, we know well that the toddler, to ensure its survival, will be attached to the adult figure likely to answer in a reliable way its needs.
This can be his father or his mother, a man or a woman. Everything will depend on the way in which this adult will be able to adapt to the baby, that it is the father or the mother."
However, faced with a sacred maternal role, some single dads try not to make any mistakes, to ensure the best they can on all fronts. For fear of having their parenting skills called into question, or even of having custody taken away from them.
They are thus very vigilant to what could call into question their legitimacy as a single father: school dropout, behavioral problems, place and rhythm of life, quality of food...
"I've always made sure I was beyond reproach"
Nicolas, 50, engineer, two daughters aged 17 and 11
These fathers express their feeling of not having the right to make mistakes, of being watched by the institutions, or by their entourage.
"When a mother makes a mistake, we're more likely to say, 'poor thing, it's hard.' Whereas if a father makes a mistake, we can take custody away from him." Thomas, 41, 1 child
"Now that my son is older, I feel like I'm being measured less.
I don't have the negative feelings I had when he was a baby.
There are not too many of us in my case, but there are also men who have been given primary custody.
But there are many help networks for single women, not for men. We talk about it less, men also give themselves up less, and are perhaps like all these guys who don't want to ask for directions... It's strange at a time when we talk so much about equality between women and men. Equality, it's both ways right? "
Cédric, 43 years old, computer scientist, widower, one 11 year old son
2. Single dad and single mom: same battle?
If some differences exist, being the head of a single-parent family implies of course the same difficulties, whether you are a man or a woman.
The exception, however, according to the latest INSEE figures, is in terms of income and working life.
Children living alone with their father would be less often in poverty: 22% in 2018, compared to 45% for those living full time with their mother.
- Single dad and work
Are employers more accommodating to single dads than to single moms?
Not always, since in a male society, and like the majority of single mothers, single fathers are also confronted with the lack of openness of the employer in terms of schedule, vacations, or doctor's appointments.
"I lost my wife when my son was 6 months old. I came back from Quebec to settle in the Paris region, where I had the help of my two sisters and my mother. Even so, it's complicated when you're alone, male or female. You have to be at the nursery in the morning and in the evening, only hold jobs that allow you to leave at 5:45 p.m., accept to be available twenty-four hours a day, not have one weekend out of two, be tired. Moreover, raising a child alone means only one salary but an extra room..."
Cédric, 43 years old, widower, with an 11 year old son
The single father who has difficulty employing a childminder will have to resort to the system D: friends, grandparents ... or professional retraining!
Like Skander, 37 years old, who in order to raise his 3 year old son alone, had to leave his job in the insurance industry and become self-employed.
Others are unemployed. Thierry, for example, became a single father of two boys when his ex-wife left the marital home. Following the separation, he had to resign from a job as an archive processing manager in order to manage the daily routine in the emergency.
In addition to the obstacles to their careers, what are the main difficulties common to single parents, male or female?
- Social isolation of the single parent
Loneliness and isolation are among the main consequences of single parenthood. It is difficult to find the time and energy needed to practice a sport or cultural activity, or simply to go out with friends.
Forums for single parents, or support groups on Facebook exist, even if because of their rarity, some single dads feel less integrated.
However, single dad associations are also emerging.
It should also be noted that the isolation associated with a desire to live up to his mission as a single parent can lead to an "over-investment" in the paternal role, to the detriment of his life as a man.
- Rebuilding your life as a single father / Single dad and new girlfriend
As for single moms, meeting new people, reinvesting in a love relationship, forming a blended family, is a path that can be strewn with obstacles: material, but also psychological.
"This is what emerges from our survey: they seem eager to ensure what they consider to be their paternal duty by excluding a lasting commitment to a new life as a couple, fearing otherwise that they are not "good enough fathers".
Patrice Huerre, child psychiatrist and author of "Solo fathers, singular fathers?"
"It's complicated to find someone. I still have a hard time conceiving of leaving my kids to go party."
Eric, 32 years old
But social life, professional life and love life are not the only concerns that single dads have to face. Other (many!) questions are part of their daily lives:
- The absence of a relay
- The possibility of using female reference figures
"There are all the questions around periods and boys, I'm not sure how to broach the subject with her. It's true that these are things where I felt she didn't dare talk to me too much about it. "
Marco, 40 years old, 2 children
- Managing relationships with the other spouse
- Questions about education
- The difficulty of taking time for oneself
- Adolescence (!)
- The possibility of being advised by professionals
But not everything is dark in the land of the solo dad!
Taking care of your child alone is also creating a strong bond with him, synonymous with great moments of happiness as a dad 🤩.
"When I look back at the year that has passed, I tell myself that I have managed to manage the situation and that I am very lucky. Right now, the little ones are on vacation with their mother and I have to admit that I'm a little bored. "
3. Noo Family: providing concrete and adapted help to single parents!
Noo Family is a support platform for single parents: single moms, single dads, divorced, widowed, separated. Because we have experienced single parenthood, and the lack of adapted interlocutors, Noo was created by and for single parents.
What help does Noo offer to single dads?
To simplify your life, get personalized answers and solutions, we allow you to book a session with a professional familiar with parenting issues (it's better 😉 ):
👉 A session by video or telephone ☎️
👉 Quickly (maximum delay of 24h on average) ⏰
👉 At a time that suits you: Monday to Saturday from 7am to 11pm 🙏
👉 Graduate experts who give you concrete answers 😎
Our experts in the field of single parenthood will accompany you online
Anxiety, love relationships, conflicts, relationships with your ex-spouse...with a Psychologist
Do you have any questions or special requests? Contact us, we will be happy to answer you.
Looking for information on the financial, logistical, legal help you are entitled to as a single dad? Check out our article: "The Single Parent Guide (it's about time!)"
👉 So me bonus resources:
Documentary " Papas solos, the new heroes?
Victoire Mabille and Olivier Ponthus
"Solo fathers, singular fathers?" Patrice Huerre, child psychiatrist
Being a "solo" father: a model of "good" father to be built every day...
Alexandra Piesen. Ency- clo. Revue de l'école doctorale Sciences des Sociétés ED 624, Université de Paris, 2019, Maternités, paternités : représentations, pratiques, nouvelles perspectives, 10, pp.71-90. hal-02469966v2
"The effects of 'solo parenting' on parenting and the boundaries of childhood"
Charpenel, Marion, et al, Social and Family Policy Review, vol. 138, no. 1, 2021, pp. 5-25.