You may have escaped the difficulty of the broken relationship you were in, and now you face the seemingly tall feat of rebuilding a new co-parenting life, restructuring your family and household while not losing sight of basic personal needs along the way. Many people strongly believe that a child needs two parents to have the stable environment they need to thrive. This isn’t necessarily true, but it does take work on your part to ensure that your child’s emotional, social, and physical needs are met. As a single father, you are both caretaker and provider. Chances are, you’re going to have to rely on a friend, family member, or community childcare provider in order to get everything done. And that’s okay.
As a single co-parenting dad to three healthy boys I can attest, slipping into a fully engaged caregiver role was an adjustment. Being the Provider was no problem, fortunately. First and foremost, remember that your baby’s needs are basic and straightforward. They crave food, touch, stimulation and lots of affection. They need lots of sleep, we know this all too well. And their cycles run a bit different than ours. I mention this not to simply underline the obvious but in the blur of parenting babies and/or toddlers, we can get mired in the details and sometimes forget them altogether.
Personally, my biggest struggle was slowing down to their speed, their pace and being open to their needs. I had to recalibrate myself.
Provide and Nurture
It is important to remind you of some of the most important moments in parenting babies and/or toddlers are the smallest and simplest. Babies crave skin to skin contact, of course. That job is for both mom and dad. Get in that rocking chair and simply rock, and cuddle. If you have a toddler, get down on the floor (read; below their sightline) and be in their space. Stay in that space. Engage and enjoy their discoveries. Be the Caregiver. Answer their endless questions. Watch them wake up to the world around them. Get a kickstand for your phone and shoot lots of videos, you will not regret it.
Let’s get back to you, for a moment. Aside from playing the part of the Caregiver for the kid, you are going to have to do the same for yourself. That’s right. Take it easy on yourself. The baby/toddler years run at a drastically different rhythm than most, and that’s okay. Sleep when you can. Embrace the power nap.
Take some time to take care of your body. Maybe you didn’t exercise before you had this beautiful kid that has turned your world upside down, now is the time. Find a sport, join a gym, go for longer walks, do what you need to do. You’ll handle stress better, it’ll help stave off depression, you’ll sleep better, you’ll look better, the list goes on. Do it.
Build Your Tribe
Whether it’s other like-minded dads, moms or co-parents, or the folks you play softball with, create a purposeful circle of excellent people to surround yourself with. This support system will be there for you when you need to run across town and need help for an hour with the kid or, the flipside, when baby is with your co-parent and you have an empty nest and you need mental/emotional support, and encouragement.