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Single Dads: How to Have a Great Holiday Season with Your Kids

holiday

The holiday season as a newly single parent brings a range of emotions, and you may find yourself flip-flopping between uneasiness, relief, and loneliness at times. The good news? You have your kids to spend time with and enjoy — and going through these new and unfamiliar feelings together can be a great source of comfort, both for you and them.

It can feel overwhelming to figure out how to give your kids the holiday celebration they deserve, particularly if your ex was traditionally in charge of holiday planning. Remember, what matters most to your kids is spending quality time with you during the holidays; not the number of presents, cookies, or holiday parties involved. With a little bit of creativity and planning, you can have a wonderful family holiday — and make it one your kids will always remember.

Here are a few tips for making the holiday season really ring as a single dad:

Break — and Make — Traditions

This tip is important, especially if your separation from your ex was recent, and is still fresh for your whole family. Don’t try to replicate the exact same traditions you had before the divorce, or separation. Your kids likely have great memories associated with those past experiences — so leave those alone, and allow them to live on as wonderful memories.

Choose instead to start new traditions together. Attend a new holiday event, or buy new lights to hang. Get a few new Christmas tree ornaments, or Hanukkah decorations. Learn to prepare an unusual seasonal food together. Choose to do things that fit the personality of your new family unit — activities both you and your kids will enjoy, that will begin to form great memories of this new chapter in your lives.

Focus on Experiences

Most of us have enough “stuff” in our homes, and the truth is that many of the items and toys kids want one year are forgotten by the next. Instead of investing in more toys and electronics, which won’t truly soothe your family’s uncomfortable feelings this season, look for experiences instead. Take the kids on an unexpected trip, or visit a fun holiday attraction you’ve never been to. Make sure you iron out all the details with your co-parent ahead of time, so there aren’t any conflicts. Your kids will cherish the moments you spend as a family for much longer than any material gifts.

Ask Your Kids for Suggestions

Save yourself a few steps, and ask your kids what they would like to do (and receive) for the holiday. Perhaps there are activities you haven’t heard of, or special things they have in mind that you can do as a family. Coming up with new traditions can be a fun family activity — sit down and brain storm new ideas together. Perhaps take a trip to the nearest holiday or craft store, and let each kid pick out a few new decorations. Try to give each child an opportunity to choose an activity, either at home or in the community (within reason, of course). It’s possible that all they really want is to make cookies at home with you.

Stay Busy

You’re bound to feel a range of difficult emotions as the holiday season progresses, particularly when your kids aren’t with you. Plan ahead for these times, and surround yourself with pleasant or comforting distractions. Make plans with friends and loved ones, or just head out and enjoy a hobby or activity that you really love. Go to the gym, the movies, your favorite restaurant, or that new hobby shop you’ve been meaning to check out. Try not to dwell on the past. Get out and enjoy the best of the current season – both when you’re with the kids, and when you’re on your own.

Give Back

Bonding over shared community service is a great way to spend holiday time with your kids – and it will help remind them of all they have. Find volunteer opportunities that apply best to your family, whether it’s with local hunger groups, holiday toy collections, or even the animal shelter. Try to make a lasting tradition — maybe you can continue volunteering even after the holiday season has ended. Volunteering gives everyone (no matter what age) a good dose of perspective; and it truly feels good to help others, which can make some of your icky holiday feelings fade away.

Remember, your kids are the main reason you celebrate the holidays. Find ways to make them feel special, without going overboard with material items. When you aren’t with your kids, look for smart ways to take care of yourself, too — because when you take good care of you, you’ll be able to give your best to them.

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6 Family Vacations to Plan

As a parent, planning a family vacation requires some extra consideration. It’s not easy to blend fun and education, balance relaxing time with exciting activities for the kids, and throw in at least a few things that you want to do, too. If your kids are at different ages with varying interests, it can be quite overwhelming to try to plan vacation activities that all will enjoy.

Fortunately, there are plenty of destination spots that offer just the right mixture of kid-friendly attractions and grown-up fun. When you find the right location, full of opportunities for fun, learning, relaxing, and sightseeing, the trip practically plans itself.

We’ve put together a list of family-friendly vacation spots for your next trip. Now it’s just a matter of choosing one, packing your suitcases and travel essentials, and hitting the road for a fun family experience.

1. Florida’s Space Coast

If you’re looking for a fun-filled Florida vacation, without the hefty price tag of theme-park destinations, book some time on the Space Coast. This area on the east coast of the state is named for its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center, which families can visit and explore together.

When you’re not spending time marveling at the Space Center, you can build castles and soak up the sun at any one of the gorgeous shores — either in famous places like Cocoa Beach, or the lesser known spots like Satellite Beach. A trip to the Space Coast gives your family the opportunity to balance relaxing beach time with learning and exploration of outer space; a vacation that kids and parents of all ages can enjoy.

2. Chicago

For a big city experience that also feels down to earth, head to the Windy City. There’s a plethora of attractions and activities in Chicago (many of them free!), making the city a prime vacation spot for families with children young and old.

Visit the Magnificent Mile, and take your kids for a walk through the always-free Field Museum. The free Crown Fountains at downtown Millennium Park can provide hours of entertainment — make a full day of it, by pairing this with a free summer concert at Hyde Park.

Hop on the red line L and head to Lincoln Park to visit the renowned (and free) Lincoln Park Zoo — open 365 days a year. The city offers sports fans something for each season. Depending on the time of year, check out a Chicago Cubs/White Sox game, a Chicago Bears game, or a Chicago Blackhawks hockey match.

3. Yellowstone National Park

The National Parks Service celebrated its 100th birthday this year, and they are still providing memorable family experiences year-round. Yellowstone National Park is one of the best to visit with children, thanks to the many kid-friendly hikes and scenery. From hiking to canoeing to camping and more — a family can spend a day (or two, or seven) exploring the natural wonders of this relatively untouched area of American heritage.

Sights you can’t miss include the famous geyser Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic hot springs, and Upper Falls. Keep your eyes peeled for bison, bears, wolves, and sheep as you journey the park. If you plan to stay the night in the park, under the vast star-filled skies, make your reservations at least 6 months in advance.

4. New Orleans

Most people associate NOLA with some pretty adult activities, but the city is actually very family-friendly if you go in the off-Mardi Gras season. In Jackson Square, jazz sets the background music for street performers like mimes and jugglers. You’ll be surrounded by entertainment as you stroll through the enjoyable southern city air. Your kids will love taking a ride in one of the charming streetcars — many of the drivers share pieces of New Orleans’ history as you ride along.

For some educational fun, take the kids to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Zoo, and the Audubon Butterfly Gardens and Insectarium (you can even taste a bug if you want!). Be sure to stop in at the local restaurants to taste some of the rich Cajun food, and don’t miss the chance to grab a warm beignet.

5. Niagara Falls

These breathtaking waterfalls are just the starting point of a unique American-Canadian vacation. The Falls themselves boast 6 million cubic feet of water per minute – enough to silence even the feistiest of tiny travelers. Take a ferry ride to get up close and personal with Niagara’s misty spray!

Make sure your family has current passports on hand so you can experience Niagara Falls from the Rainbow Bridge – crossing from the American side to the Canadian, and back. During the day, expect to see rainbows shimmering as the sunshine hits the sprays of water. Then, walk back down at night to see the waterfalls lit up.

Whether you opt to stay on the Canadian or American side, there’s plenty to do on each side of the border – from children’s museums to miniature golfing. The natural beauty and magnificence of this renowned landmark make it a vacation your children will remember forever.

6. St. Louis

This Midwestern urban city offers plenty of small-town feel opportunities. There are many free activities for families in St. Louis, including the world-famous St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

If you’ve got young kids, opt for some hands-on fun at The Magic House, a children’s museum where your little ones can dabble in art, music, math, construction, and more. Take your little sports lovers to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game, to soak in the atmosphere of one of the nation’s most-loved MLB teams. You can even tour the Anheuser-Busch brewery for free (kids may not care much for that one, though). Whatever your agenda, St. Louis has affordable options to fit the bill.

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5 Tips for Flying with Your Baby

baby's first flight

Babies on airplanes get a pretty bad rap, especially in the age of social media. You’ve probably read a Tweet or two about adults who had a rough flying experience due to a crying little one. It happens – but you don’t see Tweets about the many babies who sleep soundly through flights, or play happily with their toys.

At its best, flying with a baby is actually a fun opportunity to experience adventure with your child. You can’t guarantee your baby won’t make a sound, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of a smooth flight with your baby. Here are some ways to make that experience the best possible for you, your little one, and all the other people on the airplane.

1. Get to the Airport Early

Here’s a parenting truth all new parents learn right away: Everything takes longer with a baby. You’ll want to stop and change her diaper before getting on the airplane. Then, there’s getting your stroller and other baby gear through security, and a whole plethora of other things that simply take longer with a child along (everything from taking a bathroom break, to stopping to tie your shoe).

So, how early should you arrive for your baby’s first flight? At least an hour earlier than you usually do when traveling alone. If all goes well, and you make it to your gate early, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a few extra minutes of having leg room.

2. Pick a Family-Friendly Airline

When researching to book your flight, find out if the airline allows pre-boarding for families with small children. Check out baggage fees (some airlines charge for carry-on bags), and see if you have the ability to pick out your seat in advance. Knowing your seats ahead of time, pre-boarding with your baby, and having free carry-on items are all things that will make your trip much smoother. Airlines will not charge you to check items like strollers, or car seats.

You can see how some major airlines compare when it comes to kid-friendly features by looking at this chart created by Fatherly. If you book with an airline that understands and accommodates the challenges of traveling with little ones, you increase your odds of a pleasant and successful trip.

3. Fly with Your Car Seat

Many airlines allow “lap children” to fly with parents up until the age of 2 — meaning you don’t have to pay for a separate seat for your baby. While this is allowed, it isn’t ideal. For one thing, safety is at stake. If the airplane experiences unexpected turbulence, your child’s safety is at risk when he is on your lap without a proper way to be buckled in.

Aside from it being the safest option, a car seat also makes it easier for your baby to sleep, and ensure that he arrives happy and rested – not grumpy and tired. Yes, this means paying for your child to have his own seat; search for affordable flights during off-peak times, to help absorb the cost of the extra ticket.

4. Bring Plenty of Food

Sitting with a hungry baby, and no nourishment, in a cramped airplane cabin sounds like a parent’s worst nightmare. When traveling with kids, you can never pack too much food to-go (within reason for your carry-on bag, of course).

The type of food you bring along will depend on the age of your baby. If she is old enough to eat small finger foods, definitely pack them. Not only will these little snacks keep your baby occupied, but the process of self-feeding improves her motor skills.

If your child is not old enough for real food yet, have several bottles of milk or formula at the ready. Your child’s hunger won’t increase while flying, but having the comfort of food could soothe him. Don’t forget to pack some nutritious snacks for yourself, as well. When you’re famished, you’re more likely to be irritable and impatient — take good care of yourself, so you’re better able to take care of your child.

5. Try to Relax

There’s such a stigma surrounding flying with babies that parents may feel anxiety in advance, just imagining the things that could go wrong during the trip. The truth is that every baby reacts differently to flying – and if you are prepared, it may actually end up an enjoyable experience.

Get to know the passengers around you, be friendly and patient, and they will have a warmer attitude towards you and your baby. Allow yourself some relaxation, not only for your own wellbeing, but because your child will feed off that calm energy as well. When you give off a relaxed and contented air, your baby will feel less anxious and more relaxed.

Understandably, your first flight with your baby comes with some apprehension. It’s not easy to fly with a little one, especially if you’re doing it alone. You can’t predict what will happen when that plane hits the sky, but with the right attitude and preparation you can certainly improve your chances of a smooth flight.

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When Is it Time to Move on from a Job?

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If you love the work you do, it doesn’t necessarily always feel like work. But if your career has you feeling burned out, overwhelmed, or perhaps even unsettled, you may be experiencing the telltale signs that it’s time to move on. When you believe that you have nothing left to gain in your position – or nothing left to offer – it can feel like you are stuck, going through the motions just to receive a paycheck.

Of course, it’s not uncommon to experience feelings of malcontent or frustration in the workplace. Everyone has difficult days, and sometimes a challenge can be just what you need to kick your problem-solving skills into high gear to tackle an obstacle from a new perspective. But if your gut is telling you that something just isn’t right anymore, you may need to slow down and listen. Leaving a job can feel similar to the breakdown of a marriage or other relationship – when it’s over, you just know.

Listen to Yourself

If you were once excelling in the workplace and your performance has recently started to suffer, consider taking a step back to assess the situation. Have you merely become complacent in what you do, or have you truly outgrown your job? How do you know how to distinguish between the two?

For starters, listen to yourself. Were you once passionate about your job, eager to start your day and get to work? If you’ve since lost that passion, you may have also lost your motivation. If you dread going into the office and doing your day-to-day tasks, it can be difficult to change your mindset. When you’re experiencing feelings of burnout, it’s crucial to listen to your inner voice that’s telling you something isn’t right. Similarly, if your work no longer challenges you, you may find your mind wandering, wondering if your current position still fits your needs. In order to clearly assess the situation for what it is, be open to thinking it through and hearing yourself out.

Workplace Problems

There are many reasons you may be feeling uneasy about your current position or workplace. Do you work for a difficult boss who is eager to micromanage or undermine you? Or maybe your work environment fosters an unhealthy competition with your colleagues, where instead of focusing on collaboration, you believe they are out to sabotage you? If you don’t enjoy the work environment or office culture, you may feel like you don’t fit in. While there are steps you can take to remedy this, feeling like an outsider can become a problem when it affects your work and your performance. If you are unable to work collaboratively with those around you, you may be right – the environment just isn’t right for you, and you would be better suited someplace that values your contributions and insights.

If you enjoy your work, but you feel that you’ve hit a peak, you’ll need to determine if there is any possible room for growth. When there isn’t room for growth, start thinking about next steps and how a change in job – or company – better aligns with your career goals. If the only possible area of growth is a lateral career move – or perhaps in a direction that you don’t envision for yourself – you may also want to consider a change.

There are many reasons directly related to the workplace that can signify a reason to leave. When a company’s organizational structure begins to shift in ways that impact the employees in negative ways, you may begin to wonder if the change is in your best interest. If those around you are making a mass exodus for greener pastures, you too might be tempted to join the cause.

During difficult times in the workplace, it can feel natural to want to discuss the tension with your colleagues. Be wary of this – while it can be helpful to hear if your team members are feeling similarly, it can also be a double-edged sword. You don’t want your feelings to end up misconstrued or trailing back to your superiors.

In this scenario, it may be best to get an outside perspective from someone you trust and respect.

Your Health Is Suffering

You do your best work when you are feeling your best, but if you’ve been noticing the wear and tear of work-related stress, your body could be trying to tell you that something is not right. When we’re stressed, our bodies release hormones that send our nervous system into a state of emergency, causing our hearts to beat faster, our muscles to tighten, and our blood pressure to rise. While these changes are a natural response and can actually improve our strength and focus, they can also be detrimental to health if recurring over a long period of time.

Stress can also exacerbate existing conditions, which can include the following health problems:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive issues
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Skin conditions

If your work life is impacting your health – whether it is physical, mental, or emotional – it may be time to move on and fit something that better suits your needs.

The job hunt isn’t always an easy path to go down, but if you find yourself spread too thin, frustrated by your surroundings, or just plain unhappy in your work, you owe it to yourself to begin the search. When you no longer feel satisfaction or a sense of achievement in your career, you could be on the verge of burnout, and it’s important to take action before it derails you. It’s critical to be proactive, listen to your inner voice, and take care of yourself. Keep in mind that work is what propels us forward to achieve our goals. If you aren’t moving in the direction of your dreams, then where are you headed?

How did you know you were ready to move on from a job? What advice do you have for others who may be feeling the same? Share your feedback in the comments section below!   

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What Does Divorce Do to Your Career?

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People don’t get married with the intention of getting divorced, though according to recent statistics, about one-third of current marriages will end in one. While this is up from the popular myth that posits nearly half of all married couples divorce, it does not change the reality that divorce is a major life event, with frequently emotionally devastating results.

While it may be common knowledge that divorce can affect relationships with friends and family, the professional toll that divorce wreaks often goes unsaid. If divorce impacts all aspects of life, why should one’s professional life be any different?

If you have recently gone through a divorce or are wading through one currently, is crucial that you don’t let the negativity trickle into your work life.

Time Management

Divorce can have unfortunate consequences when it comes to time management. In addition to time-consuming meetings with lawyers and mandated court appearances, there are other constraints to consider. If you shared living quarters your spouse, for the sake of your own wellbeing, you will you need to find somewhere else to stay, whether crashing with friends and family, or finding a completely new residence. Regardless of where you end up, you must carve out the necessary time to make these arrangements.

If you need to tour a new home or apartment, you may be unable to relegate that to weekend time, so it is important to talk with your boss about this beforehand. Depending on your relationship with your boss, you do not need to be explicit about your circumstances, but make sure to explain how you plan to make up any missed work if you are not taking a temporary leave of absence or using paid time off. In either scenario, use your down time wisely so that you can return to work prepared to handle your job with a clear and focused mind.

Workplace Professionalism

Divorce is similar to bereavement in that it is a significant loss, and it will affect you in your day-to-day life, often in unexpected ways. It is critical that you are open to processing your thoughts and feelings, whether that means seeing a therapist, confiding in loved ones, or taking some time much-needed time for yourself. In this time of turmoil, you may find yourself seeking comfort from those close to you, which can include your coworkers. Regardless of your personal relationship with your coworkers, keep it professional at work and don’t divulge any confidential information. While your colleagues are likely to be sympathetic to your circumstances, the workplace is not the ideal place to let your emotions get the best of you. Do not take advantage of your colleagues’ condolences by making them uncomfortable with details of your marriage or your former spouse. Though you may request flexibility from your coworkers during this tumultuous time, consider keeping your private life just that – private.  

Health and Wellbeing

Though the emotional toll of divorce is quite taxing, it can take a physical toll as well. It is not uncommon for depression and anxiety levels to increase, which can cause a painful mixture of lethargy, hopelessness, and constant worrying. Men can also be at risk for developing heart disease following a divorce, as well as significant fluctuations in weight. Though the last thing you may feel like doing is exercising and eating well, taking care of your health is crucial during this difficult time.

Similarly, if you find your sleep suffering, consider visiting a doctor or therapist specializing in sleep disorders to set you back on track. With a lack of sleep, many men find themselves feeling out of sorts in the morning, appearing disheveled or poorly groomed in the workplace. If you’re trying to keep your divorce under wraps, the last thing you’ll want is your co-workers to grow suspicious about your appearance and behavior. Take time for yourself, and don’t neglect your health or wellbeing.

Going through a divorce can have many negative side effects, but the demise of your career shouldn’t become one of them. Maintain stability by keeping your work life constant and professional. Though divorce is unquestionably painful, you can get through it by taking care yourself and seeking the comfort of close friends and family.

Did your divorce affect your career? What did you learn from it? Share your advice in the comments section below!

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Navigating the Online World of Job Hunting for the First Time

job hunt

Being a single father certainly isn’t an easy job, especially when you’re on the  job hunt. The balancing act of providing for your children and getting in quality time with them is a delicate one, and when you add something as time consuming as a search for a new job into the mix, you may find yourself feeling overextended. Fortunately, you can optimize the time you spend job searching by understanding the ways the job hunt has changed.  

If it’s been a long time since you’ve looked for a job, there are a few things that you will need to know before you start looking. These days, a vast majority of companies seek new hires by recruiting online. While there are both pros and cons to this method, it is an unmistakable reality and should be taken into consideration before you’re ready to roll your sleeves up and get to work.

Going Digital

Because the recruitment and hiring process for a single job can be quite lengthy, even spanning over months at a time, employers have found ways to expedite their search by going digital.  This benefits employers several ways, chiefly in that allows them to cast a wider, yet more targeted net. They are also more likely to reach stronger candidates, as today’s job seekers can take advantage of searching online by creating job alerts and signing up for company newsletters that may feature job postings.  

Employers also benefit from an online recruitment through the use of applicant tracking systems. Applicant tracking systems are an online database, storing applicant information for employers to screen. Hiring managers can also use applicant tracking systems to update candidates on their status in the hiring process, notifying them if they are selected for an interview. Applicant tracking systems are a helpful tool for both employers and candidates, though they often require a fastidious amount of detail from job seekers.

Online Applications

For many employers, a resume and/or cover letter just simply isn’t enough. Today’s job applications are deeply thorough, often requesting a candidate’s full employment history, including an explanation for any gaps over the years, in addition to both personal and professional references with phone numbers, email addresses, physical address, as well as their previous and current job titles.  

Some employers will also ask for salary requirements, to be listed in the job application or stated outright in a cover letter. While this may be helpful to employers for screening purposes, it can backfire against applicants. Ask too much, you may be overlooked. Ask too little, and you may have sealed your fate by resigning yourself to low pay.  Furthermore, employers may even ask for candidate’s social security numbers outright, to facilitate background checks before a selection has been determined. Regardless of your level of comfort and notions of privacy, many employers will not even consider applications with any missing information that has been requested.

Social Networking Sites and Job Boards

Beyond online job postings, many companies today post about their open positions on their social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and predominantly, LinkedIn. While it may have been perfectly acceptable in the 1990s to inquire in person if companies were hiring, it is much more uncommon now, as companies today seek tech savvy professionals that engage with their companies online, expressing an interest in their social media channels by “following” or “liking” them.

Many companies also outsource their job postings, working with industry-specific job boards to recruit candidates from a specific field. Candidates may also have luck on job board aggregator sites, like Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com, which are often easy to navigate and allow users to search for jobs by a combination of keyword, salary, and location. You can also post your resume to these sites in hopes that a company may reach out to you first, but it is always better to be proactive as a job seeker.

Ultimately, the modern job seeker is thorough, sharp, and leaves no stone unturned. If there is a particular company that you desire to work for, always check their website first to see if they directly post their job listings. Whether you’re looking to change careers completely or advance in your specific field, do your research, know your competition, and have confidence that the right match will be made in time.  

What advice do you have for fellow single fathers on the job hunt? Share your feedback in the comments section below!

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Why You Should Consider Dating a Single Dad

single dad

Today, your chances of dating a man with children at some point in your life is quite high — according to a Pew Research Center study, there are about 2.6 million of them out there. While dating a man with kids comes with its own set of unique challenges, that doesn’t mean you can’t find love in the arms of a single dad.

In fact, many people who have tested the waters suggest that if you’ve removed single dads from your search for romance, you’re doing it wrong. After all, you’re unlikely to stumble across a more caring or selfless guy than one who’s spent years raising children on his own. There are many great reasons to consider dating a single dad over your traditional childless guy.

Single Dads Are Mature (Children Force us to Grow Up)

No matter your age, whether you’re in your 20’s or your 50’s, you’ve likely run into a few “man-children” in the dating world. You know the type: the single guy who goes out every weekend to the bars, who barely has a savings account, and whose fridge contains just a gallon of milk, a jar of pickles, and seven beers.

Not all single guys fit this bill, but you will encounter those who haven’t quite matured yet, and are still focused entirely on having fun. Single dads simply don’t have this luxury. As any parent will tell you, kids instantly put the world into perspective. When you meet a man who’s also a father, rest assured that any self-centered or reckless habits he had started dropping the moment he saw his first born’s face. A single dad has a specific set of priorities, and this means:

  • He won’t shirk responsibility. While other men might begrudge requests to pick up extra groceries, a single dad steps up to the plate — he truly knows the meaning of responsibility. He has little lives depending on him, and there’s nothing that teaches a person to to be responsible more than that.
  • He won’t shy away from serious conversations. Single dads don’t run a mile when important topics come up (“Do you ever want more kids?” or “Are we ready to move in together?”). They talk, listen, and make tough decisions every day. They know how important it is to discuss the difficult stuff.
  • He doesn’t invent drama. When there’s a child to take care of, people simply don’t have the physical or emotional energy to come up with pointless hang-ups. Nothing is a big deal unless it really is important — single dads have usually gained the wisdom to differentiate between the two.

Single Dads Can Look After Themselves (and You)

A single dad is handy, self-sufficient, and equipped to handle any problem that might arise. As a lone parent, he’s had to learn to be quick on his feet, and adapt to various situations. These are the guys that are ready to listen, fix things, and offer a helping hand whenever you need it.

Listening skills come in handy in romantic relationships — and single dads have them to spare. As the only parent available, he’s likely developed practically superhuman skills for listening, understanding, and supporting; when you talk, he’s going to hear you.

At the same time, he’s not afraid of embarrassment and he won’t get freaked out easily. If a single dad has little girls (or even boys, in some cases), you can bet he’s spent time getting his nails or makeup done. Raising kids teaches people about the strength it takes to let your sensitive side show. A single father is prepared to be goofy and humble at times, to put others first, and to take all of life’s “icky” moments in stride.

Single Dads and Single Moms Are On the Same Page

If you’re a single mom, then single dads should probably be at the front of your dating search; these are the only people who truly understand the effort required to raise children. Single fathers have been through a lot of the things you’ve been through, and they’re likely experiencing the very same heartaches and anxieties you struggle with every day. In other words, they’re the perfect person to talk to about your parenting concerns, stresses, and more.

You may be able to connect and laugh over stories of spilled milk, embarrassing restaurant outings, or tantrums in the mall. You’re better prepared to support and comfort each other in times of self-doubt, or in the challenge to juggle all of life’s tasks. Best of all, although dating a single dad requires the understanding that his kids will come first, he’ll also understand that your kids come first for you. Single moms in the dating scene know that not everyone is compassionate when you have to cancel a dinner date because your child is sick; or you’re late to the movie theater because the babysitter didn’t show up on time. A single dad gets it — more likely than not, he’s been there himself a few times.  

Parenthood changes everyone, and dating another parent puts you in a great position to find someone that you can connect with on a deeper, profound level.

Single Dads Are Looking for Serious Relationships

Single fathers aren’t trying to play the field, or add notches to their bedpost. They’re seeking mature, serious partners who are interested in a long term commitment. When you date a single dad, the reality is, you’re also dating his children; and introducing a new person to the kids is a huge and important step. The last thing any parent wants is to let their child meet a new romantic interest, only to have that person disappear next week. In other words, single dads are in it for the long haul.

A father is only going to bring you into his life — and his kids lives — if he really likes you, and sees a potential future with you. That does mean he may take the relationship at a slower pace than you’re used to, as he wants to get to know you closely before he’s ready to introduce you to the kids. Waiting a little longer before meeting the family or having a real sleepover is worth it, because you’re taking the time to get to know each other and determine if you’re truly compatible.

When you date a single dad, you’re making an investment into a life with this person. It’s about having fun, sure, but ultimately, you’re both looking to make love work — and in the dating world, that’s really as good as it gets.

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The Difficulties of Dating as a Single Dad

single dad

While many single fathers seek the connection, support, and personal fulfillment of a romantic relationship, being a dad makes dating a bit more complicated than it was before your life with kids. There are unique challenges to balancing single fatherhood and a successful love life, but it can be done; many single dads find loving relationships that makes their lives (and their kids’ lives) fuller and happier.

If you’re re-entering the dating pool, and you’re worried about balancing romance with kids, you’re not alone — with about 2.6 million men living the life of single fatherhood, there are many before you who’ve faced, and dealt with, the same anxieties.

Read up on these common struggles single dads face, along with some tips for preparing yourself to handle each potential roadblock smoothly.

Not Feeling Ready

Whether you’re divorced, widowed, or perhaps never had a significant relationship with your children’s mother, the question faces all single dads: Am I ready to date again? Becoming a father changed your life in a huge way, and adjusting to single fatherhood takes a lot of your physical and emotional energy; in the beginning, you need to devote all of your time and effort to yourself and your kids.

If you feel it’s too soon to start dating, that’s okay. It’s important to get your own life with your children settled before you re-enter the dating scene. There’s no set time after a breakup or death that you have to start looking. Just be careful of letting fear keep you from finding new love — any time we do something new, it’s scary.

If you really do want to date again, but you’re feeling anxious or down on yourself, remind yourself of all the positive qualities you can bring to a relationship. Think about the ways in which you’re responsible, reliable, and supportive towards your children; and how you’ll be able to offer that to a romantic partner, as well.

Finding Enough Time

It’s hard to find time to date amid paying attention to your work, dealing with an ex, and caring for your children. Get creative with ways to maximize your time. Consider taking your children out somewhere that’s not necessarily a kid-only attraction, but still welcomes kids — like a museum, farmer’s market, or public park. You never know who you might run into, or strike up a conversation with, as your kids run through the grass or help you pick out fresh-baked bread.

More and more people are finding great connections through online dating. Creating an online profile allows you to browse and respond to messages on your own time — whether you’re waiting in the parking lot for your kids to get out of school, or have ten minutes to yourself in between meetings. While it’s important to foster in-person relationships, dating online can save you a lot of time in the initial phases of meeting and getting to know people. That way, when you do take some precious time out of your busy schedule to go on a “real” date, you know you’ve already connected with the person on some levels.

Your Children’s Reactions

It’s important to be honest, and talk to your kids about your dating life; when you do, be sure to consider their age and maturity level, as this affects what you should share with them. Older children will have an easier time understanding dating, while younger kids might be a bit confused by the idea at first. Try simply explaining to young children that as much as you love them, you also want to have an adult friend that you can do grown-up activities with. If your children start asking for more information, keep your answers short and brief, but always honest.

Some children will be reluctant to accept one parent dating, as that often signifies that there’s no chance of reconciliation between their parents. In this case, reassure your kids that adults’ relationships don’t always work, but that doesn’t mean the kids are at fault or unloved. If you have a co-parenting plan with an ex, remind your children that they’ll still get to see their other parent(s).

Keep expectations realistic — your next date might not be someone you want to be with for the rest of your life. As a relationship gets more serious, you can start talking in more detail about your new love, to help your children become comfortable with the idea of this person. If there’s a real chance of a serious step (such as moving in together, or marriage), try explaining to your children that this person is a “bonus” to your family, not a replacement for anyone. The important thing is that you won’t have any less love for your kids just because you have a new relationship; you’re simply adding a little extra love to your family unit.

Your New Love and Your Kids

When you’re dating, be upfront and honest about the fact that you have children. You’ll probably want to talk about your kids on a date, since they’re important to your life, but remember that you’re a whole person. In addition to being a parent, you have other traits that a new love can appreciate — and while your partner should be open to meeting your children, you do not need to make the introduction right away.

It’s perfectly fine, and often wise, to wait a few weeks or months before your romantic partner meets your children. While you should never hide the fact that you’re dating from your kids, they don’t have to meet every single person you go to dinner with.

From your kids’ perspectives, seeing too many adults come into and leave their lives can sour them on relationships as they get older. There’s no set timeline for introductions, but if the relationship seems to be getting serious, talk to your partner about planning an introduction. Consider a short and informal event for everyone to meet each other — an afternoon cookout is a lot less stressful (and less overwhelming) than a weeklong camping trip. Remember that although you’ve spent a lot of time getting to know this new person, your kids haven’t yet; give both the kids and your partner time to ease into each other.

Your Love’s Kids (or Lack Thereof)

Just because your love interest isn’t a parent doesn’t mean she can’t be a wonderful influence on your children. There are any number of reasons why people don’t have kids of their own, but if your partner is responsible and likes kids, they can be a good candidate. Be sure to talk to your date about their future plans — if they want their own kids, but you don’t want more, that can be a difficult conflict to resolve. Set expectations as clearly and respectfully as you can, because in the end, you both need to be happy for the relationship to work.

On the other hand, dating another single parent means you have a person who readily understands your struggles, your lifestyle, and your priorities. When you date another parent, you already have something (big) in common right from the start. Keep in mind that dating someone with children means you have another round of introductions to make, and more relationships to work with and be considerate of. Talking with your love about parenting styles and values will make all of these transitions easier.

Dating as a single parent isn’t easy — it’s hard enough balancing a career, children, and time for yourself without adding romance to the mix. Respect, honesty, and discussion are all essential tools to make the process better for everybody involved. Dating brings some extra hurdles, but nothing you (and your kids) can’t overcome.

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Avoiding Illness While Traveling: How to Stay Healthy

traveling

One of the best parts of going on vacation with your kids is picking out fun souvenirs to bring home with you. But, there’s one souvenir no one wants to come home with – the flu. Sniffles, stomach bugs, and other icky viruses can really put a damper on your family trip. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do for yourself and your youngsters, to reduce your risk of getting sick before and during your travels.

Next time you hit the road, follow these steps to protect your health, so you can focus on cultivating fantastic family memories (instead of foreign germs!).

Step 1: Get Educated Before You Leave

Avoiding illness becomes more of a challenge when you don’t know the risks posed by the place you’re visiting. Before booking your trip, take the time to research your destination. Look into whether the hygiene conditions of food and water are lower than you’re used to, and whether there are insects or wildlife that might carry disease.

At the same time, book doctor appointments – for you, and your children. It’s recommended that you see your doctor 4-6 weeks before your trip. Even if you don’t need a checkup, your physician can share advice on defending against infection overseas, and offer necessary vaccines and immunizations if applicable.

Step 2: Start a Habit of Hand Washing

Getting your kids to wash their hands regularly can be difficult – anyone with a three-year-old can attest to this! – however, try to emphasize this habit before (and during) your vacation. Hand-based hygiene becomes increasingly important during times of travel. If you’re traveling on an airplane, or visiting destinations packed with tourists, you’re exposing yourselves to a range of potential illnesses from the people around you.

Frequent hand-washing, or the use of anti-bacterial hand gel, can be particularly effective in fighting the spread of infection – reducing your chances of everything from a common cold to travel diarrhea (talk about a trip-ruiner!). Try making a game out of it, or implement a fun hand-washing song, to get your kids excited about washing their hands during your family adventure.

Step 3: Avoid Local Water – But Stay Hydrated

Water is a particularly tricky concern when traveling. You need to make sure that you and your kids stay properly hydrated – while avoiding risky water sources. Even if you’re not headed to a hot climate, you are likely to be more active during a trip, so you’ll need plenty of water to protect your system against germs and illness.

Contaminated drinking water is one of the leading sources of health problems for travelers – and it can cause anything from gastrointestinal stress (vomiting and diarrhea), to serious bacterial disease. In some cases, you and your kids may get sick simply because the pathogens in foreign water are different from what your immune system’s used to. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to avoid tap water, and seek out bottled water instead. If bottled water isn’t an option, and you must use local water at some point, boil the water before drinking to kill off germs.

Step 4: Keep Up with Good Nutrition

Following a healthy, balanced diet at home often revolves around cooking your own meals – but when you’re on the road, proper nutrition can be challenging. You probably won’t have access to a kitchen, so it’s easy to turn to eating out for all of your meals. Just because you’re heading to a new restaurant, or stopping at a foreign convenience store, doesn’t mean you should ditch all hope of nutrition. Try to get plenty of fruit and vegetables into your children’s diet, and your own – and avoid any foods that seem suspicious.

Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow when traveling in a foreign place: if the food you’re considering isn’t baked, boiled, or peeled – don’t eat it. For instance, a refreshing salad may sound great in a tropical climate, but unwashed lettuce (or items washed in contaminated water) can make you sick. When choosing a place to eat, search for somewhere that’s packed with people. The more people, the more likely the food will be fresh – thanks to high customer turnover.

Step 5: Get Plenty of Rest

Remember that traveling can be stressful – even during a fun vacation – so make time for plenty of rest in between adventures. Schedule periods of relaxation (or rest breaks) into the day, so you’re not on the move constantly. These rest breaks also provide good opportunities to fuel up with some water and snacks, to keep yourself hydrated and healthy.

Do what you can to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep every day – just like you should at home. When you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be functioning at your best, and neither will your immune system. Though maintaining a perfect sleep schedule isn’t always possible, making an effort to stick close to your regular routine will help keep you, and your, children healthier.

Help Your Immune System While Traveling

When you travel, you become particularly susceptible to illness because you’re exposing your body to a range of new stresses, bugs, environments, and various germs. Combine a turbulent car, plane, or train journey with the naturally low immune system of children, and you open a wide range of new opportunities for disease and sickness. Your immune system works hard to keep your body healthy, but it can only do so much, especially in situations it isn’t accustomed to. Help your body out by giving yourself enough rest, water, and nutritious snacks; and take extra precautions to stay germ-free. The above tips, combined with destination-specific research and doctor recommendations, can help you to build up a defense against the common causes of illness during travel – so you and your whole family will stay healthy and happy during your vacation.

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Road Trip Games to Keep Your Kids Entertained

road trip games

If you’re a single dad, the thought of keeping your kids entertained during a long car journey, while maintaining enough focus so that you can stay safe on the road, might be terrifying. However, whether it’s a family vacation, or a trip to visit the grandparents, the chances are that you’re going to need to take a road trip at some point – even if you’d rather avoid it.

While you’re going through your checklist of must-have items, from luggage, and snacks, to beverages, and emergency car kits, don’t forget one of the most crucial considerations there is for travelling with kids: entertainment. Locking yourself in a car with bored children for several hours can be its very own form of torture, so you need to prepare if you want to avoid the headache-inducing chants of “Are we there yet?”

Fortunately, we’ve put together a list of some of the most effective, and popular car games to keep your kids distracted while you keep your eyes on the road.

1. 20 Questions

A great way to avoid the “Are we there yet?” question, is to give your kids an excuse to ask something else. “20 questions” is a classic travel game that has stood the test of time for families across the world, and it’s simple enough that just about anyone can play it. If you want to add a special twist to the game, you could make a rule that the mineral, animal, or vegetable that your children are guessing about has to be related to your chosen destination. For instance, a trip to France could have you guessing frogs, or croissants. This is a great way to educate your children about the place you’re visiting, and get them excited for the trip.

2. “I’m Going on a Picnic”


Memory games are a great way to get your kids to work their brains when you’re on a long journey. However, if you have to focus on the road, make sure you let your kids know that they’re going to have to play together for a while when you feel you might not be able to join in. “I’m going on a picnic” is an alphabet based game that works like this: one child says “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing”, followed by an item beginning with A, like asparagus, or apples. From there, the other children follow on with an item beginning with B, C, D, and so on, while remembering to include the items the previous players mentioned too. The last player who can recite all the items on the list wins.

3. I Spy


This road trip game is a classic for a reason. Not only does it help to keep your children entertained while they look for interesting items in their surroundings, but it also improves their observational skills, which is ideal for younger kids. The idea is to find an object that everyone can see, then say “I Spy with my little eye, something that starts with…” then provide the first letter of that object’s name. You can also choose to offer a hint about what the object is, such as whether it’s a living creature, or a landmark. Everyone in the car takes turns guessing the object until someone gets it right.

4. The License Plate Game


License plates can form the foundation of dozens of road trip games, so how you choose to play with them will generally depend on the age of your children. For example, with older children, you can ask each person in the car to name a guess of how many different state license plates you’ll see on your journey, then get them to keep a tally as you drive. At the end of the trip, the person with the closest guess wins a prize. Alternatively, for younger children, you can use the alphabet game to point out license plates containing the letter A, all the way to Z, then at the end, start looking for doubles of letters, or numbers.

5. Scavenger Hunt


Finally, a scavenger hunt is a great way to keep your kids entertained while you focus on the road. While preparing for your journey, make a list of everything you think you might see along the way, including random objects, types of vehicle, road signs, and animals. Make a copy for each of your kids, and get them to call out when they see it. The first person to find everything on the list wins. You can even turn the list into a bingo card if you think that more opportunities to win will help your children stay engaged for longer.

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