When I had my children, I didn’t think I would end up being a single dad. You never imagine on the day you say “I do” that this where you will end up. I don’t remember those first few days after my marriage ended very well. But I do remember the feeling of a non stop rollercoaster of emotions alongside one reoccurring thought…what next for my babies?

Being a twin parent is hard enough doing it as a pair. But waking up that morning realising that I now had to go it alone as a single dad left me feeling lost. I knew very early on that the only way I could do this was to let go of hurt and focus on the twins.

The buying and organising of separate clothes, baby monitors and toys. Mapping out fair living arrangements and childcare for each of us. My mind spun trying to make sense of it all! My biggest worry was telling my kids. They’d just turned three, and how was I supposed to explain what was happening in a way that would make sense to them?

I told myself I’m left with two options: continue reeling in the dark murky waters of bewilderment. Or (being a project manager by trade) I touch base with my polished skill set and get organising! So I choose option 2…

Taking Control.

I began making a “work plan”. I broke down what felt like monstrous mountains into mini-mountains and climbed them. One by one. This enabled me to focus on manageable chunks and avoid the pitfalls of running out of steam. The hardest of those mountains to climb was telling the kids but it had to be overcome. I’d found myself stopping mid sentence when telling them. Every atom of my being clawing at me to retreat back into the safety of ignorance. It left me in tears telling them, but when you’re half way up you just have to keep reaching that summit.

I’ve always been a very active father since the day my children were born and I was adamant that that would not change. So I created a mind map entitled “Nothing less than 50%” to help me plan and cope. It had a million branches flowing out with different scenarios. All I could do was focus on making sure that, whatever came next wouldn’t affect the twins as much as possible.

Going It Alone As a Single Dad of Twins

Having twins means that your house is always full of noise and that silence is a myth: it’s inevitable right? What you’re not prepared for though is when you’re going it alone. The not being able to escape to the kitchen for 10 minutes whilst your other half keeps a check on the mini circus performance occurring at 6.45am in your living room. That is definitely something that I struggled with but what was equally difficult was the bitter stone cold quiet moments.

With co-parenting it meant I had days where I didn’t have the twins. And the silence in those days was simply deafening. So, with my project manager head on again; rather than let myself become consumed by the void I used the time as an opportunity for self reflection and care. It’s important to always give yourself time for those health check moments.

The truth is, we aren’t always ‘okay’ and life does a great job of bringing us down. Especially on this single father journey. So make sure you recognise the signs when you see them. Take time out to reflect or recharge. Take moments to do something just for you and take stock of what you’ve managed to overcome so far.

How Do I Cope As A Single Dad?

I won’t sugar coat it. Being a single dad of twins is hard. I started my parenting journey with a partner and it’s a big difference going it alone. These are the mantras I have learnt along the way:

1. There Will Never Be Enough Hours in the Day – and That’s OK.

Working full time and being a single dad is like trying to juggle 10 balls at the same time. You’ll give it a great shot but whether you like it or not – some balls will fall. It took me far too long to accept this lesson. I put myself under too much pressure to try and keep on top of everything and I just ended up burning out. The key is prioritisation. There are things that I can put off until the days when they are at their mums and I have time to catch up.

Being a single dad to twins, everything is twice as nice; twice the cleaning, purchases and attention requirement. It will often feel as though you are being pulled apart by a pack of mini hungry hyenas. The chaos of the morning madness, the late restless nights when you’re living off 2 hours sleep. These were the struggles I often endured but I learnt to trust in myself and give myself the break I needed.

2. Don’t Focus on the Stigma or Labels

It’s no secret that the long standing stigma surrounding single dads hasn’t been great. Unfortunately, it’s societally “unusual” for a single father to have their children full-time or to co-parent 50/50+. That’s something that played on my mind a lot from early on in the single dad game. The feeling of being judged and labelled festered in the back of my mind. But in the end, I decided to focus on the knowledge that those who knew me, knew how important my children are to me. And how much I value being present as a father. I don’t need to worry about people who judge me before getting to know me and I don’t need those people in my life!

Another thing I learned to deal with were the flippant, cloaked remarks:

“Oh, mum must be busy today so you’re babysitting?”

My response – “No! I am a normal father who is looking after his twins!”

Or this question, which I was asked before taking my children away for a week:

“Will you be able to cope by yourself?”

My response – “…”

I had no real response for that! Why should I justify whether I can look after the children I have raised since the day they were born?!

These are the biases and stereotypes you must be prepared for – particularly when the world sees you alone with twins. Sadly, it is just part and parcel of stereotypical society. There are so many great fathers who care and do right by their children. It shouldn’t be a surprise to society that men are more than capable of raising their children – just as much as women. This blindsided me at first and can be really frustrating. But the best thing we can do to challenge this is to continue being shining examples that there’s been a shift in parenting life. It is 2022, people will get with the programme… eventually.

3. Remember to Stop, Breath and Rest

Being a single father is tiring and hard. You’re constantly stretched. There will be days where you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Take a moment to breathe and reflect. It’s okay to feel that way – just make sure you trust your mind and body and give yourself a break. The best thing for your children isn’t gifts and gadgets; it’s having a healthy and happy father who they can spend time with. We all need to take some time for self care. To remember to stop, breath and rest, and remember who we are outside of being a dad!

4. Plan, Plan and Be Prepared

As Scar famously stated “BE PREPARED!!!”. Life on the best of days is hectic enough now add into the mix the lives of two crazy little twins and it’s a recipe for chaos. I invested in a large wall calendar which outlined the twins lives over the coming year. Including which parent they’ll be with, key appointments and childcare times etc. Not only did this allow me to manage the twins time effectively it also showed me the period of time where I could be me: the less frazzled child free me. 

It’s so easy to feel like you need to overcompensate and get lost into fatherhood, losing your identity in the process. As I have said in point 3, we need to remember who we are outside of being a dad! Who you are matters and you should never forget that. Find the time to focus on personal growth and making connections with the other loved ones in your life.

5. The Dating Game

Talking of loved ones brings me to my next lesson: dating as a single dad of twins! It is important that before you open yourself up to dating again that you have given yourself time to fully heal. I’m a really big advocate of therapy and looking after your mental health. First thing I did after the breakdown of my marriage was to begin therapy. I needed to heal not just for myself but for the sake of my children.

The only way that I could be an effective single dad was to make sure I wasn’t carrying all that baggage on my shoulders. To ensure it wasn’t clouding the time when they desperately need me to be attentive during the upheavals. Reconnecting with yourself is important, break ups are a big change and challenge to your life and the weight of that change should never be underestimated.

When it comes down to the logistics of actually dating as a single father; it makes sense to compartmentalise. Splitting myself between “Dad Adrian” and “Adrian”. This took some learning and I’m not ashamed to say I struggled with it. For me though it was a no brainer; I wasn’t introducing anyone to my children unless I was certain that we had a solid foundation and a future together. The last thing I would want is a revolving door of different faces entering and leaving my twins lives.

It’s something that I found other people didn’t quite understand. There’s the issue with dating that my time is limited because my “Dad Adrian” far outweighs my “Adrian” days. My priority though is my children and the right person will understand this and appreciate the effort I make in the moments when I can.

6. The Financial Cost of Being a Single Dad

I’m not going to lie, being a single father is expensive! But with the right level of management and budgeting it’s doable. All my bills leave my account on payday so I know exactly how much I have for the rest of the month with the kids. I’m very much a list man so my shopping lists are generally set in advance alongside scheduling days to review your kids needs such as new clothes etc to keep on top of everything. If possible work closely with your co-parent as they may have insights into different areas that you may miss and need to financially prepare for.

7. Get Support and Talk to People!

My last tip is “no man is an island”. You can’t do everything needed as a single dad without some good support around you. You need people to rely on, and turn to when things get hard. I have had great support from family and friends, they’ve picked me up when I have faltered and been my cheerleaders when I have been smashing it!

I’ve also found a great parenting community to help me! Having the support of Dadvengers while I have transitioned into being a single dad has been invaluable. Whether it has been for advice, or a friendly ear when I was struggling, I can attest that it is really important to have a great parenting community around you. Dadvengers has helped me manage my own mental health on this journey. As I mentioned above, self care is so important as a single dad. And looking after yourself is just as important as looking after your children. Finding a community of likeminded parents has really helped me with that.

And that leads me onto my final point…

One Last Message to My Fellow Single Dads.

The final thing to say is you are not alone. There are many single parents walking this path everyday. My way isn’t necessarily the right way but it’s certainly the right way for us. We have our own little routine and with the twins being four; they are very adapted now. Children are resilient to new routines and will surprise you. That’s something that has been very key for us, them understanding the routine means there has been little confusion for them;  from knowing where they are on what days to who with. Find a schedule that works for you and you will reap all the benefits.

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