Are single dads really that unusual?

I am the single father of an 8 year-old girl, Kizarvexilla. By mutual decision, her mother and I, upon going our separate paths (quite amicably, I should add) arranged that I should have full custody. While we’ve remained close friends, Michelle and I have each relocated, and live 900 miles apart.

When we made the decision to take this course, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. I’m far more maternal than Michelle is, and relatively unscarred by adolescent trauma. She, on the other hand, suffers from clinical depression, had a nasty case of postpartum, and due to a dearth of positive role models, has little idea as to how to function as a mother. She has many other redeeming qualities, however, and we will always love one another, come what may.

Those who know me and who know Kizarvexilla are generally of the opinion that I’m a good daddy. While she certainly has her hangups, she’s quick-witted, ferociously intelligent, talented, and has a moral compass far beyond her years. What’s more, I have a great source of support in my immediate family. My parents are only a couple of miles up the road and are devoted, doting grandparents. I might be just scraping by financially, but Kizarvexilla has never lacked for physical necessities, nor for love or attention.

It seems however, that to a significant percentage of the population, this arrangement is fundamentally wrong. In dealing with people I’ve met over the years, I’ve picked up on an unconscious message that a child deprived of a mother’s presence is somehow far more vulnerable to psychological damage than one denied access to his or her father. It’s not that anyone accuses me of being abusive or inattentive. But there’s been many a person who, without knowing any of the particulars, has expressed some degree of outrage that Michelle should have “abandoned” her child. Apparently the concept that some mothers, no matter how well-intentioned or otherwise worthy as human beings, might not form that instant all-encompassing Hollywood-ending adoration for their offspring is just too horrible to accept.

So what say ye Dopers? In your collective experience, how common are single (full custody) fathers? Is the collective outrage I’ve been picking up on simply a product of antediluvian gender role perceptions?

If you seem to be doing the right thing, keep on doing it, and let those who complain go whistle.

Remember that being a single father was not uncommon in years gone by - childbirth being dangerous for the woman, many died. Cinderella, anyone?

Back when I was single (and before I had children), I dated three single dads who had full custody. One was a widower. One had custody of one son, while his ex had custody of the other, and they lived a block apart and swapped kids constantly.

The other, oddly, had custody of his ex-wife’s son, as well as the daughter that they’d had together. I’ve never heard of a step-parent getting full custody, and his ex didn’t seem like a total POS when I met her. Never heard the full story there, but I’ll bet it was interesting.

Doesn’t seem strange to me. I had a single dad.

There’s a vicious circle at work. There’s a segment of society which has this disdainful attitude, which means that many single dads and their children just keep below the parapets and get on with things quietly. That these kids are generally no different to others, coupled with other people’s ignorance of their situation, means they inadvertently become part of the evidence for the opposition.

A friend of mine had adopted his step-son; he got total custody when they split. He’s a much better parent than she (poor gal had lots of emotional issues).

I don’t know if it has any bearing on it, but perhaps in some areas it’s more common. As a child (born in 1960) I did not know any single dads (that I can recall). Men of my father’s age would frequently remarry quickly after losing a wife - sometimes within weeks. I didn’t run into any single dads until I was grown.

From this it doesn’t sound like anyone is questioning your single fatherhood, but more questioning your ex-wife’s lack of contact in your daughter’s life.

Which I agree, is pretty damn weird.

And I never knew any single fathers, but it doesn’t seem unusual to me.

Would you regard it as equally weird if the roles were switched?

For various reasons (some biological), in nearly all societies a majority of mothers spend more time with their children than do typical fathers. So it probably isn’t surprising that a mother who rarely sees her child raises some eyebrows.

Yes I would, but I grudgingly admit it’s rather common.

I admit, when I meet a single dad, I think the mother must be dead or a convicted drug addict and/or in prison or a mental hospital.

When I meet a single mom I don’t think much of anything in particular. It’s just the way it is.

I have to say that I have a different perspective. My brother is also the single father to an 8 year old girl (and a 6 year old boy). My niece suffers from her mother’s absence. I’m not sure what your ex-wife’s situation is, how often she sees her daughter, how she explains if she doesn’t, by my ex-SIL’s behavior has been nothing but broken promises and lies. My niece feels acutely the absence of her mother, and she questions it (why doesn’t she come to see us? doesn’t she love us? is there something wrong with me?). My brother is not equipped to answer those questions or to fill that place. He is NOT their mother; he is their father.

I’m sure that some of it is dependent on the child in question, and I know a lot of it is dependent on the parents (both the custodial one and the absent one). But I do not believe, and it has not been my experience, that mothers and fathers are either interchangeable or disposable. So yes, I find it unnatural that a mother would not want to be with her child – fundamentally so. I have no quarrel with your arrangements if they work for you, but IME in most cases unexplained absent parents do some degree of damage to the kids they have left behind. Frankly, it would have been easier for my niece if her mother had died; at least then we could say she was watching from heaven or something. Now we are confronted with a child who wants to know why her own mother does not want to see her, and we have no answer for that.

ETA: My opinion would not change if it was the father who was in the wind.

I read this thread earlier and didn’t comment - then realized I have such a situation in my own family! One of my uncles married a woman who had a small son. They had another son together, then they divorced. (Unnecessary ugly details omitted) My uncle had adopted her son and got custody of both the boys. From what I understood she did keep in some contact with her kids, but both of them are closer to their dad.

I dated a guy who was a single parent - and he was very good at it; his daughter was both beautiful and intelligent. He really, really wanted to provide her with a mother, though, and I think he got married for that reason. (Not to me - I wasn’t interested in being an instant mom, although if he hadn’t been so pushy I might have grown into it.)

I was raised by a single parent, and I think one parent who cares and does their best for their child can be a better parent than two who don’t give a shit.

My dad did this with my older brothers. He married my mom when they were toddlers. When my parents divorced (I was 8 at the time, my brothers were 15 and 18), they stayed with my dad, as did I. While he’s not a blood relation of my brothers, they still call him every Sunday, refer to him as “pop”, and put their little daughters on the phone with him so they can talk to “paw paw”. Works just fine by us :slight_smile:

Hear, hear. There are those that think that any family group that is not Mom, Dad and 2.4 children, all heterosexual or about to be, is abnormal, and cannot be called a “family”. In reality, that kind of family is in the minority.

I don’t recall ever even meeting a single full-custody dad.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

I kinda liken it to the body’s built-in redundancy system. We have two kidneys although we can do without one. Two testicles/ovaries, etc. Although it’s not technically the reason why we have two of everything (having one eye isn’t just as good as having two, for example) but it sort of fits in many cases. Having two parents isn’t required, just the norm. This idea that children who grow up without a father/mother will end up lacking in some way is kind of outdated.

I just want to state for the record that my mom was none of these things. She was a normal person. :slight_smile:

Single dads are very rare in my circles. Non-maternal mothers are rare, as well. Nothing wrong with doing what’s best for your situation, but I can understand people being a bit taken aback.


A few years ago, there was a late 20’s woman in the office. Single, attractive, didn’t have trouble getting dates but had a hard time ‘finding someone’ type person. She was also very ‘liberated’ (her words).

I made a comment one day that the data coming across my desk showed extremely few stay-at-home dads. I didn’t expect much…but they were extremely rare. She overheard and said that that was a shame and that more dads should be stay-at-home.

I asked her if she would repsect a man that had been/was stay-at-home. She said yes, very emphatically.

Being the evil bastard I am…I waited a couple weeks then…

{she had requested that I look out for male friends and it was fine to set her up}

I told her that I met someone that was divorced. He had one child. She was interested. I then told her that he had been a stay-at-home dad for 5 years but, since the divorce, was working.

She hesitated…

A couple hours later she said she didn’t want to meet him.

I than asked why…she stammered…and stammered. The next day she admitted to me that she couldn’t see dating a man that was a stay-at-home dad. The realization shocked her, but she couldn’t do it.

I didn’t even bother to tell her there was no such guy…that I knew she wouldn’t want to meet him.

Unfair or not, very few men and, most likely, even fewer women will truely respect a man that is a stay-at-home-dad. They will think and say they will, but they don’t.

Because of this, very few men will do such a thing. A shame, but such is life.