Living in the 21st Century means we often think we are as progressive as it gets. We fight for our rights, protest, march and boast about building inclusive societies, but are we really? Sometimes we all need to check in with ourselves and figure out what biases we have and who these are affecting in our society.
Families come in all forms, and we all know this, but how long did it take you to think of a family unit as ‘one father raising his kids – alone’?
In Malta in 2017, out of 12,472 single-parent households, 2936 were single-fathers, caring for a total of 4,173 children. So yes, whether there are 2 or 2000, single fathers are part of society and deserve our respect and understanding.
Here are some ways in which we can all show more respect and support toward single fathers in our community both on an individual and a societal level.
- Think Twice! What may seem like an innocent compliment may do more harm than good. Single dads are often overpraised for doing the most basic of parental tasks. Surprising reactions to basic parental chores causes an imbalance in our society, with fathers being seen as less capable than mothers.
- If you own a business, try to ensure the environment is inclusive for all types of people. One example is making changing rooms easily accessible for men. Most often, changing tables are found in women’s restrooms, making it awkward for fathers who are out with their kids alone to change a diaper. Also, check whether any policies supporting single parents need to be updated to be more inclusive of single fathers in the workplace.
- Whether they are your friends or family, respect single dads’ lifestyle choices. If they are ready to date someone new, support them and if they don’t wish to take that step, avoid comments like ‘you should get out more!’
- If you are dating a single dad, remember to respect his schedule. It is important to understand that he needs to divide his attention and energy between himself, his children and the relationship.
- Don’t assume the reason for custody. Becoming a single father can come about due to a variety of circumstances including; adopting or fostering a child on their own, the mother passing away, or the father being given custody after separating from the mother. Each single father has his own story and experience.
On a final note, if you are a single dad, remember to take care of yourself above all and don’t be afraid to ask for support from friends, family or from professional services.
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta, aiming to pursue a Masters locally in the near future. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector for three years. Michaela also forms part of Willingness team working as a Triage Office and as Chat Bar Coordinator.