Single dads are a thing now, and it may just be your thing
“I usually don’t tell women about my kids until the second or third date,” says Roger Whitaker, a 28 year old portfolio analyst and father of two in Denver. “Shit, I tell them right off the bat - it’s better than having a dog,” counters Lance Cravitz, 29, a personal trainer from Boulder with a son.
“When I meet a woman, I tell her right away, but the biggest concern isn’t that I have two kids, it’s how much time do I spend with them … will I have enough time for [the woman],” offers Chris Seufert, 34, Tampa Bay, Florida.
In today’s emerging insistence on equality of the sexes, single young dads are becoming a ‘thing’ - a non-issue especially to people under 40. A recent study published by the U.S. Census concluded 16.6% of single family households are headed by dads, up from slightly over 1% in the 1970’s.
In an email, Christopher Brown, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative explains that single-father families can be attributed to two cultural factors: 1) “Men are seen as more capable parents, in general, and accepted as single fathers, specifically,” and 2) “A greater willingness of the courts to award custody to single fathers—essentially awarding custody to the best parent, regardless of gender.”
The second factor illustrates the most common rise in young men who’ve assumed the role of single dad. Consider the fact that most judges who award custody review income as one of the most significant elements when deciding who should get the lion’s share of time - and economically and statistically, single dads like most men simply make more money.
For instance, Pew reports that the median-adjusted annual income for a single dad with two children is about $40,000, compared to $26,000 for a single mom with two children. Moreover, the share of children living in poverty is about twice as high among those living with single mothers as those living with single fathers.
“I knew when we went to court for custody that the kids would be better off with me - my ex-wife works nights as a waitress and it would have been financially impossible for her to support the kids,” says Whitaker.
But it’s not all bedtime stories and ‘World’s Best Dad’ coffee cups for men who take the plunge - in fact, similar to the challenges faced by single mothers, dating can be a minefield of missteps and stumbles. “I dated one woman for a couple weeks who talked non-stop about wanting kids, but when I spilled the beans about my kids, she suddenly wanted to wait to settle down and [children] were no longer even on her radar,” Whitaker mentions.
“I’ve stopped using dating apps,” Seufert explains. “It just became too exhausting - my numbers were high, I was talking to a lot of women, but dating apps are for hooking up, and that’s not what I’m looking for now that I have the kids and I’m alone,” adding, “[the apps are] just a waste of time and that’s something I don’t have a lot of anymore.”
That’s not to say that single fathers are adverse to meeting through internet connections, rather, it suggests that the sites they’re relying on are more conducive to what they’re trying to find. “I meet more quality connections on Facebook or Instagram because it’s more than three shirtless pictures of me and a one paragraph bio,” Seufert says. “Women become more interested in me because they see I have a life, I don’t seem as desperate, and women like men with a life.”
This evolution of thinking, the idea of quality over quantity when choosing a partner, isn’t only internalized by single fathers like Seufert, it’s externalized as well. “I think, in general, women really want a man with goals, I get it - but I meet a lot of women who want this from me yet they don’t have goals. Your bikini bod is nice and all, but what’s your five year plan?”
What some women may not fully recognize are the benefits of dating a single dad. “I think I’ve softened quite a bit because of my kids,” says Whitaker. “I’m not at the bars every night, trying to get laid and drink myself into oblivion … I’m a lot more patient with everyone, especially with women.”
Cravitz adds, “Before, when women would annoy me with their usual bullshit, I’d just drop them. Now, I’m more inclined to try to understand them and try to find out where their behavior is coming from. That wasn’t even a thought before I started raising my daughters. If I’ve invested, time, I feel like I have to also invest effort.”
“I’m on the fence when it comes to pursuing single mothers, exclusively, but I tend to have more satisfying relationships with them,” Seufert says with slight hesitation. “We can go days without talking and it’s no big deal - we both know the other is busy. Single women with no kids tend to go off the rails because I’m not paying attention.”
But emotional intelligence isn’t the only area where single dads have decided to participate. “I’m a LOT more serious about birth control,” continues Whitaker. “I use a condom even if she says she’s on the pill, it’s not because I don’t want more kids, it’s just that I know, now, what goes into raising one.”
Responsible sexual habits is something dads are passing on to their kids. Indeed, a recent study published in November in the Journal of Family and Child Studies examined sexual behavior among 15-to-19-year-olds being raised in single-parent families. The authors compared various sexual behaviors (including intercourse, contraceptive use, and attitudes toward pregnancy) among boys and girls living with either single mothers or single fathers. Surprisingly, they found “few differences” on these sex-related outcomes between teens living with single moms or single dads.
“There are many reasons men become single fathers,” says Kirsten Roux, a relationship therapist at Denver Health and Hospitals says. “What women should realize is that having children teaches men a lot about making connections and doing things without the ‘self’ as the motivation.”
Chris Seufert agrees, “The biggest difference between my goals now and when I was married is now I’m more focused on relationships - with my kids, with my partners - I’m a lot less focused on financial gains,” implying that his new role as bread-baker rather than bread-winner fits in seamlessly with the rest of his life.
Whatever the reason, it’s likely that the number of men who have children is going to continue to rise. “I have a lot of friends who have dual custody or sole custody,” Whitaker offers. “I think they’re all like me in that they don’t want to just jump into a relationship because the sex is good … or even available, I know I’ve had to adjust my priorities.”
“I wish women would just see that I can make time for them, AND for my kids,” Cravitz laments. “I have more realistic goals now - I know I’ll never be an astronaut. Hell, I’ll possibly never even finish the Old Chicago Beer Tour, but I have a good job and a home and I need to make those things work.”
Women who’ve looked past the logistical limits of dating dads are quick to offer why they’re satisfied with the arrangement as well. “I’m dating a single dad, right now,” says 24 year old Tami Zentol. “He’s pretty handy to have around - maybe it’s because he knows how to build a lego house or he can sit for hours and play Playstation with the kids - but I’ve always dated guys with no responsibilities or who only see their kids once or twice a month, and they’re basically brain dead when I need the toilet unplugged or would like my IKEA shelves to be assembled.”
Layla Hanprin offers a more blunt assessment, “I met the guy I’m with now at work. At the time he was an absolutely non-threatening beta-male who was perfectly suited for the ‘friend zone,’ but once he got the kids, within a month he was a lightning bolt of confidence and within two months I was practically begging him to date me.”
Even with the inherent challenges of dating anyone whose loyalties remain with other people, the truth is, perhaps it isn’t you that chooses to date a single dad - in this situation it appears to be the single dads who are choosing to date you. If you are absorbed into his life, you might feel confident that it may not have been an easy decision to make - that you’ve measured up to a standard you may not realize existed.
So the message to women is this: When you stumble upon a single dad – whether it’s in a bar, at a party, at work, or on the Internet, give him an extra look. You might be looking at a man with a real understanding of relationships, a guy with a life - someone with real goals and the execution strategy to achieve them. But with all these benefits, there’s one additional bonus that you may not realize you’ve gotten, according to Cravits: “I’m not just going to idly stand by while my kids and my girlfriend make a mediocre couch fort.”