Nearly 2 million fathers in the United States are raising their kids alone. Most have been married, but close to a third never tied the knot. A few are widowers. No matter how men find themselves in single-parent mode, experts say it's not a good idea to let pride get in the way of being the best parent possible.
"Men often have an 'I can do it all myself' attitude," says psychologist Barry Ginsberg, PhD. That thinking can make things tough, especially when you have to balance kids and career. Ginsberg's advice: Learn to ask for help.
Among Bill Clinton's post-White House ventures, one of the more striking is his campaign to reverse trends in childhood obesity. It's been remarkable for its ambition, and for the scope of its potential benefits. But perhaps most of all, it's been remarkable to see someone of Clinton's typically diet-oblivious gender speak publicly about laying off the cheeseburgers.
"It's very important to develop a resource system," he says. "If your child gets sick while you're at work, it is nice to know there's someone who can pick him or her up."
Ginsberg tells single dads he counsels to connect with neighbors, friends, and other parents -- people they can rely on when they need a hand. But he acknowledges this is not always easy for guys.
"It's a shame issue. They're embarrassed if they have to say, 'I could use some help.' They feel they're not good enough as men, or they'll lose respect if they can't handle it on their own."
Where Single Dads Can Find Support
One place to start is your child's school. "It's all about networking with other parents," says Ginsberg. "Get to know people."
Another is your job. Talk to your boss about a more flexible schedule. For example, ask if you can work from home on certain days and discuss ways to limit work-related travel. At the very least, your employer should be aware of your situation. That way, if a problem arises, you don't have to answer a lot of questions before you leave to attend to your child.
Q: "How will I know the time's right to introduce my new girlfriend to my kids?"
Daniel Ostrov, 44 advertising executive, Portland, Ore.
A: "Two things should guide you: The welfare of your children and the stability of your new relationship. Children may take a while to adjust to a situation. Introducing another woman too soon could upset them. In the case of divorce, for example, the kids might blame the new girlfriend for the breakup of your marriage, even if she had no involvement. You should also ask yourself, 'Does this relationship have legs?' If you introduce her to the kids and then break up, it may echo the trauma."
Ronald Levant, EdD, professor of psychology, The University of Akron