This Father’s Day, we spoke with three fathers to learn about their parenting journey as single fathers. From the hardships and struggles they’ve faced to the rewarding moments and positive impacts they’re making in their life and for their kids, they’ve shown resilience through it all. While single parenting comes with a lot of trial and error, we admire how these fathers are able to focus on the good in their situation. Whether it’s raising multiple children as a single father or parenting a child with special needs, each father shares their unique story and experience.
Keep scrolling to learn more about each of their stories and find out what each father does to ensure they have a successful relationship with their kids while single parenting.
3 Fathers Share Their Journey as a Single Dads
Learning how to navigate the parenting world as a single dad? Learn what these fathers have done to be most successful.
Shifting What Being a Dad Means
Jay Skibbens is a parenting coach who focuses on single parenting. However, throughout his own journey as a single father, he learned a drastic detail that permanently changed what it means to be a dad for him.
I had a clear plan of what I wanted to be as a dad.”
“I was in a friends with benefits situation and over the course of that, she ended up telling me she was pregnant. We started doing the doctor’s appointments together and spending more time together. I always wanted to be a dad, this just wasn’t how I planned it. Once Elliot was born, it really was everything I thought it’d be. I had a clear plan of what I wanted to be as a dad. She got pregnant again, so I have two sons that are 15 months apart,” explains Skibbens. The craziest part of his story was, “When they were 15 months and almost three, I found out they weren’t biologically mine. For me, it was this shift in what a dad means,” shares Skibbens. He explains how his kids had already changed his life and he felt like he had a much bigger purpose.
Even though he wasn’t biologically related to his kids and his parenting journey didn’t go as planned, Skibbens said how everything has worked out a lot better than he ever could’ve imagined.
Being a father figure in somebody’s life goes much deeper than whether or not you’re biologically related to the child. Like Skibbens, many men find themselves in a situation where they’re caring for a child as their own even if there isn’t any biological relation.
Being Flexible and Communicating is Key
“Things don’t stay constant for very long. You have to be adaptable, flexible, and willing to go with the flow,” says Skibbens. Skibbens co-parents with the mother of his kids. He emphasizes how his kids may act differently when coming back from their mother’s house or learn something different, so he says in instances like that you need to be able to work with the changes instead of always fighting to have everything go a certain way. “If our schedules change or my job changes, their mood changes, or what they’re interested in changes, you have to be flexible,” shares Skibbens.
In addition to being flexible, Skibbens emphasizes how communication is key. Many people have heard this saying in a plethora of scenarios. However, in parenting, it’s especially true and even one of the things Skibbens believes needs to change most in parenting. Whether it’s communication with the other parent in a co-parenting situation or communication with your child when you’re a single father, it can truly change your experience.
“Communication needs to change because what tends to happen is we have an idea, we share that idea, and then we get upset at the response of that idea. What needs to change is that we need to lead with curiosity and questions and do what’s best for the kids as a collaboration and a compromising way of communicating. This extends to your kids too,” explains Skibbens.
Bettering the Lives of Special Needs Children
Dale Jackson is a single father with two kids who owns an air conditioning company. However, his oldest child, Collin has Autism, which has completely changed his way of parenting.
While parenting Collin, Jackson has had to struggle to see his child never fully relax or get a goodnights sleep. Through his discovery of various cannabis oils, he’s been able to make a tremendous difference in Collin’s life. “I never will forget the first day I came home and saw him sleeping on the couch,” shares Jackson. Since using the oils, he’s been able to see Collin finally relax and get the rest he needs.
Throughout his parenting journey, Jackson has also realized that all schools aren’t necessarily helpful for all special needs kids. After trying different private and public schools, he found that his son wasn’t learning the life skills he truly needs and knew something had to be changed. Jackson took it into his own hands to help create a school catered specifically to special needs children.
He called me one day and said the church has neglected the special needs children. This Christian school is about to change that.”
“Around when Collin was seven years old, I saw someone who is the superintendent of a large Christian school we’ve supported. He called me one day and said the church has neglected the special needs children. This Christian school is about to change that,” says Jackson. After that, Jackson and the superintendent set out to truly make a difference.
“We spent the next nine months driving all over the southeast, visiting different schools and coming up with an idea,” explains Jackson. Jackson really wanted a school that focused on helping special needs children live with a family. This school evolved into the Discovery Cottage.
Making a Difference in the Special Needs Community
The Discovery Cottage is a Christian special needs school under the parent school, LaFayette Christian School. The Discovery Cottage aims to teach children life skills. “When you’re dealing with extremely autistic children, it’s survival. You need them to know how to sit at the kitchen table with their siblings, you need them to know how to feed themselves, and you need them potty trained. This school focused on the more practical things, like teaching them how to live,” says Jackson.
On the property of the Lafayette Christian School, there was a small house not in use. However, this house was the perfect place to set up the new school. It gives special needs children a place to learn and grow that isn’t overwhelming as a traditional school can be. The school started with six students enrolled and now they’re up to 32 kids.
In addition to creating this school, Jackson strives to make a difference in the lives of special needs families through his air conditioning business. Jackson shared how going to any outdoor event is already a major event in itself, when it comes to getting his son dressed and ready to go. On top of this, there are so many factors up in the air, like weather, the amount of walking, and how once they’re at the event Jackson knows his son will wet his diaper within 2 hours and need to go back home.
After dealing with this and knowing other special needs families find themselves in similar situations, he decided to provide an extra air-conditioned tent, free of charge, at any non-profit outdoor event.
I’ll never forget this family who came into the tent with an 8-year-old girl who had braces on her legs.”
“I’ve seen so much gratitude. We had this big fair in our area and the lady who ran the fair advertised that our tent was going to be there. I’ll never forget this family who came into the tent with an 8-year-old girl who had braces on her legs. The mom and dad explained how they went to the fair every year until their daughter got too big to change her braces in the bathroom. When they heard about the tent, they knew were able to come back,” shares Jackson. This just goes to show that changes like this that may not seem like a big deal, can be an absolute life changer to families.
Bonding at the Barbershop
Jackson uses the barbershop as a way to bond with his son. “When Collin was four or five, we both got a mohawk cut. Did he understand what was going on? No, but that was kind of for my benefit. This is something we can do as father and son together. I’m planning to take Collin to the barber next week. I want him to have a real haircut. Normally we cut his hair at home with clippers and it’s just a buzz cut,” shares Jackson. Whether they choose matching haircuts or not, we love how Jackson and his son use the experience of getting their haircut together as a time to bond.
Daughter Has Become His Biggest Teacher
Brinn Tomes is a dad, coach, and founder of Dadologi, which combines the art and science of parenting. He strives to incorporate mindfulness and science into his parenting and mentoring.
Tomes revealed that what surprised him the most about becoming a single father was how much he learned from his daughter. “My daughter has become my biggest teacher. Take everything you’ve learned from this planet, our time here, life and try to simplify it into a few basic words and actions in order for your child to understand what it is and how to do it,” explains Tomes. By simply explaining and teaching various life situations to his daughter, Tomes is constantly reminded of the simplicity of life. This taught him how adults and parents often overcomplicate everything.
My daughter is my teacher who is teaching me that the box is more exciting than the gift”
“Our children teach us to play, to laugh, to learn. They’re reminders of how we overcomplicate what we call this life of ours. My daughter is my teacher who is teaching me that the box is more exciting than the gift,” explains Tomes. Meaning, that no matter how big or elaborate the gift is, it truly is the time spent together and experiences that matter the most.
“Any gift you buy is the dopamine effect. You just have to keep buying bigger gifts, and for me, that’s not really where it’s at because it becomes unsustainable. If you look at spending quality time with your child, that releases a hormone called oxytocin, which has a slower release into the body and thus the effects aren’t felt the same way as a kick of dopamine which has an instant release,” explains Tomes. Oxytocin is released when hugging, which can aid in regulating your and your child’s stress hormones.
His daughter helped set him free from the materialism in the world. “I’m truly grateful for her and the other gifts I receive in teachings from her,” says Tomes. It’s always important to remember that the quality time spent with your kids outweighs any gift you can buy.
Finding Time for Yourself as a Parent is More Important Than You Realize
Parents, especially single fathers, often face the similar challenge of finding time for themselves. “Everyone has their own unique challenges with a flavor of similarity. It’s so easy to get lost as a parent in the parenting and you lose yourself. It’s definitely one of the biggest challenges for most of us,” says Tomes.
For many single fathers, it can be comforting in a way to know that many parents like them face similar challenges. However, it’s even better to know that there are ways they can work around this and create that alone time for them.
Setting aside time for yourself is important for balance.”
“We create a set of important boundaries. Setting aside time for yourself is important for balance. I’ve found that for myself, the best time is the early hours of the morning before my daughter gets up. That way I have time for myself, I’m fresh and able to do what I’d like for myself,” explains Tomes.
Many people can often overlook the morning hours, but if you are really striving to make a difference in your personal life, utilizing that time can truly change your life. Plus, with that extra time for you, you’ll be able to be the best parent for your child.
Navigating the Hair World as a Single Father
Let’s face it, hair care isn’t the easiest thing to navigate. From the various products and learning about different hairstyles, it can feel overwhelming at times. Luckily, Tomes has discovered a few helpful tips along the way while caring for his daughter’s hair.
“At the beginning, it was very overwhelming. I went to many different places, spoke to the on-site person, and they said to try detanglers. Eventually, I found her hair works best with conditioner in it; it was the easiest to brush. One day I took the detanglers, poured them out, and put the conditioner in them. I started using conditioner as the detangling product,” shares Tomes. Through this experience, he has learned to spend money on good quality products. With this finding, we couldn’t agree more.
Advice for Single Fathers
Jay, Dale, and Brinn all share their number one piece of advice for all of the single fathers out there.
1. It’s Ok to Make Mistakes
“Single dads need to know making mistakes doesn’t make you weaker, it makes them better,” says Skibbens. It’s no secret that everyone learns from their mistakes, it’s a natural part of life that everyone goes through. Skibbens shares how many dads are afraid to make mistakes, but honestly, it’s going to happen no matter what.
If you’re a single father who struggles with this, Skibbens highlights that you can’t be a great dad unless you make mistakes. Whether it’s putting yourself out there more or trying new things or parenting techniques, you can’t let your fear of failing or making a mistake hold you back from trying.
2. Have Someone to Talk to
Jackson can’t stress enough how important it is for any father, especially single dads to have someone they can talk to about everything going on. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or even their barber.”Talk to someone. You can find a male dad that already doesn’t want to talk, but then you add to that a special needs dad, now you just double down on talking to nobody,” explains Jackson.
When asking Jackson what society can do to help, he shared, “I’m encouraging other people to talk. People want to help you, but they’re scared and don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything and a lot of it is our fault for not letting them know how to help us,” says Jackson.
It never hurts to let people know what you’re going through, and once they do know, there’s a good chance they’ll be willing to help you out whether that’s babysitting or grabbing you coffee, or just being someone they know they can turn to for support.
3. Incorporate Mindfulness into Parenting
Teaching mindfulness to your kids and even practicing it as a parent can transform your way of life. “Science is showing us that by learning to control our thoughts, we’re able to design our own life experience. For example, we place a lot of emphasis on going to the gym to exercise. This helps us look good externally and gives us a feeling of growing. The actual thing is that its instantaneous gratification. When we’re working with the mind we don’t see the actual results. This is why people don’t see the value one needs to place on looking after one’s mind,” explains Tomes. Just like you would work out at the gym, it’s equally important to work on your mind.
Not sure what working on your mind really means? “It means going and sitting somewhere and learning to control your mind so you can look at the thoughts. You’ll be able to disassociate yourself from them and understand that I am not my thoughts,” shares Tomes. By not spending so much time worrying about your thoughts, you’re able to save that energy and use it elsewhere throughout your day. Tomes explained how this will make it easier to self-regulate and keep your cup full or at capacity.
It can be challenging to meditate and think mindfully at first, if you’re not sure how to do it on your own, there are many apps you can use to help you get started with meditation.
Unwind with Hair Care
Looking for a way to de-stress this Father’s Day? Check out these hair care products that help you unwind and style your hair for a little self-care.
Want to practice self-care by trying out a new hairstyle? Dove Men + Care Medium Hold Molding Paste helps you tackle a variety of looks by adding a medium hold to your style without any product flaking. Plus, this paste adds just a touch of shine to your look too.
Quench your curls with a leave-in conditioner. Suave Men Leave-In Conditioner With Shea Butter & Coconut Oil is perfect for any man with curly, textured, or wavy strands. It uses coconut oil and shea butter to help deeply moisturize your hair.
It’s always a good idea to use a deep cleansing shampoo on your strands every so often. We love Men + Care Charcoal + Clay Purifying Shampoo because it has a 90% naturally derived formula and uses charcoal to deeply clean your hair.
Jay, Dale, and Brinn are all single fathers that have unique experiences and journeys they’ve taken. Whether it’s shifting what being a father figure actually means, using your experience to help the community, or delving into the importance of mindfulness in partnering, there are so many ways people can be successful when it comes to single parenting.