Being a single dad can be really, really lonely

Dating was awkward enough back in the day. Add a failed marriage and couple of kids into the mix, and it's a whole new level of "it's complicated."

Single dad reading story to sons in tent

One of the hardest parts of being a single dad is that it can be really, really lonely. Sure, you’ve got your child (or, in my case, two boys), but to be honest, when children are really little, they’re not that good at holding up their end of a conversation.

Since I split up with my wife, I’ve gotta say life has been a pretty solitary existence. I live by myself, I work from home – really, the only time I go out is to pick up or drop off the kids, and one night a week when I have to head off to university to teach.

That sort of hermit lifestyle isn’t unusual for divorced dads. The shrinking social circle that comes with having children is often exacerbated by a break up – she got the house and the friends, you got a second-hand Ford Falcon and a rented apartment that looks like it was furnished by a pack of drunk students.

Fear factor

One of the major factors that has held me back from looking for a new partner is how surprisingly anxious I am about the whole process. In particular, I worry about how it will affect my boys.

What if I meet someone who I really like, and the boys don’t like her? Worse still, what if I meet someone that we all really like – and then there’s another break up if that relationship sours?

Relationships are complicated enough without adding in several more layers of “what ifs” – so it’s almost easier just to push through the loneliness, and spare myself and the boys any risk of further hassle.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t given it a go…

Since we’re being honest

To be honest, there’s the fact that I have almost entirely forgotten how to meet women – and to be completely honest, I was never all that good at it anyway.

So when it came time to re-introduce myself to polite society (ie, stop being a morose old man, sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself), I was completely stumped. How does a 44-year-old guy meet women?

A mate of mine told me to try Tinder, which I did, and wish I hadn’t. I know it works well for some people – and given that there were entire weekends when I wasn’t responsible for looking after the kids, it seemed like a great idea.

I met a few nice ladies, of approximately appropriate age, and even went out for dinner or drinks a few times with a couple of them… but things seemed to go south fairly quickly when I mentioned that I have two children.

I’m sure it wasn’t merely the fact that I have kids that did it, though. What it boiled down to was having kids made scheduling things a bit difficult. I found myself repeatedly telling people “I’m sorry – I’d love to go to the movies tonight, but I’ve got the kids here… maybe next time!” – only to find that there wasn’t a “next time”.

And that really sucked – because there were a couple of times when I caught myself thinking about how I could dodge my responsibilities as a dad…

It’s not all doom and gloom

I realise this all sounds like a very long-winded whinge, but there is good news.

I’ve spent the past few months thinking pretty hard about this, and I came to a fairly obvious conclusion: I was overthinking all of this, and I needed to shift my focus.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to meet someone – but I’ve made a conscious decision that it’s not really a priority any more. Being there for my boys is the most important thing I need to focus on.

They’re still trying to make sense of why I don’t live with their mum anymore, so the last thing they need is the uncertainty of dealing with someone new in my life, and theirs.

In the meantime, whatever happens, happens. But being a dad, even if I’m a lonely one, is still the best bloody thing in the world.