Parenting is about expecting the unexpected. Single parenting is about preparing for the unexpected.
If you’re like me, your ex-wife isn’t physically in the picture – mine lives a few hours away by plane. You may or may not have family near by (my parents and sister live about two hours away).
So, what do you do when something comes up and your kid is not old enough to stay home alone? That is when you tap in to your team.
CANDIDATES FOR YOUR TEAM
- Family – Grandparents, parents, sibilings, aunts, cousins…you get the idea. I have had to call my parents a few times and had them drive for a few hours to watch my son when he was sick and I had a meeting to go to. It was not ideal, but my guess is your family wants to be supportive and you just need to ask.
- Friends – This is a broad category and should be broken down so you can better identify who is a candidate for your network.
- Other single dads/parents – Chances are good you have several single parents in your kid’s class/grade. In fact, several of their close friends probably have single parents with either joint or full custody. Some may or may not work or have non-traditional work hours (firefighters). Single parents get it and are ususally quick to help if they can (and you should be quick to help them when they need it).
- Retired friends – You have met these folks through your church, civic organizations, or in your neighborhood.
- The rest – These are your married friends, neighbors, and anyone else in your circle.
- Babysitters – It is essential to have a few babysitters for those evening events you need someone to watch your kid. Ask teachers, other parents, college students, people at your church, and people at work for names of their sitters (they may not want to share if they have a reliable sitter). If it is a college student, there is a chance they could be available during the day if their class schedule and work schedule allows.
- Businesses – From day-care organizations to certain kid-oriented businesses, you may have entities who will take your money in exchange for watching your kid. Where I live, we have a few places willing to watch your kid (and wear them out) while you take care of that errand or meeting. Not every bounce-house playground, trampoline gym or activity center will allow you to leave, but ask and find out which ones will.
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR TEAM
- Write down the name and contact information for each person you come up with in each of the above categories.
- Be liberal. Write down every possibility – even if you’re not sure they would be willing or able to help out.
- Reach out to every person on your list and ask them if they would be willing to lend a hand. Let them know this is not for casual use, but instead for times when you really need help.
- After you have made your calls, rank your list based on who you feel most comfortable calling and who is generally available.
- Put your list into a document or spreadsheet and use it.
Remember, people want you to succeed as a single-dad and instinctively know you need help sometimes. Let them help and do not hesitate to ask. I remember how difficult it was to dial the phone and ask a friend to come over and watch my son while I went to a meeting – my pride was getting in the way of allowing someone to help me who had offered to do so.
I still wrestle with asking for help, at times, thinking I should be able to do this all on my own. But then I remember the team of people around me who want to help and who I help back.
Do you already have a team or network? What have you learned about asking for help?