Vincent Lergan raised three sons alone, a ten-year-old eldest and eight-year-old twins. For the past five years, he has been running between kindergartens, elementary schools and children’s activity places, and is deeply involved in housework, three meals a day and various procedures for children, and has been trying to find a balance between work and family. In his own words, “do it like a mother”.
Fan Shang is a 42-year-old civil servant who lives in Pas-Calais. After his wife died, he joined the ranks of single dads. Single fathers account for 18% of single-parent families in France. As divorce becomes more common, the number of single fathers continues to rise.
| Divorced more than widowed |
How do these men become single dads? Breakup, divorce, widowhood… In the 1960s, widowhood was the main cause of single-parent families, but now it’s mostly due to the breakdown of the relationship between the partners. Single fathers need to sign an agreement with their partner and get approval from the Family Court to support their children.
Why fight for child custody? Every case is unique, it may be because the mother is too busy at work or because the mother does not take good care of the child. “I went to court several times and finally got custody of my son. I’m very happy,” said Jerome, 46. He is from southern France and is a night security guard. Pierre, 57, is a senior official who travels between France and abroad. In order to give his two children (a 7-year-old and an 11-year-old) a better education, Pierre applied for residency abroad for them. “If I don’t do that, my relationship with my kids will become estranged,” Pierre said.
At seven o’clock in the morning, after breakfast, Fan Shang’s three children started their homework at the dining table. They generally don’t do homework in the morning. But the night before, Fan Shang delayed tutoring the children because of working overtime.
At 4:45 pm, Tim was taking a saxophone class, and Vincent took Zac to wait for him in the classroom. After class, they would pick up Leo from evening class and go swimming together.
| “Admiration, surprise, and a hint of doubt” |
”How did you get custody of your child?” is a question that is often asked by single fathers, and their answers reflect the slowly changing mindset of this group. Three years ago, Jeremy, 43, became a single dad. His wife died and he raised his daughter alone. He said: “Since women can be good mothers, men can also be good fathers.” A 46-year-old single father, who did not want to be named, said: “My situation is special. His mother is too busy with work. After the divorce, I won custody of my ten-year-old son. Not many people around me knew about it.”
Sociologist Alexander Piesen said: “When people hear that you are a single father, they are often both admirable and surprised. There is also a trace of doubt. Stereotypes are difficult to eliminate. In society’s inherent concept, single fathers tend to be lazy and play tricks. Men who have lost a partner will always find a new partner at the first time, so that the burden of raising children can be transferred to The other side.”
”When I’m looking for babysitters, they always bring my husband or boyfriend to the interview.” Adrian, a 45-year-old widowed single father, said with a smile. This group also has to deal with sympathetic glances. “I don’t need sympathy, I just need help,” said Romain, a 39-year-old widowed single dad who raises his 16-month-old daughter alone. Sometimes single dads ask their own parents for help with the kids on the weekends. However, parents are often not supportive of their decision to raise their children alone, so they rarely agree to help. “When the parent-child relationship breaks down, parents stop helping their sons,” says sociologist Caterina Castellan-Meunier.
In the workplace, single parents also encounter many difficulties. “Why fight for child custody? Isn’t that asking for trouble?” Pierre’s boss once told him. Many single dads don’t reveal their family status in the workplace, but given the predicament of single moms in the workplace, some single dads will take the risk of speaking out. Jeremy is a web developer, and he said in the interview that he is raising his daughter alone, so he needs to get off work by 6 o’clock. However, he did not pass the probationary period because of this. He was furious at his boss’s decision: “The company still has a long way to go in ensuring a work-life balance for its employees.”
| Perfect Mom Syndrome |
Like single mothers, in addition to workplace difficulties, single fathers also face various challenges in their daily lives. They have to admit that they used to give far less than their partner in terms of housework and child care. Single dads embraced these jobs, seeing themselves as home cooks, and some became experts in braiding. They feel that they have not yet been able to transform from a “dignified father” to a “gentle father” and still need to learn a lot. They feel uncomfortable hugging their children, but stay with them, comforting and caring for them, which is often considered a mother’s job. Many single dads still refer to how “mom” did it. A single dad said: “I feel like I have the ‘perfect mom syndrome’ and I’m always worried that I’m not doing well enough.” Piesen said: “There is no example of single dads in society to learn from, after all, in the larger environment The mother is the main parent in the family, and the father is only a supporting role.”
While the child is swimming, Fan Shang will go shopping for daily necessities.
Sometimes, Fan Shang will go home to prepare dinner while the children are swimming.
Women have always been bound by the “good mother” standard, and now that standard extends to men as well. They are eager to do more to prove themselves. “In the 1970s, women across the globe entered the workforce, but men never considered returning to their families, and only men in the Nordics did,” Piesen continued.
”I’ve failed to raise my own children,” said Theophile, 41, who has 11-year-old twins. After being separated from his partner, he fell into the lowest point of his life. At first, Theophile and his partner took turns raising their two children. Later, when his mother was seriously ill in the hospital, he became addicted to alcohol, and unfortunately failed to invest and suffered from depression. Two years ago, he regrouped and got his life back on track. “I spend a lot of time with my kids. I hug them and caress them,” he said.
Fan Shang created a set of parenting methods. “Sometimes I make mistakes too. I’m yelling and no one can take the load for me. Good parents should never be overwhelmed with emotions and always make time to respond to their children’s needs. I can only do my best Can do it,” he said.
|”Their Allies Are Other Moms”|
When in self-doubt, some single fathers don’t hesitate to seek professional help, both because they are worried that their child is not going well, and because they want to make sure they are parenting the right way. After the divorce, David suddenly found that his 13-year-old son had difficulty expressing emotions, so he sought help from a psychiatrist. “People around me don’t understand my situation. In fact, I’m no different from other parents, I just raise my children by myself. I also have friends who are the mothers of my son’s classmates. I can relax when I gather with them. .” David said.
”Single dads’ allies are really other moms,” Piesen said. “I need friends, but I don’t want to tell people about my family situation and worry that they will pity me,” says Roman. His 16-month-old daughter, Wife tragically passed away during childbirth. The three months after her daughter was born were spent in the hospital. “I took a period of maternity leave, my wife’s maternity leave. I think I’m one of the few men who has taken maternity leave,” Roman said.
The main problem with single dads is not “dad” but “single parent”. On this point, single mothers and single fathers have reached a consensus. Despite their vast differences in age, occupation and financial status, they agree that they have a lot in common. Data shows that single fathers are generally older and in better financial condition than single mothers. Many single fathers feel that raising their children alone is actually more liberating (without the control of a wife), or even liberating. Becoming a single dad is more of a turning point in life.
Many single dads are reluctant to take risks out of fear that their new partner will leave again. They consider it a blessing to be so close to their children.
Instead of living in society’s stereotypes, single dads have worked hard to learn so-called “mom skills.” Fan Shang learned to comb his son’s hair, Pierre revisited the school curriculum, and Jeremy learned to take care of three meals a day. These dads gradually found a rhythm in life. Most of the single dads we interviewed made this choice out of guilt, not wanting to add more trouble to an already unbalanced family life. It’s painful enough for a child to lose a mother. These single fathers have given up their personal hobbies and opportunities to start a relationship. They forget that they are men and live only as dads.
Single dad Jerome told us: “I’ve been trying to find a balance between ‘man’ and ‘dad’, but my kids are unhappy. I’ve stopped looking for a new partner this year, my son and I So live a happy life.” Many single dads are reluctant to take the risk out of fear that their new partner will leave again. They consider it a blessing to be so close to their children. Adrian said: “My daughter is my most beautiful gift.”
At eight o’clock in the evening, after dinner, Fan Shang and his three children sat on the sofa watching TV and enjoying a moment of comfort.
Behind Tim is plastered with pictures of the family traveling. Since 2006, Fan Shang has taken his children to travel abroad every year. He wants to let children see the world more.
| The New Normal: Fathers Involved in Parenting |
”Father involvement in parenting will become the new social norm,” said Castellan-Meunier. “Our culture assigns specific roles to men and women and locks them into them, which hinders the development of equal rights.” Single dads Will you be an equal rights pioneer? They are neither victims nor heroes, they are just normal parents adjusting to their new roles. Adrian said: “I often say that I am a single parent, not a single father. Because there are thousands of single mothers, but society rarely praises them.”