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Dads House would like to introduce Simon

Simon will be will be taking charge of the new Dads House blog and writing about various topics related to single dads. He will be asking for your stories and contributions too.

Please share this page or the individual posts when they appear: http://www.dadshouse.org.uk/blog 

Single Dads and Holidays

Hello everyone. A rather quick blog from me this month, as Domy and I will then be fortunate to go on holiday. There are a couple of things I would like to briefly discuss.

Firstly, DadsHouse did well to get free tickets to the Dinosaurs in the Wild Show, which was greatly enjoyed by Mel and children. It sounds fabulous, fun and informative. Mel wrote that:

‘The Dinosaurs in the Wild show is a great experience. We were welcomed in quite a non-descript waiting area, which was reassuringly staid, given what was coming next. The transition towards the time machines was a great way to feel part of an adventure story, and the children particularly enjoyed this, as it reminded them of holidays and theme parks, but the blend of interactive exhibits, robotic dinosaurs, live action and great 3D effects gave a sense of being on a Jurassic Park film set. Getting into the actual dinosaur base was very engaging, the actors all playing very similar roles to scientists and zoo keepers, and made it far more interactive and provided some very funny moments with the dinosaurs.

The labs were an absolute gem with dinosaurs being an amazing area, and it was great for the children to see close-up what seemed like a baby dinosaur, moving across the exploration base was a great way to learn about dinosaurs and for the children to sense how different and powerful dinosaurs were. The final part takes your group to the lookout at the top of the exploration base, where you watch as the dinosaurs become ever more dangerous and culminates in being evacuated underneath a giant sea creature and into escape time travelling pods.

Overall, a great experience for dinosaur fans of all ages’.

Secondly, Domy and I are very lucky to be going away on holiday and this has got me thinking about holiday periods for single dads and mums and how childcare and activities can be such issues and so expensive. I work full time and childcare for Domy costs a lot. Childcare costs have risen faster than wages, when many of us depend on childcare to work or study. For many single dads and mums cuts to Tax Credits and other benefits have also made childcare costs an even greater issue.

We all know that activities are generally getting more expensive. Research shows that the cost of raising a child to the age of 21 has reached over £230,000, a 65% increase since 2003; with ‘average parents’ spending £70,000 for childcare and babysitting alone, over £16,000 on holidays and almost £17,000 on hobbies and leisure activities.

So, do you look forward to the school holidays, feel anxious as to how you will afford them, or a mix of both? We would really welcome your views and experiences and tips for free things to do.

Thank you for reading and I hope that you enjoy the remaining sunshine.

Simon

Single Fathers and Finances

Hello everyone. Well World Cup Fever is in full flow as I write this blog, with England actually doing quite well and Gareth Southgate becoming a national treasure in the process it seems. I hope that (if you are into football) you are enjoying this exciting and unpredictable tournament. My son is studiously completing his World Cup wall chart with each and every result!

But onto more serious matters, this time money and finances. Lone parents have not done well financially under the current government, although obviously we all are in different financial situations, with some struggling more or less than others.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals that over 2 million lone parent families are living on incomes below what they need for a decent standard of living and that in fact almost three quarters of lone parent households live below that standard. This is saddening, staggering and surely must be challenged and changed as a matter of priority?

Further research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation proposes that a lone parent with a preschool child has to earn £28,450 to reach a minimum socially acceptable standard of living in the UK. This is a significant wage! Just one more damming statistic, this is that a lone parent working full-time on the minimum wage in 2008 with help from tax credits had a disposable income just £520 a year short of their needs. Following almost a decade of tax credit cuts under the previous coalition and current governments lone parents in this situation are about £3,640 a year short of their needs. This is a lot of money to be short of a basic living standard with your child(ren). Frustratingly, there is enough money in the UK as a whole to easily rectify this.

Living in poverty or struggling financially can have many affects for families, be they two parent, lone mother or single father families. This includes beyond the obvious and demanding issues of trying to get enough food to eat, pay the rent and afford the basics. It can stimulate feelings of shame, powerlessness and alienation that can make a parent feel like they are failing their child(ren) and socially inferior. When you add in that being a single father or mother can come with stigma, feeling different and social exclusion, this can be so very difficult to cope with each and every day.

DadsHouse are currently doing some fantastic work, with food banks, support with accommodation and a buddying service. But without taking away from this fantastic support is this a sticking plaster for a much bigger wound? What do you think needs to change so that all of us as single parents can be financially safe and secure and our children can have enough to flourish and blossom?

Finally, do you worry about money and wonder where you can get help? If the answer is yes please come forward for support, as at DadsHouse you will not be judged or made to feel ashamed.

Thank you for reading and take care everyone!

Simon

Who are we as single fathers?

I am writing this blog with the sun shining down in sunny Wales; I hope that you are getting a bit of sunshine too wherever you are! My son is adoring this weather and we agree that cycling in the sun is fantastic.

So, I have been doing what is called a literature review for an article that I am writing on social work practice with single fathers. Without getting too boring, this is basically looking around for what other people have written on this subject, which is very little.

As part of this, I have come across some research from the USA that I would like to briefly talk about. There is no equivalent research here in the UK. This research looks at demographic data about single fathers, so for example ethnicity, age, income etc. They found that the number of single father households in the USA has increased about ninefold since 1960, to more than 2.6 million in 2011.

I found one area really interesting and feel it would be great to have views on this. This is what a single father is and who describes this? Single fatherhood is not a straightforward term, rather its definition is used in different ways by different people in different contexts. The research article from the USA sees single fathers as fathers who are separated, divorced, widowed or never married and are living without a partner; or some fathers living with a partner they are not married to, or some fathers who are married but living apart from their wife. This all seems very complicated and a little confusing.

They found that about 60% of single fathers in the USA are not living with a partner, meaning that about 40% are. What do you think? Does this fit with your views of who single fathers are? What defines us as a group?

In the UK, official definitions of single/lone parents focus on parents who care for a child or children with no husband, wife or partner living with them. This is quite different as some 40% of single fathers counted in the USA research would not be counted under this definition. Again, rather confusing and unclear.

For me, this is all quite important. The point is that for single fathers to be recognised and supported there needs to be some agreement about who we are as a group, and our collective and individual strengths and needs. Until this happens, our unique identities and needs may be missed or not fully acknowledged. Please let me know what you think.I am writing this blog with the sun shining down in sunny Wales; I hope that you are getting a bit of sunshine too wherever you are! My son is adoring this weather and we agree that cycling in the sun is fantastic.

 

Take care all

Simon

Hello and My First Blog

Hello all This is my first blog for the Dads House website. I am genuinely flattered and excited to start to write a few blogs for the website and must say thanks to Billy for asking me.

 

So first, it is probably worth just saying a little bit about myself: I am Simon, a proud single father to my 8 year old son. I am very fortunate to have my son and enjoy caring for him so very much. I have recently moved into the role of an academic, following a career as a children and families social worker. I am interested in single fatherhood and fatherhood both professionally and personally, and I am especially passionate about single fathers in our society. I think that’s probably enough about me!

 

I found out about Dads House via twitter and became increasingly interested in Billy’s tweets and what Dads House is doing. It seemed to me that what he and Dads House are doing is so important, unusual and needed. From my experiences there is limited support for single fathers in the UK and Dads House clearly bucks this trend. Perhaps, as I am now an academic and paid to think, the practical and everyday side of the help being provided has also really excited me. Things like football evenings, food parcels, drop ins and breakfast clubs that have a really inclusive message and offer genuine support have got to be good news. Further, some of the advocacy for single fathers through the media and feeding into reviews and research seem crucial too.

 

I have been fortunate to have a couple of conversations with Billy so far and I very much look forward to talking with and meeting other people involved with Dads House. This feels like an exciting new direction for me and I hope that I can be supportive of Dads House into the future. Before I go, I am sure that there are plenty of stories amongst you all that really deserve to be told. Being a single father can be simply awesome, but also very hard work. If you would like to share your story, or some part of it, please get in touch and we can then write it up for this blog.

 

Thanks for reading and bye for now. Simon

 

 

What happens when you say and feel that you need someone and then they go

Louise was such a warm, bubbly, loving person. You always hear good about those that die, especially those that die young. In this case I swear on my life this is true. And if it true in all the other cases too, which I have no reason to believe is not the case, then thats a fucked up world in which we're living. But I'm not going to take this blog in that direction, at least not today. May be another day if I feel like it.

Louise had the ability to make friends quickly and at the same time make deep lasting friendships. She would be considered best friends with quite a few girls and someone who could be trusted with the most private and personal confidences. I first saw her in a nightclub queue, she was elegant and dressed in black as always and was laughing with her cousins over from France.

One evening we were in her favourite pub, The Swan, and my brother had wheeled out his new girlfriend. It was hustling and bustling and people filtered in from work on a Friday evening. We were a group of about 15 and the new girl didn't know anyone at the table. Louise started talking and within 5 minutes the new girl turned to my brother and said, 'she's so lovely. She's amazing'. To which my brother, jokingly replied, 'hey what about me, I'm nice, I'm friendly!'. She could make people love her immediately.

I don't know what it was that she had exactly, but she wanted to be liked. I think this comes from her upbringing and family circumstances that making friends was vitally important. She was chatty, funny, bubbly and positive so I suppose who wouldn't wantjto be around her. I don't know what she saw in me really, I'm not like that at all. More groucho than hello but whatever it was that she liked, she really liked it and we made a great team. I'd say partners in crime, but Louise was as straight laced as they come, so perhaps soulmates is a better way to describe it.

Cancer and Death

One sunny day in August 3 months after Freddie was born Louise was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiforme Grade IV. The medical term for a terminal brain cancer with a life expectancy of between 1 and 2 years. It's a bastard which they don't know much about. Normally found in older men. There are 4 grades, with 4 being the most aggressive. In its worst state it can double in size in a matter of weeks. There are also unique cases where people can live for years, but the bell curve peaked at 11 months on wikipedia, the Spanish surgeon said at 12 months and the UK surgeon 18 months.

None were right. 3 months 6 days later she died.

If, like me, you always watch The Snowman at Christmas. By the time it is shown in the late afternoon you might have had a sherry or two, and I'll always have a huge lump in my throat which even the neighbours can hear me swallow. Well, the closing scene chokes you up because in many ways, this is what it feels like to see your partner of 12 years pass away. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sv-hizR6dUk

In no time at all you watch everything you loved, everything you built, everything you were excited about melt into a mere shadow of what it ones was. And soon you become painfully aware that there is absolutely nothing you can do, or say, or pay to change the nightmare that is taking place in front of you.

And in the end we are left with her scarf in the wardrobe, that I can’t bring myself to open; her hat on the shelf that I can't stop at and the other bits of our everyday life strewn across the house in exactly the same way it was before August.

As a father you forget that mum and son have already known each other over 9 months

Of course we had had the baby naming conversations. It took a few seconds to agree on girls names: she suggested one, I suggested one and we both liked them. Done. Boys names were harder and we had a list of about twenty.

Five minutes after birth Louise said, 'shall we call him Freddie?'. I said, 'he's only just been born shall we wait until we see whether he looks like an Freddie'. To which she replied, 'yes, yes, ok, lets wait'. Fifteen minutes later she asked one more time, ’shall we call him Freddie?'.

It was then that I realised they had been living together for 9 months. They already knew each other and had built a bond. It was me the new guy on the scene! And thats why I was crying and Louise (normally the soft one) was happy and behaving as normal. So I smiled and said yes, he's called Freddie.

When life is extremely unfair you look for the silver linings. And it does help me to know they were together for a year. But it doesn't take away from the fact we only had another 6 months all together.

Who could know that when Freddie was born we only had another 6 months all together

Freddie was born in April to Louise and I. Labour took 44 hours. It started on the Sunday night. When Louise elbowed me in bed and said, 'it's game time'. She was right, and by midday on Monday we were in the back of an Uber to the hospital in London. The staff were excellent, but after a few hours they told us to go back home and guestimate that we still had another 30 hours or so to go.

My principal job was refraining us from going back into the hospital too early. I held out till the next afternoon when we were back in the Uber. They said, 'you're just there, 4cm dilated (at 10cm you're about to pop). Go upstairs to your room'.

And from then it went into fast forward. Louise got comfortable in the bed. I looked out at the setting sun. The midwife took a look at Louise and asked her not to push, but Louise kept saying thats all my body's telling me to do. She rechecked, called over to me, 'Husband, press that red button on the wall... We're having this baby NOW!'

Within a minute we had 5 people in the room, a wheely table with scalpels and other metal tools. She had moved from 4cm to 10 in about 20 minutes and now it really was game time. About 8 minutes later Freddie was pulled out all covered in blood and looking like a drowned rabbit, laid on Louises chest and wrapped in blankets.

I was so proud of her. I can't imagine a generation before when the father often wasn't there, its such a powerful experience and the admiration for the mum is off the scale. The emotion hit me after a few seconds when I saw him and tears rolled off my chin. The nurses and midwives loved that! We had grown the family that we'd always wanted.

My journey to becoming a single parent via cancer and the pure beauty of fatherhood

My name is James and I’m a single father who’s looked after his son, Freddie, since he was 3 1/2 months old. 

I'll be sharing my experience here to raise awareness for Dads House and to show other Dads who fall into a situation like mine, for whatever reason, that it's been done before. And I'll tell you about the good, the sad and the funny. 


I am going to write about what it is like to be me. This will mostly be about the grief from the loss of a soulmate and raising my 9 month old boy.

The names have been changed because neither Freddie nor his mother can decide if they want to participate so I think it's fair to share our life accurately but with different names. 

I feel like I've mostly had a vision and direction in my life, and fought to make it happen with optimism and then let the details fall into place. So I think this blog will follow the same strain. Let's see what happens...

Latest News...

Written submission to House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry on “Fathers and the Workplace”

We are submitting this evidence to this Inquiry, as we hear from and help a great deal of fathers who are either struggling to be recognised as ‘hands on’ fathers in the workplace – or as will be clear from this particular submission – are completely denied the opportunity, and thus enter unemployment reluctantly.

The issues, we believe, are a mixture of employers failing to recognise a shift in the structure of families in the modern age, as well as significant prejudice and discrimination towards fathers, who want to break away from the traditional stereotype of fathers and the workplace....

Read the full paper (PDF opens in a new window)

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