Dan is a single dad to his son Carl, who’s nine. Carl has not seen his mum for five years.
“Carl’s mum got pregnant two months after we met. We were surprised but he was a wanted child. Me and his mum, we clicked, we had a good time for a while but the relationship didn’t last. To complicate matters, I was ill with a hereditary condition, I’ve had major operations and a rough ride. For one of the operations there was only a 15% survival rate. I was in hospital for three months. Carl’s mum never visited. I knew our relationship was over but I wanted a civil split for our son’s sake. Carl was five when his mum and I eventually separated. Carl was a daddy’s boy. His mum left and she didn’t fight for him. Carl wanted to be with me. I got full custody and she was only allowed to write.
So I became a single dad. I’m not sure I realised quite what I had taken on. I surprise myself at times. My life is so different now to how it was ten years ago but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. My purpose in life is my son. I explained to him that mummy and daddy don’t love each other but we both love him. Carl’s school is brilliant, he’s doing so well. He loves computers, a typical nine-year-old. He’s quite insular, I would like him to have more friends. But I’m very proud of him, he takes life in his stride, he gets that from me.
Being a single dad is difficult but I do know that worrying won’t change anything, so I try not to. There’s always something. Today, the house is untidy but I need to first get on with writing to our housing association, about some repairs. I do the ironing one day a week, then there’s the decorating to sort.
Being a single parent means one person doing two people’s work. The hardest thing is finding time to do everything important – plus all the things that aren’t vital but still need doing. I think society’s view of single dads is improving.
Most women are good mums but the courts are recognising that some are not natural mothers. Society is changing and men and women can do the same things as each other. Everyone can do anything. But most men still wouldn’t opt to be a single dad. Ten years ago I would have laughed if you’d said I’d be a single parent. It’s more acceptable now for dads although we’ve still got a long way to go.
I’m lucky I have a boy, I would find raising a girl much more difficult. Carl and I spend a lot of time indoors together. Due to my disability I can’t do too much physical stuff, I don’t have the stamina. We read, watch TV and films. We go walking by the seaside, go to boot fairs, visit London for special occasions like to see Santa at Harrods and the lights for Christmas. We don’t have much money, we live on my incapacity benefit plus child tax credit and housing benefit. The main thing I want for Carl is for him to be happy. I’ve had status and money in the past but I’m not bothered now.”
For detailed step-by-step advice on everything from benefits and tax credits to childcare and your wellbeing, read our guide to separation.