Single dads often get a bum rap. Remember these four guidelines to make it look easy!

1. YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR. BEHAVE ACCORDINGLY.

Repeat after me: “I AM. A ROCKSTAR.” No, not that kind of rockstar! The kind that manages a nurturing home, brings home the bacon, strengthens rewarding relationships, and bakes cookies for PTA meetings. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Life isn’t the superficial fluff you see on prime time TV.

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Quit pretending life is all about fancy cars, beach vacations, six pack abs and sexy girlfriends in string bikinis. You know better. Being a single dad is all about showing up sober, keeping your head, working hard to be a good role-model, keeping it real, and having some fun. Prioritize what matters most: who we love, what we do, how, and why we live. Because everything else is just stuff

2. OKAY, YOU’RE SINGLE. BUT FIRST, YOU’RE DAD. 

When you’re a single dad, “boys will be boys” doesn’t cut it for an excuse to behave badly. Your kids are depending on you for three non-negotiables: 

They need you to show them what a “good man” is. That means demonstrating integrity. Do what you say you will do. Make it right when you can’t. Take care of family business before personal business. That means maintaining a stable, nurturing, age-approrpiate home where kids can safely learn to become thoughtful, caring, contributing members of your household — and by extension the community.

They need to consistently see you setting appropriate boundaries, speaking respectfully, generously serving others with compassion, and exemplifying a lifest‌yle of self-respect. Model that and your kids will learn how a real man behaves. 

They need you to be prepared. That means balancing your work schedule with your home life. That means learning how to do stuff, fix stuff, bake stuff, read stuff, teach stuff, and not freak out when things go awry. They need you to anticipate practical solutions to mundane irritations and scary problems — and be the source for comfort when things get dire. They need you to be the safest, most responsible, most reliable, most trustworthy, most loving person they know. If you’re going to lose any sleep, use that time to get prepared for when your kids need you most

They need you to explain the world and their place in it. That means reading books. Lots of books. That means going for walks and taking trips and seeing things and talking to people. That means helping them to understand all the stuff you’re still trying to figure out in way that feels inspiring, not scary or overwhelming. They need you to be the beacon of light and hope, so they have footsteps to follow that lead to some place worth going. They need you to explain right and wrong and all the nuances that make tough decisions even harder without gauranteed outcomes. They need to feel loved and they need to love in return. They need to understand death and loss and pain and discomfort and boredom and the fear of losing what (and who) they love most. They need you to be their guide. Even when you’re tired, frustrated, lonely and overwhelmed. That’s your job. And it’s the most important job in the world.

3. THERE ARE RULES FOR LOVE AND DATING. 

When it comes to single dads and sexy time, there’s good news and bad news. Bad news first: Whatever you do will have a direct impact on your kids’ understanding of what love iswhat lovers do and why. Here’s the good news: Whatever you do will have a direct impact on your kids’ understanding of what love iswhat lovers do and why.

Think about what you want your kids to know about love, intimacy and building meaningful relationships with others. Make sure they see you demonstrating whatever it is you want them to grow up knowing about it — because nine times out of ten, they will do whatever they see you do. Teach them about self-respect, loving the skin they’re in, and building partnerships designed for long-lasting friendship.

Go ahead and do your thing (you deserve love, too), but maintain some discretion and put your kids’ well-being above your own personal agenda. Be honest. Give your kids the opportunity to openly share how they feel without criticism or judgement. Make it safe for them to express themselves in the context of your love life. Make it clear to them where your priorities stand and present consistent opportunities to nurture the common ground. 

4. BECOME THE HOMEMAKER YOU’RE KIDS WILL APPRECIATE WHEN THEY’RE ADULTS.

I’m a professional organizer. I help families (in all shapes and sizes) to simplify their stuff, organize their lives, and design gorgeous spaces that inspire long-lasting results. Your kids need three healthy, well-balanced, nutritious (organic) meals every single day of their lives. They need healthy snacks that support concentration, attention to detail, and energy to get through to their next meal. They need to drink lots of water. (Not grape drink — water.) They need sunscreen, comfortable shoes, a good sun hat, a rain jacket, and a good sturdy bag for their stuff. They need clothes they’re allowed to get dirty and wear out.

They need clean sheets, warm blankets, and a soft pillow to put their heads on every night. They need to learn to do their own laundry, fold their own clothes and put them away. They need to learn to vacuum, sweep and wipe up their messes. They need to help take out the trash, walk the dog, and clean up poop in the back yard. They need to put away their stuff, set the table, and clean up projects. They need to know how to clean the toilet, scrub the floor, and lock up their bicycle. Just like you, they need to know where their stuff is stored and be able to conveniently put things away.

They’re relying on you to model this stuff. They’re counting on you to teach them consistency and pride in a job well-done. When they’re old enough to move out and live on their own, they’ll know what to do, how to do it and why.

And they’ll appreciate everything you did to give them the best life you could. And that’s what it’s all about!

Evan Michael Zislis is a professional organizer, social entrepreneur and author of the bestseller, ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World.