Mike Klumpp, author of THE SINGLE DAD’S SURVIVAL GUIDE spoke to us about his no non-sense advice. The father of four spoke about the origin of his book, why single fathers aren’t getting the help they need and some of the mistakes he made when parenting.
Single fathers will be encouraged by this interview!
photo credit: Lee Cliff, YouTube
Interview with Mike Klumpp, Author of The Single Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed as a One-Man Parenting Team
by Clarke Illmatical
When it comes to single parenting, is there a double standard?
“In the legal system there’s a double standard, the people whom I’ve interacted with, who’ve read the book, read my book as not being gender specific, except in one or two chapters that are very directly involved with fathers and how to interact with girls. In the courts, there is definitely a double standard. And worldwide… “
Why are men reluctant to get professional help?
“I can only speculate, but I would say that men approach parenting from a different point of view in general. The traditional role of a fathers, the traditional roles of a husband, sort of the whole cultural aspect of what is manhood, ever since the 70s, especially when the cultural revolution embraced feminism at a different level, men have slipped further and further into a place of not knowing who they are, why they are or what they are.
If you look at the statistics of the self-help books, 70 percent of all self-help books are sold to women. So men apparently are much more reluctant to ask for help. They’re much more reluctant to be seen as weak and needy. There may be an element of false pride. They feel like weakness is contrary to manhood.”
When it comes to divorce, do men have a harder time moving on?
“In many of the instances where I’ve been involved, I do a lot of counseling for people who are going through the same thing… I find that a lot of men, don’t want a divorce. Now there’s a lot who do. Most of the men who want a divorce move on before divorce. They’re having an affair, they’re not interested in their families anymore… So when they move on, they don’t have a lot of looking back, clinging to or holding on.
The men who often times know that there is something wrong in their marriage or they’re struggling, who don’t want a divorce, are often very shocked or stunned when their wives leave and for that reason they seem to carry a torch for their spouse. Sometimes for a long time… I always tell men, don’t quit trying to restore your family until you know you can wake up and say ‘I did everything I could.’ People will start telling you early on ‘You need to let her go. You need to move on…’ But you can’t do that until you’re ready. I can’t speak for women, I assume it’s the same but I think it’s important for a man to wake up and know he did everything he could.”
You previously mentioned the 70s. What do you feel was lost?
“The definition of manhood and the focus weaned and acquiesced to make more room for women. And then as the pendulum swung in feminism… First of all, I’m not sure most men understand feminism. I think we understand equality. I think we understand the need for an equal wage for the same job. I think we understand equal say in matters… I think somehow on the focus on women, men began to acquiesce to make room for women…
In the Western culture, we’ve lost our right of passage. When is it that I quit being a boy and become a man? We focus on a lot on what womanhood is, what a woman is, we’ve asked men to step back and be more sensitive, let their feminine side be more in touch with their lives, but at the same time, in the process, we seem to have diminished the importance and the definition of what it means to be a man… We see men as the problem, not the solution. And I think, that’s what feminism has, the lingering bad effect feminism has had, it is that men feel like they’re the problem and not the solution. If they feel that they’re the solution, they’ll become responsible and step up.”
Based on my research, fathers who seek support or assistance often find themselves excluded from single parenting groups…
“Men are excluded from these groups, the groups cater to women, we feel sorry for single moms, we don’t feel sorry for single dads… We lack the same compassion for a single man, that we have for a single woman.
Even though my wife left me, with four children, in the small town that I was living in at the time, people made the assumption that I must have been so horrible, that I drove my wife away. As oppose to – my wife was a bad person. If a man leaves his wife and children, it’s never ‘What did she do to drive her husband away. We are somehow predisposed to believe that men are the dysfunctional part of the marriage relationship… There is something in us that is predisposed to believe that men don’t need the same help women do.”
How valuable is the network of friends when you’re on your own?
“The first thing you need friends for, you’ll need people who will let you bleed on them. It hurts, you’re in a form of crisis and you need people that will let you bleed. Let you vamp, let you be who you are and keep an eye on you – but not get in the way of the bleeding process.
As you begin to progress, you need friends that understand friendship because you need to rebuild your confidence and your relationship around people of another gender, you need to reestablish yourself in the community, and you need people who won’t violate the friendship.
Especially if they are of the other sex. You don’t need women in your presence who see you as a potential husband. You need women in your presence who can just be a friend and will let you coast through this time. Falling back into another relationship is seldom the right thing.”
What is your advice for men who are stable single fathers? When should they consider bringing women around their children?
“Once I started openly dating, my children saw everybody walking in as a potential new mom. The children don’t have the ability to understand – just date… The only time they’ve known you in relationships, they’ve known you with their mom. To them, every woman is a wife, there’s no just dating. If they’re teenagers, maybe they get it. If they’re young adults maybe they get it. But kids, just think you’re shopping for a new mom… I think it’s important to watch the reaction of your children. You have to be intuitive enough… if it’s damaging, if it’s scaring them, if they’re overreacting, you have to walk them through the process…
What I decided, a year and a half into this whole process, I decided I needed to take six months to a year of no dating what so ever and just re-establish my relationship just with the kids. I was particularly lonely at that time, but it was a smart move. When I got well grounded with my kids again, and their trust levels were different, then I was able to begin dating again and communicate clearly to them… but I think the key sensitivity is –communicate with your kids. Communicate your intent, communicate your objectives…”
I notice that you have two boys and girls. For other single fathers, which is more difficult?
“The opposite gender. I wrote the book because of my daughter. I got a phone call one day, I was teaching and I got a phone call. My daughter was crying. I could tell she was upset. She said ‘Where’s mom?… Dad, it started.I’m thinking she started volleyball? She started track? What did she mean she started?’ And then it hits me hits me! ‘She’s having her period!’ I’m unprepared for this, but fortunately, she was at a friend’s house whose mother was a nurse… and then I went to the bookstore and started looking for a single parent book…
I said ‘Is there a book for single dads? I need to figure out what to do. And the lady in the bookstore said ‘There isn’t a good one, you’re some kind of writer, why don’t you write one!’ I said ‘I don’t have time, I’m trying to raise my family, but if I ever get time, maybe I will.’ So that is actually why I wrote the book.
I recognized the need for men to have some help with their daughters. There is so much I didn’t know, so much with nurturing and so much of the feminine side of being a parent that I really didn’t know…
I get a lot of moms who come to me and they never ask for help with their daughters. But they always say ‘How do I raise young men? How do I know when a boy is a man?’ I think we always need help with the other gender…”
What were some of the things that helped you develop your relationship with your daughters?
“I had to ask some of my female friends. ‘What am I doing wrong? What am I missing?’ I remember one lady saying ‘Well, you’ve got your daughter sleeping in old t-shirts, how about buying her a nightgown!’
One of the things that I did, which was particularly good at that time, was I began buying certain color roses, for each of my daughters and using them as various stepping stones in their life.
When my daughter had her first date, I put a yellow rose on her pillow, when one of my daughters had an event at school, I used pink roses for her… I think dads do have to find some hyperbolic ways of being feminine to their daughters. Because we’re not naturally feminine.”
Do fathers manifest depression differently? Through alcohol, other women or indulging in too much work?
“Yeah. I saw all of that in my own life and I see that in other lives. I was very fortunate.
I went to see my doctor because of something that had happened and my doctor who knew me pretty well and asked me a couple of questions. I thought ‘These are strange questions’ And then he said ‘Look, I think you’re depressed. I want to do some blood test. I think you’re clinically depressed and I think you need some meds to get yourself balanced out.’ If he hadn’t caught it, I would have continued down, doing exactly what you said, medicating my own way.
He caught it … I took the meds. Within three weeks, I realized how long I had been depressed just how my moods began to stabilize and change again… we need to be addressing those things – depression and we need to it in a healthy way, counseling, therapy, meds, whatever…”
Did the single parenting experience help you become a better parent?
“Being a single parent made me a better parent – period. But that’s because I was fortunate enough to decide it was important to do that. While I may have gone into survival mode at some levels, my real instinct was that I needed to be a better parent… because I was now on my own. What I think happened, was just conscientiously striving to be a better parent made me a better parent.
There is no handbook on parenting that we read. We kind of model what we think our parents did well and didn’t do well… which is sad, and kind of the only option that we have. We don’t have a lot of options that we recognize. Parenting we learn, by trial and error. When you’re a single parent, I think you begin to realize consciously how weak you are as a parent and you begin to consciously, if you’re going to become responsible, become more consciously aware of the need to be a better parent. In that conscious awareness, you study a little more, you naturally think through things a little more.”
In many of the articles that I’ve read, most single fathers described their lives are difficult but rewarding. Would you agree?
“I would say, when I first started parenting by myself, I felt like it was impossible… There are two things in life I felt were extremely difficult.
One, is to make personal changes in who I was at a deep character level, that is not easy and it doesn’t surprise me that so many people fail at it…
The other thing I tried to do that was difficult was single parenting. I think, there’s a reason there are two parents. Single parenting is hard. It’s very hard. Whether this is something intuitive, or something I discovered or whether it’s something universal, I think at the end of the day, we all know we’re gonna die and at the end of the day, we’re not taking anything with us. About a half-hour after we’re dead, the only people that remember us anymore are those that we were in relationships with.
In single parenting, you begin to realize what the importance of what family means and if you focus and put your loneliness aside and put your focus on your children, they become precious because of the relationship. I’ve found that the reward was great.”
For more information about Mike Klumpp, the art of being a single dad, and his books visit: mikeklumpp.com
Looking for more articles like this? Check out the Advice for Single Dads section of our blog.
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