"Gives me more time to be with the kids." These are the words I hear out of every single father's mouth after they've gone through a foreclosure and moved to a rental. Anecdotal? Sure... but I interview people by the hundreds, and hear a lot of anecdotes.
There's no surprise on one count; most men are glad to be free of the home maintenance they didn't like anyway.
Then, living in closer quarters, they see their kids more often. They discover that kids are more fun (and demanding) than watching TV, even a wide-screen TV. So they also cut down on TV, and spend the newfound time taking the kids on hikes and to museums and movies and concerts in the park -- probably giving the kids a better education than they would get sitting at home.
My sense, from many conversations, is that single dads pick up a lot more free time by moving to a rental than single moms.
For one, they usually work around the "cooking" issue using takeout food, or the fine art of soup and sandwiches. Then they learn that kids can in fact be taught to do their own laundry -- the technique is to just not do it for them until they get tired of wearing grubby clothes to school. Then you teach them how to pile their laundry in a hamper, and show them how to use the rental complex's washers and dryers, and pretty soon they're good to go, even if it means a family outing to the laundry room once a week.
And the housecleaning? Well... kicking a ball around the park is more fun than vacuuming. So the vacuum cleaner comes out... eventually.
The really hilarious part is when single dads with daughters come to the amazing discovery that girls are fun. Girls like to do stuff like run around soccer fields kicking balls and falling on their face in the mud? Who'da thunk it?
Townhouse or apartment rental? I asked single mothers -- they're more experienced with this social stuff -- and the consensus was that the difference is mostly an issue for adults. What counts for the kids' well-being is having accessible common areas where they can look out the window, see another kid and come out to play. It doesn't matter whether it's a townhouse or apartment, what counts is that they're not stuck with the choice of staying glued to their computer screens or hanging out at the shopping mall.
Single fathers may find they're not hugely welcome at single mothers' support groups, and that volunteering to help at some types of school events feels a little out of place.
More important, though, they usually learn that discovering their kids is a pretty good addition to their life.
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