Emma Ruben


Single dad families are on the rise in Australia, but they are often forgotten about and their pressures unaddressed. 

Raising kids in a two-parent household is a hard task. Raising kids in a single parent household can be even harder. In a digital age, resources for single parent families have become more accessible to all. However, many of these studies focus on the wellbeing of single mothers and there is little to no information about single dads and the struggles they face.

Single dads are becoming increasingly more common in the 21st century and play a large part in raising and parenting children. More and more men are choosing to have and raise children on their own.

UK based, Joe Norton was 54 years old when he decided to adopt his two sons Tarren and Owen. The decision to adopt was a large one but not a hard one. He always knew he wanted to be a father and when it seemed he was not going to have children the conventional way, he decided to adopt.

At times this journey stumped him – he had suddenly entered a world where he needed to know what size t-shirts his children wore and whether or not they had enough socks. This new learning curve was worth it for him when on a holiday with his boys, they called him dad for the first time. “It was emotional,” Norton says.

Australia has similarly seen an increase in single father families with more and more single men are choosing to have children via adoption or surrogacy and some dads become single parents due to unforeseen circumstances. Of the one million families in Australia in 2020, 20.7 per cent were single fathers. This figure has increased dramatically since 2012 when single fathers only made up 16 per cent of single parent families.

Despite the increase, single dads often face pressures that single mothers may not encounter. And as there is less information for single dads, these pressures are not spoken about as often as maternal hardships are.

Traditional gender roles can be harmful

Most of these are from the lack of discussion about fathers and their ability to parent on their own – a sentiment that begins from childhood.

From a young age boys are encouraged to be the breadwinner. Doctor Michelle Janning, a professor of Sociology, finds that this is a gender disparity that may be unconsciously encouraged when raising children. She says that, “For a young man to say, ‘I want to be dad’ when asked the question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ shouldn’t be a weird answer” and she disparages the view that only girls can say ‘I want to be a mother when I want to grow up’.

Instead girls should be encouraged to be the breadwinner and have children if they choose to. And boys should be encouraged to see themselves as caregivers and nurturers. For Doctor Janning, encouraging the idea that men can only be breadwinners, means that if fathers do become single parents, they may struggle to come to terms with their new role in life.

a father carrying his child on the beach

Afraid of being seen as not hardworking

In terms of parental leave, it is more common for mothers to take time off work when a child is sick or if for a school event. But the same cannot be said for men and single fathers.

Australian recruitment agency, Hays, conducted a survey in 2017 about parental leave. Of the 842 men and women surveyed, 54 per cent of men said they were reluctant to take leave as they were scared it would damage their families financially. Another 34 per cent feared they’d be seen as less committed at their work.

This statistic affects single fathers even more. Nick a 42 year old team leader in Australia was able to ask his boss for a day off, and noted that it was because “I do a lot of work that makes his life easier – if you don’t have that, it won’t work”.

Men usually have to identify themselves in reference to their work as opposed to wanting to be a carer for their families. Like Nick, some single fathers might feel like they need to prove their good work ethic before they take time off to spend with their child.

Mental health in single fathers is lower than single mothers

­­Single fathers are more likely to struggle in terms of mental health than other single parents are. A 2017 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that single fathers were more likely to rate their own health and mental health as “worse” than men in two parent families.

According to Reuters Health, single dads experience the same stress and strain as single mothers. This is often related to low income and unemployment. In addition to this, single parenthood for fathers is less investigated than single motherhood.

Maria Chiu of The University of Toronto notes that “in general, men are more reluctant to see health services, especially mental health, because of the stigmas attached”. She encourages health professionals and family and friends of single dads to “pay attention to the physical health and mental health of single dads in the same way we do with single moms”.

a father carries his baby looking down at him

Limited resources for single fathers

Whilst there are copious amounts of resources on single parenthood for mothers, resources for single fathers are quite scarce. Author of Mom AF, Christine Michel Carter, finds “there are many non-profit and educational programs designed to support single moms, but we still have far to go as a society in accepting that a single dad can be a primary caregiver”. This is prevalent in the lack of physical support in the form of counselling and online forums that single dads can turn to for resources.

Dr. Janning encourages researchers to start including single fathers in the conversation in order to recognise the disparities between single moms and dads. Not only will this provide better resources for single fathers, but it will also help better the understanding of what all single parents need.

By providing more resources about and for single fathers, it may alleviate some of the pressures men feel to conform to traditional gender roles. By doing so, it might even snowball into governments providing needs and utilities for single fathers who are the primary caregiver, such as providing changing tables in men’s bathrooms.

Some of the resources available for single dads in Australia are Mensline Australia, Relationships Australia and Lifeline.


Recent studies have shown eating foods that are considered healthy for your gut can be effective in solving a range of other medical issues.  

When my mum was 48, she began to eat a consistent gut-healthy diet. For as long as my mum could remember she always had problems with her skin. What started as childhood eczema, turned into rashes and sores she could no longer maintain.

Doctors could never provide a reason or cause for her skin disease, instead only offered a short-term cute in the form of steroid cream. And eventually even this began to fail and she was asked to take steroids in tablet form. That was when her immune system broke down and she developed shingles.

Finally, a doctor diagnosed her with leaky gut – a term my mum and the rest of our family had never heard before.

In an attempt to heal her gut, she cut out sugar and saturated fats out of her diet. Slowly, her skin began to heal and her immune system started to improve. We never realised the foods she was eating played such a large part on her health.

Gut health can be a huge factor in the health and wellbeing of our bodies, but this concept is still unknown and undiscussed to the wider population.

What does it mean to have a healthy gut?

A gut healthy diet means eating foods that help the good bacteria to remain in the gut. The ‘gut’ that’s being referred to here is the gastrointestinal tract which includes the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon and rectum. Of most important are the micro-organisms that live in the large intestine.

Our bodies contain millions of microbes that are beneficial to our health. Our large intestines or gut contains the most microbes and therefore plays a huge role in our digestion and immune function. But we can damage these good microbes when we maintain a low-fibre, fat-filled diet.

healthy foods for your gut

Signs you should be eating healthier for your gut

Naturopathic Doctor, Rosia Parrish, says that there are a number of symptoms that our body produces to let us know we have an unhealthy gut. These can range from:

  • Stomach discomfort, like consistent gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Fatigue or chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Food cravings (especially sugar)
  • Weight change
  • Skin irritation like acne, psoriasis and eczema
  • Food and skin allergies
  • Autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis
  • Mood issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Migraines

Following a gut healthy diet

A gut healthy diet is one that is fibre-rich and fibre-diverse filled with wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods. Fibre is beneficial as it prevents and manages many common gut related disorders. Ideal fibre-rich foods:

  • Yoghurt (sugar-free and full-fat)
  • Vegetables such as artichokes, green peas, sweet potatoes and broccoli
  • Fruits such as bananas, raspberries and oranges
  • Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans

Fermented foods are also considered ideal in order to maintain a gut-healthy diet. The process of fermenting converts the sugars in food to organic acids that are good for your body. Some fermented foods for gut health include:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha

Many of the foods listed are rich in a type of bacteria called lactobacilli, a bacteria that benefits health. Eating a gut-healthy diet will increase the lactobacilli in our intestines and reduce the Enterobacteriaceae, a bacteria associated with inflammation and chronic diseases.

Foods to avoid

Just like how fibre-rich and fermented foods contribute to good gut bacteria, other foods can create bad gut bacteria. These are foods that are packed with sugar, are highly processed and artificially sweet.

These can all lead to inflammation in your gut. Medical News Today list some of the worst ones as:

  • Foods with fructose corn syrup or sorbitol
  • Fruit juice
  • Condiments such as jam, relish and hummus
  • Foods with antibiotics in them (including meat)
  • Fried foods

 Other aspects that affect gut health

Whilst the food we eat is the primary factor that affects our gut, there are also other factors that can damage it.

One of the most common is adequate sleep. Getting enough sleep is essential for the upkeep of gut health. It is recommended that those trying to maintain a healthy gut sleep before 12am and get at least seven and a half hours to eight hours.

In conjunction with getting enough sleep is maintaining regular exercise. Maintaining regular exercise can reduce stress levels and maintain a healthy weight. Both of which can have a positive effect on gut health.

people exercising

 The benefits of gut health

According to UC Davis Health, the gut is the centre of our bodies and by nurturing its healthy bacteria, our bodies’ immune cells can ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses and fungi. A healthy gut also communicates with the brain through our nerves and hormones which helps maintain our well-being.

New research conducted by the, Journal of Trends in Food Science and Technology, has shown that a healthy gut microflora can provide protection against gastrointestinal disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases and even cancer. In some cases, it can also prevent atopic diseases such as asthma and dermatitis or eczema.

 What to remember before beginning a gut healthy diet

When trying new diets for gut-health or even diets such as keto, begin by cutting certain foods out bit by bit. Pay attention to what foods bring negative change to your body and attempt at cutting it out. When trying recommended foods for your gut, also ensure that they are not playing a negative impact on your health. If you find that your body is not adjusting to a certain food, you might be intolerant to it and you should book an appointment with your GP.

Justin and Hailey Bieber credit couples therapy as the foundation of their happy and successful marriage.

Hailey Bieber recently admitted on a podcast with fellow model Ashley Graham that she and Justin Bieber entered pre-marital counselling to air and heal their past grievances before getting married. Couples therapy helped strengthened their bond.

“Things start to just kind of pour out when you’re married,” Hailey shares, “because you’re like well, you’re here so might as well just tell you everything and tell you that that bothered me and that actually hurt my feelings.”

Couples therapy allowed them to unpack any issues that were holding them back and to arrive at a place where their relationship continued to improve.

Does relationship counselling actually work?

As shown in a study conducted by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, relationship counselling has proven to work with more than 97 per cent of the study believing they got the help they needed. Another 93 per cent say they developed better tools to deal with their problems.

Within the mainstream narrative, couple’s counselling appears to be a last ditch effort or a ‘Hail Mary’ to fix a relationship or marriage. Instead, it can be utilised as a way to strengthen relationships and create a safe space for couples to be more vulnerable with each other.

For those in healthy and stable relationships, relationship counselling can benefit by helping tackle issues such as the pressures of digital society or individual growing pains.

a man holding a woman in love

Giving in to 21st century pressures

Couples in long term, comfortable relationships may begin take each other for granted and ignore one another when they are spending time together. One of the biggest challenges for couples in today’s world is ‘phubbing’ which refers to the act of ignoring your significant other in favour of technology.

A recent survey conducted by the Hankamer School of Business found that 46 per cent of respondents have been phubbed by their partner – with 23 per cent claiming it created conflict in their relationships. According to the Professor of the study, James Roberts, this eventually translated into lower levels of relationship satisfaction with 37 per cent responding they felt depressed.

Concentrating on your device after a long day may seem harmless but according to Stanford and Yale psychologist, Emma Seppala, phubbing severely “disrupts our present-moment, in-person relationships”.

Dr Seppala recommends implementing strict no-technology rules during meal and family times to put an end to phubbing within relationships. Attention-based practices, such as mediation and mindfulness, to retrain and relearn new habits can also be useful.

Keeping smaller issues small

Big issues in relationships often stem from what was once a smaller struggle. Couples tend to only rely on counselling when they realise they are unable to solve their own problems. Psychologists and clinicians, Robert Levenson and John Gottman, find that the sooner a problem is addressed through counselling, there is more of a chance of the relationship working.

Relationship counsellor, Racine Henry, recommends therapy for couples that don’t have big issues but are feeling “stuck” in certain parts of their lives. When people go through big life changes, couples may need therapy to grow together and relearn each other’s perspectives.

Therapist, Alisha Powell, encourages couples to implement these actions on their own. “A good relationship consists of doing small things consistently and checking in with each other,” she says.

Bettering communication

One of the largest challenges couples face is communicating with each other, although many do not realise they are failing in this aspect.

Marriage and family therapist, Michel Horvat, says a counsellor helps “facilitate communication and understanding of each other’s motivation and ongoing resentments and assumptions that might have built up over the development of the relationship.”

In an analysis on relationship education and counselling, researchers on marriage counselling, Alan Hawkins and Theodora Ooms, discovered that couples with little to no problems still managed to better their communication skills in therapy with 50 to 60 per cent of couples acknowledging their communication skills had improved.

A couple holding hands on holiday

Remodelling your relationship template

According to psychologist, Doctor Crystal Lee, the way couples interact with each other can be derived from what they’ve learned during their formative childhood years. Parents are usually children’s first example of a romantic relationship. “Just as we learn how to speak and behave from our parents,” she says, “we implicitly learn relationship habits from our parents.”

This impacts the way adults navigate different aspects of their relationships such as how they deal with commitment, how they communicate and even how they deal with finances. When adults engage in their parents’ bad relationship habits, it can become problematic for their romantic partnerships.

The first step is to become aware of these bad habits. Relationship counsellor Dr Lee says that “once you’re aware that you’re engaging in bad habits, you can intentionally act differently”.

Couples therapy can be a useful tool for couples to rebuild their relationship but it can also be beneficial to keep a relationship on track. Licensed family therapist and Doctor of Psychology, Harel Papikian, says, “ultimately the goal is to change the patterns of relating”. By engaging with couples counselling, if problems and issues do arise, couples can be better equipped to deal with them.

Doctor, Beverly Flaxington, encourages couples to stop waiting to for something to change and to get up and make the necessary changes that will nurture their relationship.

She credits author, Mark Victor Hansen’s words, “Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles, and less than perfect conditions. So what? Get started now.”