Viewpoint: why do single dads face casual sexism when they travel?

* This article first appeared in Telegraph Travel in time for Father’s Day. More on this theme from my book [pictured above], Inside Fatherhood.

We went to stay with Spanish friends during the last school holiday.

It worked well for a family trip with two other kids for my two girls to play with, the freedom of an unstructured routine and an insider sense of the local culture.

But, most of all, as a man who has travelled alone with his kids since they were young, there was another man there who both understood the challenges of modern fatherhood and shared my passion for showing his children the world.

I often struggle to find this kind of camaraderie on a family holiday.

The sense of isolation I have felt at times as a divorced father, who shares custody jointly with the girls’ mother, has made for some uncomfortable travel experiences.

Suspicious minds

It’s not the just practical aspects, such as who keeps an eye on the children while I go to the bathroom.

More frustratingly, a man alone with two little girls can be viewed with curiosity, sometimes suspicion.

Immigration officials at a major European airport once stopped us, asking to see birth certificates to prove the girls were actually my children.

More commonly, I’m subjected to other holidaymakers quizzing me about why I’m alone.

“Can I ask,” one relative stranger once enquired as I was nonchalantly loading my plate at the evening buffet, “is your wife dead?”

Last resort

But I really spat the dummy when a restaurant manager rather publicly warned me not to take my youngest daughter, and then aged just five, into the gents.

“If she needs to go, then I’ll just have to take her to the ladies,” she bristled.

I politely suggested through gritted teeth that she should go and get a copy of her DBS certificate first.

So, as thoughts turn to celebrating our devoted dads for Father’s Day this weekend, isn’t time we gave single dads a break?

Read the full article here.

2 comments

  1. Richard Hatt says:

    Hi David, trust you are well. You met me at Crawley station and I am in the book.
    When my 2 were young I took them for swimming lessons. The youngest, then aged 4 and had a slight mental and coordination difficulty so I had to take her into the men’s changing area as she was unable to dress and undress herself, and though I always took her into a cubicle to change there was always comments and complaints. The last time I took her a group of men were so abusive with rather foul language, I ceased taking both her and also her sister. That is now some 40 years ago, she still can not swim properly.
    Another story from way back then.
    My eldest daughter was at infants school and I used to go and meet her outside school in the afternoon. I would have conversations with many of the Mums. Although only a short time divorced I was frequently invited to go “for coffee” by a mum. I very quickly learned this was a no go area if I wanted to keep my reputation.
    A single Dad needs to be ultra careful, he may find the joy of sex easy but reputation can be in tatters on the floor and at a cost. From my experience I do wonder when I read about the accusations how much the men have been drawn in.
    Happy writing.

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