Something special to do for boyfriend who is a stressed out single parent?
November 25, 2006 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Something special to do for boyfriend who is a stressed out single parent?

I'm in a new relationship with a man who is a single parent. He's really good to me and is also very generous. Since I'm in school I'm on a tight budget and can't buy him anything expensive. I'm also one who's not really into consumerist culture so I'd rather find a really thoughful gift rather than just a fancy one.

I'd really like to do something nice for him but can't figure out what. Since it's a pretty new relationship I want to be careful about what my gift conveys. I hope to do or give him something really thoughtful and kind without it seeming "motherly" or strange. For instance, I could do something to make his life easier, like cleaning his car out, but to me that smacks of something a mother would do, not a girlfriend.

Any ideas, mefites?
posted by mintchip to Human Relations (9 answers total)
 
Single father here. You don't say how old the kid is. For me, one of the big challenges has been to have quality time with my daughter. It is easy to get into a rut where you're too tired and stressed out to take some new initiative or really do some preparation for fun -- or at least, you tend to recapitulate the same set of fun things.

So, lets say, for the sake of argument, he has a 10 year old daughter. Get a big pack of construction paper, three sets of scissors, three gluesticks, a bunch of odd papers like scrap gift wrap, cellophane, a pack of envelopes, that kind of thing, and arrange to have three-way fun making christmas cards.

Fills a need (what single fathers send xmas cards?), quality time with kid, quality time with new g/f, "time off" (because didn't need to do prep, have imagination, get shit together, find scissors) without feeling like "I am out having fun and my daughter is with a babysitter."

Admittedly, that is a projection, but for what its worth, for me, that would have pushed all my buttons 5 or 10 years ago much more than a night out or conventional g/f:b/f doings.
posted by Rumple at 12:04 PM on November 25, 2006


Something to do with him and the kid: Go to the zoo or the aquarium. Use it as an opportunity to get closer with the li'l-un. Take lots of pictures.

Something to do for just him that costs little money: Backrubs are always good. Or you could cook him a nice dinner (I don't think that would be too motherly).

Or something more DIY: Go to a craft shop and get some wax to make him a candle. It's not too expensive, very personal, and if the power goes out, useful.

Without knowing more about his interests, it's kind of hard to suggest a gift, but a good old standard is a nice shaving kit. You may want to try hitting antique stores to find a quality straight razor (cheapest place you will find them) and then just get him a nice shaving cream brush.
posted by quin at 12:11 PM on November 25, 2006


Additional info from the original poster: His daughter is 3. He loves bike riding, jazz music, reading (not sure exactly what kind of books...philosophy maybe?). He's also interested in some adventure sports like sky diving and scuba diving. He seems to have a taste for quality and prefers natural items, at least when it comes to foods.
posted by mintchip at 1:38 PM on November 25, 2006


Time. When you are a solo parent of a small child, what you miss most is time to do what you choose, especially time on your own.

See if you can engineer a couple of hours of free time for him to do what he wants.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:19 PM on November 25, 2006


Either babysit the kid so he could have some quality time to himself (or with buddies)

OR

Do something where he can focus on having quality time with the kid i.e.,

1. cook dinner for them

2. clean something for him , llike the house or car. Bonus points if you schedule to do it while some really good activity is going on, like ice skating or some arts and crafts fair.

3. Ask him what really stresses him or is really hard in terms of being the single parent, then find a way to help make that easier. For instance, maybe it's getting the kid ready in the morning. If so, search the net for ideas from other single parents and then help him implement them.

Extra bonus points if you make up a giftcerficate offering to do either of the above (or both).

Worry less about what it conveys and more about helping out. When you're a single parent ANY little bit of help is great and the parent usaually thinks "Thank you, thank you, thank you that was so incrediblly nice of you, I won't go quite so batshit insane today" rather than "ewww, mother tatic". Unless they're psycho.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on November 25, 2006


I would be very cautious about explicit help with cleaning or approaching him as in "what is stressing you out." Many men, and maybe especially single dads, may read that as a statement querying their competence, and not in the generous spirit of help it is meant. The easiest and most gracious way to approach this in my opinion would be to disguise your intentions a little: set up the craft spree because it is fun for all, take the kid for an outing because *you* like it, cook dinner because you love to cook and have a fabulous recipe.

I don't think a single dad has to be "psycho" to have a genuine offer of help strike the wrong note: single dads are well aware they are being scrutinized as to their parental competency as much or more as a single mother would be, and, being male, they may be less likely to admit they need help. Again, I may be projecting here, but my advice is: tread softly on this issue, you may be treading very close to his sense of self and self-worth.

Having said all that: the safest, and in many cases the best course, is what has been suggested above: amuse the kid and you amuse (& de-stress) the father. As your relationship progresses, you can maybe clean the car.

and oodles of sex of course if you're at that stage
posted by Rumple at 3:08 PM on November 25, 2006


I would be leery of something too focused on the kid. If you go somewhere (like the zoo) it will still be work for your bf to entertain/take care of his daughter. And if you babysit her and you don't get along that great alone, that would be awkward.

I vote for you making dinner. It doesn't have to be expensive, and it can show a lot of care. Ask him what his and his daughter's favorite meal is, and make it for them. It shows that you are willing to spend time doing something nice for him and his daughter, and that even though you have a modest home as a student, you welcome them into your life, too. I think it would be fun. If you have a TV/DVD/VCR, you could rent "Finding Nemo" or some other fun all-ages movie that you can share together. Or, have the supplies for making cards around the house. That sounds like a fun activity too, as long as it's not just more work for your bf. If you don't have enough room/much of a kitchen, bring the ingredients to their house, and make it there.

Good luck!
posted by tk at 3:09 PM on November 25, 2006


Former single parent of a now 4 year old here:

I agree with arrange a fun activity to do with both of them thing that most folks are saying. Also, this guy sounds outdoorsy. You could pack a delicious picnic with lots of finger foods (even pickier eaters can usually get into fruit, cut up carrots, etc) and maybe some yummy grown up treats and take them to a pretty outdoor hiking spot (or the beach if you live somewhere exceptionally warm).

You could cook him a meal or maybe a big lasagna or soup that he can freeze and eat when he's rushed and then give it too him with a homemade card.

When you have him alone you could also try making him a nice dinner, with jazz playing in the background of course.

I think it's super sweet that you want to do something like this for him. I bet he'll be very grateful.
posted by serazin at 5:30 PM on November 25, 2006


Maybe this would strike the wrong note, but you know what every single parent wants: an afternoon or night out of the house without the child. What if you arranged to babysit the child one night and let him go watch football and drink beer with the boys? Or play with radio controlled cars. Or whatever it is he likes to do.
posted by Clay201 at 7:37 AM on November 26, 2006


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