How does he do it?: Stan Ashbee

Tackling parenthood post-divorce can be challenging, but southern Alberta single dad Stan Ashbee doesn’t look at it that way.

Stan Ashbee gets his kids ready for bed. Photo: Jeff Noon

No matter how hectic Ashbee’s life gets, he’s found that being the primary caregiver for his two kids is the most important thing in the world. Ashbee chatted with us about how he juggles life, school and being the best dad he can to his two kids, Jaidyn, 8, and Dade, 6.

On parenting
What is your secret to a happy relationship with your children?
Being there for them — being there to meet their needs, being able to play with them, respecting them, and understanding how they feel. Try to be a parent, but also a friend. Don’t worry about the petty things in your life, focus on the good stuff.

What is the most unexpected thing you discovered only after you became a parent?
It’s amazing what parents can accomplish. You finally realize, ‘Wow, I’m capable of doing more things than I thought I could.’ I can look after two young children, be a full-time student, work on freelance writing, cook, clean and find time to unwind and relax.

What challenges do you face as a single parent?
It can be lonely. In the middle of the night, when one of my kids has a bad dream or can’t sleep or is sick, I’m the one who has to make it better, even though I may be tired and worn out. That is one of the biggest challenges.

How do you put your kids to bed?
My son is still at that age where I lay down with him and we chat. We talk about dinosaurs or space, and weather is a big thing. My daughter is a little older, but she still likes to be tucked in. She listens to music before bed, does crafts or writes.

What are your family’s favourite bedtime stories?
We all like Robert Munsch, and they’re both into Scooby Doo. If it’s a holiday, we try to go to the library to get Christmas or Halloween books.

What’s the best parenting advice you have ever received?
It’s back and forth all the time, sharing custody, and I really miss my kids when they’re with their mom. So when I’m with them, I’m really with them.

What is your favourite thing to do as a family?
We try to go to the park every day in the summer. They like this game called “sea monster,” where I chase them and they get their friends involved. I like taking the kids to the movies as well.

Do you feel that music plays an important part in how you parent?
I play guitar and sing, and my kids have kind of taken it on. My daughter especially is very dramatic and likes to dance and sing. Both of them got guitars one Christmas, which they play a lot. Music brings fun and goofiness — you can dance around and just have a good time. And while music is playing, we can talk, too. It’s a nice bonding experience, rather than sitting in front of a TV.

On career
What is your job status?
I’m a reporter and photographer in southern Alberta. And I’m freelance writing and going to school. I also DJ in the summer.

How do you juggle studying and parenting?
Time management. I couldn’t have done it at an actual campus — I take correspondence courses. During summer when the kids are off, it’s a bit more difficult to study while trying to have fun with them. But it’s a good opportunity for them to see that I still want to pursue more; that if you’re not happy with something you can make a change.

What do you do for child care?
My parents and the kids’ uncle are a big help. Their other set of grandparents have been great, too. I’ve been really lucky.

On downtime
What are your favourite me-time activities?
Movies. I’m a big fan of the comic book adaptations.

What are the three most important items you carry with you at all times?
Sunscreen, bug spray and gum or mints.

What is the best part of being a dad?
Having these two young kids who look up to me. When they hug and kiss and want to cuddle and they tell me that they love me, it’s awesome. To hear that and to be part of it is super rewarding, more so than anything in the world.

A version of this article appeared in our March 2013 issue with the headline “Stan Ashbee,” p. 72.