BY O.J. EARLY
Tim Williams is a busy man.
After all, his nine-year-old twin sons, who live with him, play basketball and football. That, of course, doesn't factor in school work and church activities.
"Watching them grow and going through school, I've worked with them since day No. 1," said Williams, whose boys quietly listened to what their dad had to say.
"To hear people say that you've stepped up ... I've done what I feel like everybody should do, single parent or not."
To be sure, Williams isn't alone.
The Mosheim dad is part of a fast-growing group in the United States.
A record eight percent of households with minor children -- just like Williams' home -- are now headed by single fathers, according to a report released this month by the Pew Research Center.
For comparison, just over one percent of homes in 1960 were led by a single father, according to the research center.
The number of households headed by a single father has increased nearly nine-fold over the last 50 years, up from less than 300,000 in 1960 to 2.6 million in 2011.
Single-father households now make up nearly 25 percent of all single-parent homes, up from 14 percent in 1960.
According to Williams, the steady growth of single fathers in America has gone largely unnoticed.
"It's mostly all you hear about is single mothers," Williams said. "They've got their own magazines ... You don't see any single-dad magazines.
"Not that I've shopped for them," he added with a laugh.
He continued: "Even in married families or relationships, it's always portrayed as 'mommy this' or 'mommy that.' It's like daddies are rarely mentioned."
'I LOVE MY CHILDREN'
Greeneville resident Tony Alter is another single dad, the primary caregiver for his two children, ages 8 and 11.
"I don't believe in dead-beat dads," Alter said. "The dissolution of a marriage is harder on the children than [on] the two parents."
What's it like to be a single father?
"Stressful," the 48-year-old contractor said.
"I do love my children," he said. "I wouldn't want anybody else to raise them. I'm not one to shed responsibilities."
He shares custody of his children with his ex-wife.
Knoxville-based psychologist Dr. Carol Ann Coyle said a number of factors have affected the growth of U.S. households headed by single fathers.
A decline in traditional marriage and the increased willingness of courts to consider fathers as custodial parents are among reasons why there are now more single-parent homes headed by fathers, the marital therapist said in an email interview with The Greeneville Sun.
"I have not seen a particular increase in my practice of single-parent fathers, but I have noticed an increased effort [by fathers] to share more fully in custody arrangements," Coyle said.
She added: "The custodial fathers that I see in my practice are nurturant, loving, androgynous and more concerned with raising healthy children than with the rise of the stock market."
SPECIFICS OF REPORT
In the center's report, those identified as fathers include men who are 15 or older, head their household, and live with their own minor children.
Fathers living in a home headed by someone else were excluded from the report.
Just over half of the dads in the report are formally separated, divorced, widowed, never married or are "living without a cohabiting partner."
A smaller percentage, 41 percent, are living with a non-marital partner.
Only seven percent are married but living apart from their spouse.
'WOULDN'T CHANGE ANYTHING'
Williams, a father for nearly a decade, will soon leave the ranks of single fatherhood.
"We finally found a fantastic woman that loves us," said Williams, who plans to marry next year.
So, would the weekend-working father of two sports-loving boys change anything?
"I wouldn't take it back. I wouldn't change anything. Life happens, and you learn to go with it," Williams said.
"I've never doubted. I always wanted to be a dad."