I never noticed that I was raised by a single parent until I hit adulthood. It is only now that I’m aware of this difference between myself and others, as people will on occasion ask “I noticed you talk about your Dad a lot but you never mention your mom, why is that?” Which is sort of one of those questions I’m not sure why people feel falls into the category of small talk. Like asking people if they are pregnant or when they will have kids. Not your story to dig for. But the answer is pretty simple, I talk about my Dad so much because I was raised by a single parent.
A Daughter’s Point of View
My parents divorced the summer before I started 7th Grade, so my perspective on it was what you’d expect from a teen. Parents divorcing is typically painful for kids, and add in having to change schools, and messy feelings about a mom who wasn’t healthy enough to be a positive part of my life, there was a lot of angst.
As a kid going through parents divorcing, I had tunnel vision. I could only see my own struggles. I was focused on my own sadness over leaving my friends and fears at starting a new school. I was angry at my mom for the role she played. But when I looked at my Dad, I didn’t see a single parent, I just saw someone who loved my fiercely. Wholeheartedly and without conditions.
What I didn’t see, was the struggles that came with the divorce. Financial, emotional, logistically, my Dad did it all in stride. Or at least he protected me so well that I never had to worry about those adult issues. Working full time, conquering the crock pot, managing slumber parties, encouraging me to try everything I showed any interest in, never missing an important event, he did it all.
Sometimes I wish my mom was present, usually before big life events. I remember at my wedding wishing that my mom would be there. I remember feeling anxious during my first pregnancy wishing she was there to hold my hand. But when I look backwards to the memories, I don’t remember her absence. I remember my Dad always being there when I needed him. I remember him picking me up from work at my first job. I remember him letting me occasionally miss school to eat ice cream and pick out new tropical fish for our tanks. I remember him beaming as he held my daughter for the first time.
Recently, I asked him what he remembers, how he’d describe his experience as a single parent. This is what he said.
Single Parent: Dad’s Perspective
My wife and I had two children, a boy and a girl, born two years apart. Shortly after the birth of our son, my wife was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This put some strain on our relationship and after the birth of our daughter my wife’s condition deteriorated further. I found myself trying to care for her and meet the needs of two young children. To some degree, I might have even then been regarded as a single parent although I never thought of myself as anything other than “Dad”. Later, circumstances led to my wife leaving us and I was alone with my children.
I do not like the term “single parent”. To me it gives the connotation of being a victim and proclaims a certain “woe is me”. I will not think of myself in such terms! I was and am just “Dad”. Whether it was rushing to get to a karate class with my son or picking my daughter up from Sparks, I was just looking after my kids. We had fun together. My son loves basketball so shooting hoops made for good memories. I taught my daughter to play chess and found that soon she was far better than me. Now meals were sometimes a challenge but thanks to a slow cooker and several kinds of packaged instant rice (which we called fancy rice), we all managed. And Christmas eve became a special memory for all of us as we watched a movie and had shrimp, a box of chocolates and coke – not good nutrition maybe but good fun! Buying a grade 8 graduation dress was an adventure as was teaching them both to drive.
Would I have rather raised my kids as part of a “Mom and Dad” team? Yes! Sometimes however, life does not work out to the ideal picture in one’s mind, so you make the best of things. I still have two great kids, I still have more good memories than bad, and I am still just “Dad” although now I am “Grampa” too.
I do understand that for many people finding themselves solely responsible for their children can be most trying. Often finances are problematic and support for the single parent can be hard to find. It can be difficult, and you have to recognize that what might have been your hopes and dreams has to take a backseat to loving and nurturing the dreams and aspirations of your children. I am not suggesting that you need be a martyr; I am merely suggesting that you signed on to be a parent which is the toughest job of all but also the most rewarding when you look back over your life.
Advice for those Entering Single Parent Life
There is really only one thing you need to know about how to get through single parent life. Whether you are dealing with joint custody, the death of a co-parent, or an absentee parent, you as a single parent have one job. Love your kid, and love them fiercely.
The days I imagine were some of the most challenging for my Dad, are some of my fondest. I’m sure no single Dad looks forward to dealing with his daughter’s first period on his own, but I will never forget my loving Dad picking me up from a sleepover with EVERY MENTSRUAL PRODUCT POSSIBLE. I felt a wonderful mix of embarrassment and love, and gratitude as we said very little but he let me turn up the music and sing like always, like it was no big deal his backseat had half a pharmacy aisle in it.
I didn’t need perfect, I needed an adult who obviously cared about me and wanted to do whatever they could to support me.
And isn’t that all any of us really needs?
About the Author
Caitlin lives in Alberta with her husband, 2 little girls, and too many animals cause she is a sucker for a rescue. When she's not chasing kids and changing fluff bums she spends her time crocheting, gardening, and binging true crime docs.