Nov 17, 2011

A Single Dad's Essay

If you're flying solo with kiddos as a single parent, you can go ahead and close your browser now.  You are already intimate with the packed cart I'm about to unload.    

For the you know what it's like to be a single mom or dad?  Grab some Redenbacher, 'cause I'm gonna tell you.  Each person's story is a little different, I'll share mine.

The chore pile perpetually respawns.
  • Mow and rake, pulverize and bag leaves. 
  • Jump the roof every fall and spring to degoop gutters and sweep ash from the fire chimney.
  • Read do-it-yourself books to learn the skills, then lay tile, engineered flooring, toilets and sinks for two bathroom rebuilds.  
  • Razor slice and remove a thousand pounds of sloppin' carpet after the basement soaked in a sewer/rain bath.  
  • Lay 800 feet of floor.  Planking down 16-foot sections of wood without help is a bear, especially while trying to keep my daughter entertained and outta the dust zone.*
  • Plant and pull a garden each season.  Fresh tomatoes, onions and spicy peppers are worth the labor.
  • Change the oil in car, mower and snowblower.
  • Paint every room in the house, twice. 
  • Strip and stain the deck, replace garage siding that ants attacked.
  • Chainsaw a tree gone bad.
  • Orchestrate a kitchen rebuild.
*On some of the larger projects, I found it worked best to start in the evening after 8:00, daughter in bed.  Not uncommon to bang on a renovation till 1:00 am, then up and red-eyed at 6:00 for work.

The moments when one is the loneliest. 
  • Walking into parent parties and being the spouseless bandit.
  • Leading a craft at Brownie Scouts, all girls and moms in the house.
  • Church packed with married families, not another single parent in the crowd of 600.
  • Quiet ceiling stare in bed at night.  

Times when I play mom and dad, a man-mother.
  • Fielding questions my daughter pops out of the blue about bras, stinky boys and curiosity about "The Pad" aisle at Target.
  • Shopping for dresses and hair bows.  Smile and a nod in the store when my daughter asks if daddy thinks a skirt is cute.
  • Painting her nails, then fending off attacks when she comes at with a polish brush, wishing to turn my toes bright. 

The daily grind, mundane to-dos balled up into a messy knot of hustle.
  • Packing 100 school lunches.  Planning, shopping and cooking dinner every night.
  • Sweep, mop and toilet spraydown.  Who keeps missing the throne and leaving the seat up?
  • A dozen school fundraisers and waivers to sign. 
  • 45 minutes of homework each night, conferences and endless books. 
  • Keeping up on snowpants, school uniforms and missing socks.  Taming shrinking pants before they reach level 10 highwaters.
  • Haircuts, doctor appointments, booster shots, PTO at work when her mercury meets one hundred.
  • Pay bills and taxes, organize investments and college savings.
  • Shop and wrap gifts (they end up a mess and look like a blind person wrapped 'em), write cards for weddings, birthdays and babies being born. 

Molding Pigtails so she doesn't turn out to be a bratty punk with pretty eyes.
  • Church and Bible flybys, teaching her the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.  Delilah, Jesus and Bartholomew the disciple, too.
  • Praying together, for us and others.
  • Helping a friend and her little girls as her husband faded from cancer.
  • Volunteering together, cooking spaghetti for those that are kicked down.
  • Correction with a firm hand when needed.  Yeah, I spanked when she was little, DHS be damned.
  • Spending time with kid when she's acting out for attention.

We carve up fun time with a sharp knife.
  • Ski the powder, 30 summer trips to the pool for kid lessons and water slides.  
  • 1,000 rounds of Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry and Trouble. Card games up the wazoo:  Speed, Trash, War, Old Maid, Skip-Bo, Uno and a couple I think she made up.
  • Bike rides, training for her first 5K, soccer and baseball in the backyard. 
  • Race and pace marathons for dad. 
  • Bench 200 pounds, pull-ups and curls until they hurt.  No yoga.
  • Scribble articles for a running magazine, blog about beards and cat-butt couches. 
  • Tea time, dress-up, playing school, airplane rides on my size 11s and dancing like fools to Raffi.
  • Pretend castles forged from cardboard, blankets, stuffed animals and imagination.
  • Babysitting our neighbor's guinea pig, Gizmo, for a week.  Simply because I know there's nothing that will make Pigtails smile more right now.  

True, there's a lot going on there.  Multitasking, planning and occasional naps are needed to survive.  But I'm also thankful and have it pretty good.  I work a solid career that I enjoy.  I'm only corralling one rugrat.  We're both healthy and have fun together.  Many single parents out there are raising several children, some of them with special needs.  You have my respect, you're tough.  

Single parents, may the Lord give you strength, Band-Aides and endless liquor patience.



  1. This is wonderful Beard. Thank you for sharing your story. You're the Dad walking into Brownie Scouts and I'm the Mom walking into Cub Scouts. The sleepless nights because we're up til 1 am doing what seems like an endless to-do list and the relentless task of cooking dinner every night no mater how tired we are ... it's a never-ending marathon of parenting. However, the smile on their faces when we do nothing more than spend time with them, giving them our full attention, even if only for 30 minutes makes every sleepless night worth it. You're doing great! Pigtails is a luck little girl. :)

  2. Pigtails is one lucky little lady.

  3. @Michelle - Well said, and I think Dylan and Pigtails would agree that full attention for a few minutes is really all a kid wants. Thanks for the note!

    @Nessa - Back at you, The Monster is a lucky little monster.

  4. I will admit I chuckled at the “leading a craft at Brownie Scouts, all girls and moms in the house” comment. Not because it is a time when one is the loneliest but because I have been that only mom sporting a pink lawn chair to a Cub Scout fishing day and I got elected to rip the worms in half. Honestly, I felt sorry for the poor worm. After repeated jokes at my expense I asked the boys how they would feel having their body torn in half, having a hook shoved up their bum right before being drowned. The boys looked at me as if my hair was on fire! I thought for sure they would never elect me again, but the following year I was give the honor of worm mom. Thanks boys!

    This past week while watching Patrick’s taekwondo class I observed dads yelling and critiquing their boys. My heart went out to these boys as I watched their little faces fall with each side-line comment. As they were running around the room during warm ups one dad was spewing venomous words…calling his son Nancy and yelling at almost every move he made. Patrick would poke his finger at my knee and wink as he ran by. He was having a blast and learning what he needed to. What am I missing??? I thought sports were supposed to build kids up not tear them down. I started posting comments on Facebook about these two dads. A male friend sent me an IM saying that these kids were great athletes because of the coaching from their dads and was told that maybe because I am female I don’t get it. What I wanted to say was NEWS FLASH…I am a girl with girlie ways because that is how God made me and I am okay with that. I am raising my son to be someone with a heart but can roundhouse kick a bully if needed. I saw Patrick console his friend at a school program on Wednesday because a classmate’s dad didn’t show up. I was so proud of Patrick for seeing the hurt on his friend’s face and going up to talk to him. I will take a kind heart over an athlete any day! And if anyone calls Patrick Nancy they will have to answer to me!

    I am sure the pad isle questions go about as well as the “boy part” questions. Not too long after being potty trained Patrick came home from a weekend with his dad and announced that boys can pee standing up. He was amazed at the revelation and he wanted to learn how. I asked him how he discovered this and he said he saw his dad do it and couldn’t wait to get home so I could show him how. Really??!! I don’t have the right equipment for standing and peeing but I gave it my best shot. After sharing all the details of this story at a family gathering a male cousin pulled me aside and offered to take Patrick to the restroom the next time he needed to go. Apparently, not having boy parts leads to bad stand up peeing lessons. Who knew there was urinal etiquette!

    Yes, being a single parent has challenges but I wouldn’t change the close relationship I have with Patrick for anything... and how else would I have learned about urinal etiquette. : )

    Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for your comments that remind me how blessed I am to have a wonderful, healthy child. You and Pigtails are blessed to have each other!

  5. @Heidi - I don't know if you blog, but please consider firing one up if you don't already. A nice outlet, and the stories you share above are ones readers can relate to.

    Sounds like you've got your priorities right with your son. Stay on the narrow path with training up your boy, regardless of what people say/do/think.

    Thanks for your note!

  6. Beard...didn't know you had a blog, but thanks for sending the link. This post sure rings true for me right now. While you are at the brownie meetings, I am holding down cub/boy scouts. I can now relate to all you go through and admire your ability to "handle it all". Pigtails is an amazing little girl and it is largely due to everything you listed above. You are doing an awesome job. Hang in there!


  7. Anonymous3/23/2012

    Just found your blog. I come from a different perspective - Pigtails'. Growing up in a small town with just my mom (dad left when I was 8), I remember watching her challenges. I love the way you described the life as a single parent. I remember hearing her tears at night, frustrations, working through her drinking...coming out of it on the other side as a strong, dynamic, role model. It was hard growing up in a small town when your parents are divorced. Many friends' parents wouldn't let their children come over to my house because my mom was single. I often heard the whispers (and sometimes directly to me) "it's amazing you aren't on drugs or pregnant". I endured the heartache of waiting for my dad to show up for school concerts and plays but never appearing and the teasing from other kids. I helplessly watched my mom cry. I was by her side when we were often one step away from being on the street because she couldn't make rent. Sometimes I had to be the grownup. I didn't own brand name clothes or have the best of toys. I hardly ever wore anything new. I know the loneliness of feeling that no one can understand how I longed to have both parents or why my dad left. I wanted that mom who would be there after school for me with cookies. I didn't want to come home to an empty house in elementary and lock the door behind me and not go out and play because no one was there to watch me. I wanted to have two parents who hugged in front of me and I could squeeze in between them. I wanted to just be a typical kid who had both parents together.

    I am telling you all of this not make you feel bad but to show one child's perspective and also let you know how AMAZING you all are.

    My mom has shown me courage, strength, perseverance, faith, always to have a plan B. My mom worked hard to instill in me right from wrong, never give up, stay true to your faith and most importantly, just because you come from divorce does NOT make you destined for failure nor does it give you an excuse for shortcomings. Was she perfect? Nope Did she make mistakes that left emotional scars? Some HOWEVER, she loved me unconditionally, never gave up, was my sword and shield when I needed it. She came to all my concerts and plays, stayed up with me through the hard school projects and tummy aches, constantly pushed me to be better than I thought was, she was my brownie troop leader, my broken heart mender, the one with the words that helped heal and yes, when I was a teenager, my ultimate nemesis. And every day she would get up at 5:00 am and get ready to go to work and to do it all again. From her I have learned independence, strength, compassion, faith, responsibility and love.

    For all you single parents out there, from a child of divorce and on behalf of your children. Thank you for your constant love, sacrifice, struggles and perseverance. There are times when I am sure you think you are failing your children, but I will let you in on a secret, us married parents feel it too. Your path is a hard one for not only you but your whole family. While your kids may not show it, they will grow up and appreciate and value all you have done for them. You are doing the best you can with heartfelt love and that is more than a lot married parents I know.

    I am who I am because of God and my Mom. I am not ashamed of my family being divorced. I am strong because of it. While it was not ideal, it was my life and I am grateful it was filled with amazing love from my Mom. I have been with my husband now 20 years. We have one special needs/gifted son who struggles with ADHD, SPD, Gifted and Anxiety. We have our own challenges and we embrace them wholly. God will always be there even when you don't see the path he has given you. Sometimes his direction comes in a whisper not a shout.

    Thank you single Moms and Dads for your unending love.

    A child of divorce.

    1. Amazing, you give me hope! More than anything, regardless of how things turn out for me, I just want my daughter to feel a dad's love, learn self-sacrifice and keep God first in her life. And I hope she makes a better choice in selecting a spouse than I did. She'll turn out well, I can feel it.

      Thanks for the encouragement, I need to hear those words every once in awhile.

  8. Anonymous3/23/2012

    Hi there! I found your site while blog surfing. Maybe on BetterAfter? I don't remember. Anywho, your blog is an interesting read, you have a fun sense of humor. Bravo to you for being such a hands on dad and putting so much effort into raising your daughter well. I'm a temporarily single parent while my husband is in tech school for the military. Granted I have two kids, not just one, but I don't have a 'real' job either. I can't imagine doing this long term. It's TOUGH being a single parent!

    1. Appreciate it, and tell your husband thanks for serving our country.

  9. Awesome post! You should be so proud of what you have accomplished for you and Pigtails! I am sending a friend your direction. I am sure your posts will help!


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!