At first glance you will see a handsome, fit, and by all accounts attractive man. He is well-kept, dressed to a tee; one may even assume he is married. He has a little girl walking at his side, holding his hand, with the biggest grin plastered on her little face, a face that is identical to his, especially the eyes. He lets her hand go; they say their goodbyes and with twinkling fingernails she waves goodbye. He turns to head towards the car; she turns to head into the school. He stops, stands just a minute longer to be certain she gets in safely, and then goes on to his second job. He has already begun the first, most important job of the day–he’s a single parent.
His daughter bears the gorgeous hair and toasted-almond skin her mother once adorned, with her daddy’s facial features, a true beauty. Aside from the constant reminder of a child, one of the most difficult things for a single parent is when the child is a mirror image of the parent who is no longer around. Yet, the pride he feels outweighs the hardships he’s endured. Doug has taken on the responsibility of two parents, being a mom and dad simultaneously. His story is as sad as it is triumphant.
What is it like being a single dad?
I’m a personable person, at least I used to be. Most times I don’t get approached, nor do I go out of my way to approach people anymore. I feel awkward sometimes. I try to socialize but find myself not wanting to as often as I used to. There aren’t many places to go and be a (man’s) man with a little girl and be at ease, nor many places to go and hang around with a bunch of little kids and their mom (said with a smile).
Do you feel there is a double standard? If so, how?
Yes, I do. In my experiences, I don’t feel the support from society. It’s difficult being a single parent, but it’s hard when you’re a single dad and most of the support systems favor, to some degree, single moms. I think we (single parents) should be treated equally. It’s hard being a single parent, (laughs) even harder being the only single father around. Unless somebody knows my circumstances, they will assume the worst of me. Then, you have the husbands who don’t really care to have you around their wives, and women give you a predator complex like all you want to do is hit on them, when all your looking for is conversation.
What is a typical day like for you?
Busy! I do it all. You name it, I do it! I used to work in an office, then they downsized and out I went. After months on unemployment, I was finally able to get a job, and now I work full time; not the job I wanted, but one that pays the bills.That means, up early, wake my daughter, get her dressed, comb her hair, get us out the door and where we need to be. I pick her up afterward, I make us dinner, take her out to play or to the pool, get her bathed and get her ready for bed– but only after we polish her nails and toes, and talk about our days! (laughs)
What is the most frequent emotion you experience as a single dad?
Frustration. I feel the burdens of poor decision-making from my early years. As a parent I want to be able to provide her with the best of everything, but at this stage in my life it’s not easy. I’m trying to get back to college and hopefully be able to provide her a better lifestyle than what we have now.
Was the transition from co-parenting to single parenthood a choice you made? If so, what motivated you?
No, it wasn’t my choice. My choice was to be married and have a family. My wife had other plans. She abandoned us after a couple of years, left behind a note and later called to say she wasn’t coming back. She was in love, just not with me or our daughter. My daughter is and always will be my motivation to continue to be the best parent I can to her.
What ways, if any, do you try to incorporate women role models?
I’m not against the idea! (laughs again) The opportunity really just hasn’t presented itself. I really haven’t dated because I am busy all the time and then even if I were to date, I wouldn’t introduce the woman to my daughter right away anyway. She (my daughter) only has my side of the family, and the women are detached, too busy in their own lives. If a woman were to be in her life, I’d like to be certain she would be a constant, rather than an occasional visitor–for both our sakes.
How do your friends/family react to your situation?
Due to the mounting legal bills from my divorce and left over from my marriage, and the months on unemployment, my daughter and I are temporarily staying with my family for the time being; but, make no mistake, it’s far from the idea most people have. I don’t have the luxury of having a live-in nanny or somebody that assumes my responsibilities; they are all mine, every scrape, tangle, chipped nail polish and every late night. All mine.
What are some words of encouragement you’d like to share with other single dads?
Always keep your head up, shoulders back and take one day at a time! Things will get better! Even though there are many times things seem extremely difficult, for every tear there are many more smiles, for every failure, many more victories. Just take every day as it comes. Do the best you can and at the end of the day when you put your little boy or girl to bed, you can revel in the fact that you don’t have to share the success of single parenthood! You did it alone!
When asked if he’d like to add anything to the interview, Doug simply stated, “ I am so proud to be Ashlee’s father; she is my everything. My world.”
I cannot describe in words the pride I heard in this man’s voice.
Single parenthood is something I would never want to have to do. I know I am a strong woman, but the strength it takes to be a single parent is something I think is only granted to the strongest of the strong, and the best of the best (even when they feel the contrary). My thanks to Doug for sharing his experience and the best of luck to all the single parents out there. You are all true heroes. Keep up the great work!