We’ve all got one. Dads. Some are present, some are not. There are some who are great, some are not. Others may no longer be with us. Some dads we see every day, some we don’t. There is the modern day dad and the traditionalist. But, no matter what, dads all leave some form of impression on our lives. That may be good or bad but an impact our dads all have nonetheless.
There are two dads in my life. One is my own actual dad and one is the dad to my three-year-old son, TJ. Both have played a huge role in my life in one way or another. They are both good people with their own strengths, weaknesses and strong personalities.
My dad turns 70 today. This monumental occasion will be celebrated in style with family, food, and rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ from his grinning grandson. It will be a true celebration of 70 years of awesome – 36 of which I have been around to witness and reap the benefits from.
My dad is one of my best friends. He’s the first person I call when I need to get things off my chest. In his own words, he runs a 24-hour helpline to listen to my ridiculous woes whenever it is required. In the last two years since leaving my husband, that has happened a lot. Through my own tantrums and tears, he knows just what to say to make me laugh, cry, stop crying and/or move on with the rest of the day. We enjoy a pink wine or a pint of cider together pretty regularly as he brings perspective to my complicated life.
He is also a great grandpa to TJ who adores him just as much as I do. Every week, on his day off from work (yes, at 70-years-old), he drives down the A3 to collect TJ from his dad’s house. Along with my mum, they entertain my offspring for the day and then return him to me when I finish work.
Every time my sister or I go on holiday, he takes us to the airport. He shall be doing the same next month when TJ and I take our first trip abroad just the two of us – that’s a story to come I’m sure.
Every day, I count myself lucky for my amazing dad. I don’t know how or where I would be without him.
The other parent
TJ’s dad is a good human too. He’s what you could call the modern day dad. Even though we couldn’t make our relationship work, he looks after TJ with capable hands. He had his own struggles growing up with parental figures coming and going. Yet, despite everything, I always knew he would be a good dad – and a good dad he is.
I hope as TJ gets older, their close relationship will continue to flourish so they watch rugby together, drink a pint down the pub and proudly support each other whenever it is called for.
Since TJ’s dad and I went our separate ways two years ago, our lives have taken very different paths. But, one thing has remained the same. We are both single parents. On the surface of things, TJ’s dad seems to have taken this role of the modern day dad in his stride. He appears to cope with it well whilst juggling a career, a steady girlfriend and running a home. Underneath it all, I don’t know how he really feels and it is no longer my place to ask. The image of the modern day dad who takes it all in his stride could be completely inaccurate – who knows.
It’s not the same for me. I fight a struggle which I don’t internalise. I recently wrote about this for The Mother Edit, focussing on being a single mum and the stigma which can come along with that. It got me thinking about single dads. Do they struggle with the same stuff? Do they worry that they are being judged by the people who pass them by too? Also, what about non-single dads? What are their lives like? How is the role of the modern dad defined?
Dating Dad is a fellow blogger who documents his life as both a single human and a parent. He shared a great guest blog on the stigma single dads can feel, which can be found here.
A friend of mine is a single dad to a six-year-old boy. He told me: “Not all single dads have it easy. Although I wouldn’t change being a dad for the world, we do definitely also have to carry around our own stigma too. It is something which I face every day. People must think ‘there’s another part time dad having his allocated weekly time’. Life can be cruel. For men, this can knock their pride and impact on bravado. But, I choose to turn that around and take strength from it instead. I know I am doing a good job raising my son. I’m lucky and that’s something I won’t ever take for granted.”
Parenting blogger Hugo Torres told me about how he became the primary caretaker of his family after a career setback forced a re-evaluation of household roles. His wife returned to work and he stayed at home. He said:
“We decided that I would stay at home until deciding what my next chapter would be – that was four years ago and things have been terrific. I have been able to embrace the challenges of making a house a home. I don’t find it weird that I am male and doing this. As a parent, I face a lot of the same setbacks and successes with the kids as other families face.
“Actually, this may have been the best thing for me because it has helped me to deal with some of the trauma from my own childhood and decide how to raise our children. It’s fun to be a coach, a PTA parent, a volunteer, a counsellor, a home cook and more in whatever it takes to be a dad.”
Lessons to learn
So, we’re given parenting blueprints from our own childhoods and how our dads – and mums – raised us. I learn new lessons every day from my dad – and my mum – in how they handle me, TJ, their own lives and everything else which comes along. I can only be grateful for that.
In 2019, I am not discounting the families who do not fall into that somewhat outdated nuclear family stereotype. There are plenty of family structures which exist in this day and age, and all of which should be commended and celebrated. Single mums – by choice or otherwise – sperm donors, single sex parenting teams – whatever the combination is. We’re all in this together.
No matter what the arrangement or the situation, my message is always simple. We’re privileged to be parents. I am exceptionally lucky to have strong parents to act as role models for both myself, my sister and also for TJ as he gets older. You’re never going to please everyone, no matter what decisions you make in life. So, shake off the stigma and hold your head high – that’s what I plan to do.