I get tired of criticisms of “stay at home moms” and those who don’t think a woman is working if she remains home to take care of her kids. I know this from personal experience because I was a single father to my three children. I also worked as a teacher, but I know how difficult it is to take care of children by your lonesome.
My ex-wife and I separated when I lived in Philadelphia when she wanted to take a job in Baltimore. For a year, I was a single dad to my children 6, 3 and 1 years of age. I came to fully understood just how difficult it is to be a single mom. I would teach during the day with my kids staying at a friend’s house. But, as soon as the final bell ended I was on my way home. I helped my oldest daughter with her homework, took all three kids outside for a variety of activities, and cooked dinner. I spent time with each of my children when it was their bedtime.
And how did they pay me back? When they got sick it was invariably on a Friday afternoon and they had recuperated by Sunday night. So, my so-called weekend was spent going from bedroom to bedroom to meet the needs of my kids. My youngest daughter suffered from earaches. Now, as any mom knows, a child cries differently when she is upset or hungry and when she is sick. My daughter had this earth-shattering cry when she had an earache. Early-evening when I would hear her cry in this manner it was straight to the doctor (with all three kids). These were the days when doctors actually accommodated patients with late office hours. The doctor agreed she had an earache. Cheryl would be given an antibiotic and within an hour she was no longer in pain (no longer crying). Once my regular doctor was on vacation. Yep, Cheryl got an earache. I took her to the doctor he had referred us to. He didn’t accept my explanation that she had an earache. He prescribed paregoric. Now, I don’t know how many of you have had paregoric, but it was kind of a do-everything medication when I was young. It tasted dreadful! I took the prescription but also convinced the doctor to give me one for an antibiotic if the paregoric didn’t work. Foolish me, I tried the paregoric. The look my sickly daughter gave me told me I would one day pay for my indiscretion. An hour later she was still crying. I gave her the antibiotic and within twenty minutes she was back to her old self (but from her eyes still vowing vengeance).
Years passed. My wife and I got divorced. Because she remarried a judge gave her custody of my kids during the school year. I had them during the summer. She remarried someone in the military and for the rest of their childhood, they moved from one army base to another. I kept my home in Philly so they could have a stable environment in the summer. I needed to work during the summer, but didn’t. I was a 24/7 “stay at home dad.” We took trips to the shore to Atlantic City, to an amusement park and water park in the Poconos, to movies in the afternoon where a new film with long lines at night had no lines at a 4 PM showing. We joined a local pool. The kids were then 9, 6 and 3 the first summer I had them. I would go in the pool with Cheryl while my two older kids went off by themselves or with friends they had made.
One night Cheryl woke up three times. She didn’t tell me what was bothering her. The third time while I was holding her she upchucked on me . . . and my bed (yes! her revenge). I could swear that when she was done she gave me a smile. I put her in the tub then put her to bed (she fell asleep immediately) changed my sheets and showered. To this day, Cheryl remembers vomiting on me.
Cheryl also woke up one wintry night with a high fever. Back to the doctor. He gave her extra-strength Tylenol and then told me to take her home put ice cold water in the tub and bath her for ten minutes. It was almost more than I could do, putting her in the frigid water (and yes, she gave me that look again). I was to do this all night, if necessary until he fever dropped. Fortunately, I had to put her in the tub just once. Her temperature dropped.
As the sole parent in the house as my kids got older, I spent time with each of them at bedtime. With Cheryl, I told her the “Neverending Story” the title derived from the film of the same name. I would create creatures (from a roach to a dinosaur). She gave them all names and before I told that night’s story (which I made up on the spot with a cliffhanger) we would go over what became at least two dozen characters. Then it was off to my son and we would talk sports or anything else that was on his mind. Lastly, I had a chat with my oldest daughter (sometimes twenty minutes, other times as long as an hour). Besides telling me about her day we had discussions on just about every subject (bullying she had witnessed, an argument with her best friend, a friend of hers at the army base who was moving).
I could go on but having been a single parent I came to appreciate my mother who was a “stay at home mom” and all of the women who many men and feminists looked down upon as “not having a job.” Taking care of your kids and the house is most definitely a job — a full-time job! They not only care for their children but teach them values, manners, go to parent-teacher conferences and so much more.
Single parents, whether male or female, are awesome! The responsibility they take on is incredible. The rewards are phenomenal . . . mainly in hindsight because each day ends in utter exhaustion. I wouldn’t give up the quality time I spent with my children as a single father. And, I was lucky enough to have helped raise my granddaughter while both of her parents worked or when I would stay over at night so they could have a date night. With my kids grown I know they appreciate the time I spent with them. And my granddaughter, now in high school, still recalls the time I spent with her (the hundred times I had to watch her “Rolie Polie Olie” DVD which I truly detested, playing the same song over and over in the car in the hour ride from Colorado Springs to Denver or the Powerpuff Girls DVD (there was only one she liked) I watched with her more times than I could count. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
Being a single parent is a full-time job. Anyone who tells you otherwise should try it sometime to learn how difficult it really is.