Dad Matt did not intend to be a single parent. He did intend to be a role model for his sons. Here is what happened on the day he realized he had become one for his daughters.
As the single and sole parent of my five children for over 18 years now (2 boys and 3 girls), I hoped I would be a natural role model to my boys for the way to grow to be successful men. I wanted my boys to “man up” as soon as they were old enough. Work hard, be a leader, be kind to everyone, treat women with respect, protect and provide for your family, and be charitable. Qualities people think men should have.
But what about my three daughters? I couldn’t replace the mother gone since they were so young. I could hope and trust their young damaged psyches were gaining strength. I couldn’t be a role model to my girls for the way to be a successful woman – or could I? Did I want them to “man up” too?
Was I being a good role model to them being a success in their work lives? I lived with these questions for many sleepless nights. What I knew intuitively was that it was important for me and genuine to me to tell them they were smart, beautiful and loved – which I frequently did then and still do today. I know this is important to a girl’s self-esteem and success in the world of relationships and family.
Over the past year, my oldest daughter got married (she works at a Fortune 50 company in the Midwest), my middle daughter got her first job out of college 300 miles from home and my youngest daughter went off to college in the big city. I wonder what valuable traits for preparation in the work world and being a beautiful woman they may have learned, if any from me?
What even are the valuable traits? To best answer these questions, I finally just (a tad nervously) asked each of my daughters. What is the one thing they have learned from me in my examples that helps them be a successful woman today?
And here’s what they said:
- Work hard to be successful.
- It’s never too late to turn things around.
- The right thing to do is not always the easiest or most enjoyable thing to do.
Being a parent is like being a trial attorney in that you never ask your children (your witness) a question that you don’t already know the answer to. I already knew my daughters had (wo)manned-up but it’s even more gratifying to know that I influenced them in some meaningful way.
As a single parent you have to be both dad and mom at times. So not only did I have to “man up” I did my best to also “woman up” (even though I didn’t like the bra-buying and other parts of being a woman). For me, finding that balance was a key to being a successful role model for my daughters.
I finally got the message. It wasn’t about manning or womaning.
It was about finding what was “up” for them, and helping them get there.