What happens when Mum has gone and it's just father and daughter?07/01/2021
The REAL daddy’s girls: What happens when – for whatever reason – Mum has gone and it’s just father and daughter? As these heartwarming tales reveal, it’s a rollercoaster ride of dolls, dress-up and THOSE tricky chats
A daughter’s relationship with her Daddy is a precious thing. But most parents would admit that when it comes to raising a little girl into a strong woman, it’s Mum who puts in most of the work.
But what happens when Mum isn’t on the scene? Recently Lorraine Kelly and her daughter Rosie discussed how the TV presenter’s long commute from London to Scotland meant her husband Steve provided the majority of the childcare.
However, some dads are left to raise their daughters single-handedly. Here, four tell Samantha Brick how they’ve got to grips with raising their daughters alone…
I’ve had to get used to snide comments
Tutor for disadvantaged children Matthew Grice, 45, lives in Wordsley, West Midlands, with daughter Charlie, 11. Matthew says:
Tutor for disadvantaged children Matthew Grice, 45, lives in Wordsley, West Midlands, with daughter Charlie, 11. He says: ‘People are very quick to judge, so we have got used to funny looks and snide comments’
It’s been just me and Charlie for eight years now. I met her mum while I was travelling in Thailand, and we moved to the UK when Charlie was nine months old.
One evening, when Charlie was just three, I walked in from work and my wife passed me my daughter and told me she was leaving me for another man. We have never heard from her since.
The early days were especially hard. Both my parents died before Charlie was born, and I don’t have any other relatives to help out, so there was no female influence in Charlie’s life.
As I watched her toddle off on her first day of school, without a care in the world, I broke down in uncontrollable tears. Until then I’d been doing this on my own — that was the first day I’d handed my daughter over to someone else’s care.
Over the years, I’ve weathered the joys and challenges of raising a girl at every stage.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the two-year period she insisted on giving me makeovers. I spent countless weekends resembling Aunt Sally from Worzel Gummidge with blusher on most of my face.
And choosing clothes has always been complicated. When you walk into a store and there are thousands of items, do you go with what suits her or what she likes?
As she’s got older, I’ve turned to the internet for every parenting dilemma (if Google didn’t exist, I don’t know what I’d do).
Recently I’ve been researching puberty; all the changes that Charlie is going through were as new to me as they were to her. There is not one hat that I don’t wear: mum, dad, uncle, auntie, taxi driver, social worker and agony aunt.
The hardest thing about being a single dad is the fact that I am male and my daughter is female. Our society just isn’t made for this family combination.
People are very quick to judge, so we have got used to funny looks and snide comments. We were in a shopping centre a few years ago and Charlie was desperate for the loo. She was too old to come into the gents and too young to go to the ladies by herself.
I tried to take her into the disabled loo but I was informed by security that a man and a girl were not allowed in together. So Charlie had to go in the ladies on her own, got locked in the cubicle and the same security staff had to rescue her.
Charlie has never asked about her mum, mainly because I always show her photos and talk about her. I would never stop her from trying to find her mum, just as I wouldn’t force her to try and see her. Now she has her best friend’s mum to talk to about anything that I can’t help her with — which has been a blessing.
But though we’ve struggled at times, the relationship we have now makes me so proud. Charlie is top of her class and developing into such a caring, polite and understanding child. She is simply my greatest ever achievement and in hindsight I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so proud to be her dad, there isn’t a feeling like it in the world.
I tell Alba Mummy is watching over us
Fundraising manager Ed Smith, 37, lives in Berkshire with daughter Alba, four. Ed says:
Fundraising manager Ed Smith, 37, lives in Berkshire with daughter Alba, four. He says: ‘It was unbelievably tough, yet life had to carry on because my amazing little girl needed me — and it’s a joy to be her dad’
When Alba was six months old, her mum, my wife Anna, was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
In May 2018, aged 18 months, Alba was the most beautiful flower girl at our wedding; ten days later Anna passed.
It was unbelievably tough, yet life had to carry on because my amazing little girl needed me — and it’s a joy to be her dad.
Every father and daughter relationship evolves differently but ours is more different still. I have had to explain to Alba that Mummy died and what that means. I tell her that every time she sees the moon, she should know that Anna is watching over us.
And she is. Anna loved lists, and left me one to do for Alba. We needed chickens, to get a ginger cat and call it Marmalade and have another dog and call it Indy. Anna also made it very clear she didn’t want Alba to have a fringe and wanted her to have long hair. So far we’ve done it all.
I’ve been lucky to have family support, too, with my parents moving closer to us. My mum and Anna’s stepmum are great female role models for Alba.
But there are still lots of things I’ve had to learn myself. For starters, I’ve taught myself how to paint nails and tie plaits. I scratch my head most mornings picking outfits that match and look pretty.
When Alba was smaller it was easier to get her dressed — now she has strong opinions about what she wants to wear (her favourite colours are currently pink and purple).
We have teddy bear tea parties, watch Disney films together, and playing hide and seek is her current favourite, which usually means me counting up to 1,000 while she hides directly behind me.
All that’s happened has made our bond stronger. And Alba has made things easy for me. I see my friends with their sons who are constantly on the go and I ask them how they cope. They joke about the female teen years. I dread to think about how I will react when Alba is older and brings a boyfriend home.
While sometimes I think it would be nice to have a break, it would be nerve-racking trusting someone else with my little girl.
Obviously I wish things could be different, but we make the most of every day just like Anna did.
There are photos around the house as a constant reminder of one of the last things Anna ever said to me, one of the most important things every dad of a daughter should know: ‘Tell Alba she can do whatever she wants.’
I feel I can’t offer advice to Mums
Close-up magician, Mark Waddington, 32, lives in Skipton, North Yorkshire with daughter Lizzie, six. Mark says:
Close-up magician, Mark Waddington, 32, lives in Skipton, North Yorkshire with daughter Lizzie, six. He says: ‘I do get compliments about how I am raising her, but I get things wrong like anyone’
The paternal instinct is different to the maternal one.
There is a lot that comes naturally to women that I’ve had to get my head around since I was awarded full custody of Lizzie three years ago.
But I’ve found some ‘dad hacks’ to help me. Take her hair. I usually put it in a ponytail using the hose of the vacuum cleaner.
The elastic band is already around the attachment, when I switch it on it sucks her hair into a bunch so that I can then loop the elastic band to pop around her hair — it works a treat!
I do get compliments about how I am raising her, but I get things wrong like anyone.
I wouldn’t survive without my parents. They live around the corner and when things get challenging they drop everything to help me.
I’m happy to play with Lizzie but teddy tea parties and play-doh are my limit — I know where my skill set lies. My mum is the crafting queen, and she and Lizzie love using beads to make necklaces and bracelets together.
Girls have different things to think about than boys, even down to the way they interact with their friends. It’s nerve-racking knowing that one day I will have to teach her things that I didn’t go through when I was a child. There is a stigma of being a single dad of a daughter.
Not long after it was just the two of us, I took Lizzie to get weighed. The district nurse asked me what it was like raising a toddler, I naively replied it’s stressful but as a parent I can do this. She opened the door and shouted out to the other mums: ‘This dad thinks it’s easy.’ That wasn’t what I meant at all.
When I notice mums looking for parenting advice on Facebook, I’ll often know the answer, but because they’ve asked other mums, I don’t feel I can chime in.
People need to acknowledge that dads aren’t just babysitters, we’re perfectly good parents if we’re allowed to be. Raising Lizzie has changed my life. I’m lucky that as an entertainer I work weekends, and otherwise I plan my diary around her playdates. Going to the pub isn’t a lifestyle that’s for me anymore.
Bringing up a daughter on my own is challenging but rewarding. Lizzie is a whirlwind, sassy and opinionated with a beautiful smile and gives fantastic cuddles.
Our relationship has gone from strength to strength over the years. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mother’s Day can be tough
Part-time delivery driver, Steve Thompson, 37, lives in Croydon with Ellie, 12. Steve says:
Part-time delivery driver, Steve Thompson, 37, lives in Croydon with Ellie, 12. He says: ‘The first day I took Ellie to senior school I dropped her off and felt anxious while I waited for home time. Luckily, she came out bubbly and smiling with some friends’
I won full custody of Ellie when she was just two and it was tough at the start; I genuinely wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to be a full-time solo parent.
At first we lived with my mum, and Ellie used to get upset on the odd night I went out with friends. I had to reassure her I was coming back.
Gradually I got used to getting Ellie ready for nursery and taking her to birthday parties, while getting to grips with clothes sizes, and when Ellie was four we moved into our own home together.
Mother’s Day has been tough over the years, I felt for Ellie when her friends were making things for their mums, not least because Ellie doesn’t have any contact with hers.
She’s resilient though and instead she would create a card for her Nan. She was like a second mum to Ellie so it was really hard when she passed away in February.
My sister Holly, 22, is a fulltime mum and she has really stepped up and bonded with Ellie, picking up the reigns from mum.
Does Ellie wish she had a mum? She has openly accepted that this is her life, there is the wise saying that you don’t miss what you never had and this is the case for Ellie.
She’s had two brilliant female role models in her life who have had a hand in contributing to the woman Ellie will grow to be.
The first day I took Ellie to senior school I dropped her off and felt anxious while I waited for home time. Luckily, she came out bubbly and smiling with some friends.
People can be insensitive. One woman remarked things must have been bad if I got awarded full custody.
While I understood the point she was trying to make, she could have phrased it better.
It’s been tough because I’ve had to be a dad and mum at the same time, and that can mean being good cop and bad cop while ensuring we have an open relationship.
I’ve always been open with Ellie and said she can talk to me if she needs help. I’ve even put together an emergency box for her periods, when it’s required, containing painkillers, a hot water bottle and all the products I thought she’d need.
I’m anxious about her entering her teen years. It’s different, I suspect, to having a son.
Being a man you know what boys can be like. The challenge for me is to loosen the reins, letting her show me she is a responsible young adult.
Being the only parent has made the bond we have stronger than it would have been if her mum were around.
The past ten years have gone by in a flash and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
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