Widowed Parenthood: Back to the future

Last week I went back to the future. I had one of those spontaneous moments when we bump into someone we haven’t seen for a while. For me, it was an old work colleague. I hadn’t seen this fellow for a very long time. We managed to avoid most of the pointless small talk, it was one of those good and meaningful catch ups. With the added highlight that he had recently become a stay at home Dad. Despite my single parent widower status being the only variance in circumstance, we exchanged our parental knowledge.

Regardless of us no longer working collaboratively, we gradually discovered just how much we still had in common. We found alignment in our views and all the parental pearls of wisdom we had gained. Later that day, I started to have mixed emotions around the whole conversation. As nice as it was, it was hard to swallow the fact that we were still different in a big way, he had a wife and his child had a mother.

I knew I had to remember the positive outcome of the conversation. We were just two young men, each doing a job as a parent without making a fuss, but should we be making a fuss? I started to think about how Dads could have a positive side effect on how we see men in general. In truth, the stereotypical view of Dad’s in our society has come a very long way from when I was a child. Yet I accept our society’s view hasn’t fully changed. I know I could easily start a debate if I asked a majority of parents if they thought a Dad’s job was to earn money, and a Mum’s job is to look after the home and family.

By stepping up to the mark, have I defined a more positive view on what we think is typical of the average man. On reflection, Yes, I have. Should I be writing about it? Absolutely!

I can walk around with a happy face on most of the time, but in reality, I do live in a crazy world. I have learnt to become the master juggler of nursery drop-offs, pickups, running a clean and happy home, giving out buckets of unconditional love, making meals and working full time. Somewhere in the midst of all that chaos, I do actually find some ‘me’ time too. Is it tough? Of course.

I can honestly say that I don’t like it at all, I absolutely love it!

The past highlights of the nightime feeding, teething, learning to eat, immunisations, first steps, first words, birthday parties, playgroup activities, potty training, family holidays… to name a few, where massive challenges. However, it is these moments that make me feel happy too. Happy to have achieved a milestone for my child. Having been through all these moments alone I always sign each one off with “Marky boy, take a bow son”, I always feel proud. I never doubt that in my mind that, if Katherine was alive, she would be proud too.

I don’t like writing this, but I feel I should point it out. Sadly, there will always be families out there with both parents at a disadvantage. Some children might miss something from a family with both parents. Maybe it is out of the parents’ control and they have to work around the clock, or they work nights? Could it be one of the parents isn’t actually interested? Maybe love isn’t expressed openly in a family? My point being, in some cases many single-parent families are doing a much better job raising children than families with both parents.

I want my little girl, Margot, to grow up knowing that raising children isn’t a man or a woman’s job but it’s the job of a parent. Social class or status means nothing in terms of life and happiness. I want her to understand that men and women can be whatever they want. I’ve absorbed both the Mum and Dad roles into a hybrid version of myself. What I have turned into has extended beyond all those traits considered to be the stereotype of masculinity.

Does this fit your situation, or can you relate to what I am describing? Then you should know it’s going to be ok for your child or children. You’re going to be ok. I used to ponder how I was going to get through it all. I’m here and it’s all working out, in it’s own strange and adapted way. We should all feel proud to be a Dad. Even within the hardest years.

For me, there is no better description of how it feels to be a parent than in the words of the author, Elizabeth Stone. Having a child is like consenting to have your heart walk around outside of your body! And this is why we put our heart and soul into our role. Especially with being a widowed single parent Dad challenging traditional stereotypes of masculinity and fundamentally redefining what it means to be a man.

9 thoughts on “Widowed Parenthood: Back to the future”

  1. Hi I hope you don’t mine that I message you,,I was reading your story in the echo, I just want you to know that you are such amazing man,your wife will be so proud of you in everything your doing for your little girl,,your one strong amazing guy x

  2. Dear Mark,
    I hope you don’t mind me contacting you; I am a journalist specialising in TV documentaries, books and magazine interviews.

    I think your blog is superb and the way in which you verbalise your emotion is outstanding. I write for populist publications: short sentences and not too many adjectives. I’d really like to have a go at bringing your view to mass market media.

    We would not, of course, publish anything without your prior agreement.

    I can be contacted on 07976 767 836 or at j.cusack@focusfeatures.co.uk

    Kind regards,

    Joe Cusack

  3. Mark I’m sorry to hear your anguishing story about your wife & her sudden cardiac arrest , I myself was diagnosed with a condition called brugada syndrome following 2 heart attacks completely out of the blue , I’d never even heard of any of these rare cardiac illnesses like SADs . All I can say is that things do get better despite how much pain your probably still going through .
    I’m a supporter of cry that helps fund cardiac research in to these hidden cardiac conditions , I also wrote a piece for the BHF to try & explore & explain how it had made me feel , realising that I was no longer infallible or immune to the pain that I suffered through my illnesses .

    1. I’ve heard of Brugada Syndrome, you are certainly one of the brave ones. Also for everything you do for CRY. A charity close to my heart of course too. x

  4. Hi I have just read your story and I have just gone through the exact same thing , now struggling with day to day and bringing up my three year old daughter alone. My partner just dropped down on February this year from a fatal arrhythmia and it’s just impossible to get my head around.. reading this I honestly don’t know how you do it

    1. It’s a dark dark place. I’m so sorry about your loss. Like me, you’ll probably think your daughter is the most unluckiest little girl in the world. Always remember she is lucky to have you as an amazing Mother for the path you are now on. Please remember you’re not alone. I hope you have found support – re CRY or WAY? Thank you so much for being brave and sharing your story too. I hope anything I cover will help you?

  5. Absolutely I do.. it’s so cruel and you wonder how horrible people are still able to live..
    Heartbroken and she’s of a age that she is wanting him and asking for him and wishing he was here. Heartbreaking to hear when my hurt couldn’t be more broken myself.
    I haven’t tried the support places but I will have a look
    Thankyou so much

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