A few years ago, a friend of mine challenged the notion that I am both father and mother to my son whose father died many, many years ago. She said it was impossible. Biologically, she is correct. In every other way that matters, she is dead wrong.
When my husband died the torch was passed. I felt the enormous weight of parenthood. On one hand, I continued as nurturer-in-chief yet on the other, I became provider-in-chief.
It wasn’t enough that I fulfill my role as a mother, i.e., manage money, prepare meals, keep a clean house, etc. Now I senior pastor, handyman, recreational director, network and relationship builder (I’m an introvert at heart), grill master, lawn mower, pro sports lover, garbage can director, etc. It became overwhelming very quickly as I was beginning my PTSD healing journey.
I had to win the hearts and minds of my two rug rats all over again. Their big Daddy got a promotion to Heaven so there was a bit of an adjustment. Before, I alone was bringing home the paycheck because cancer treatments disabled his ability to function well at work. Naturally, my kids were bonding far more with their father than I who was trying to make the best of an ugly work situation and a two-hour daily commute.
The kids were stuck with me. We needed time together. I planned a whirlwind series of summer trips that included amusement parks, national parks, family visits and driving alone for hours on end without my favorite conversationalist. We need memories of our own.
My Eagle Scout husband planned all camping trips. Now I had to wing it. I packed entirely too much stuff the first time. I had to figure out how to do various knots and properly load the car. Upon arrival, I unloaded, set up, made dinner, did showers and lit a campfire. I was dead by the end of the first day.
When my daughter had a major medical emergency my husband wasn’t there to explain details and nuances as it related to her condition. Further, I the introvert, didn’t think to leverage my professional skills, i.e., communicate to the (family) masses. My poor diplomacy skills fueled chances for getting dragged through court by relatives.
I became gladiator. I entertained relatives in court while protecting my children from family naïveté and pure vitriol. No one but my lawyers had my back. No one but my church friends cared about my sanity and the kids.
As father I had to exude complete confidence everything would be alright (fatherly). I also had to shoulder fears and tears (motherly).
So as we celebrate fathers this year, let’s also remember single parents. They alone get to claim both days. They do so much yet get so little recognition. It’s a thankless job so give them a hug and express gratitude. Acknowledge their double duty and treat them well. Most importantly, have their back. It’s a very lonely job.