Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Raising a Daughter without a Mother

It is not uncommon for seemingly random thoughts to strike me at equally random-seeming places. When it happens I am often inwardly taken aback, but outwardly unperturbed. This has happened quite often over the last two years, and I have become pretty well accustomed to handling the thoughts and whatever emotional fallout ensues. This one almost caused me to take a physical step backward.

I am raising a daughter without a mother.

Now, this would seem to be a rather strange realization, since I have been doing this for over two years. It wasn’t the fact itself that struck me. It was the idea that I often worry about making sure she is taken care of physically, emotionally, spiritually, and in every other way a girl of five could possibly need to be looked after, without thinking about it in terms of the fact that she has no physical, earthly mommy to do those things for her now. It was this perspective that struck me.

No matter how much I attend to every detail of her upbringing, no matter how many positive female role models I supply, no matter to what lengths I go to ensure that she has a happy childhood, there is one circumstance that I will never be able to reconcile for her.

I cannot ever bring her mommy back.

I am surprised I don’t dwell on this more often. I think if I did it would allow me to be truly, bitterly angry about the extreme unfairness of it all.

I should know. I’ve lived it from this perspective as well.

I have mentioned in previous posts that my dad died in a boating accident when I was nine years old. Though my mom remarried three years later, it was still never the same as having my dad around. The funny thing is, my dad was not really that involved in my life during the nine years that he was here. Don’t get me wrong, he did what he could, and I never doubted that he loved me. He just wasn’t a hands-on kind of dad. But after he died, I idealized what things would have been like had he lived, which I think is fairly normal for any child who has lost a parent.

In addition, I resented my stepdad for not being my father and for not knowing how to fulfill the image that my now larger-than-life father could not have filled either. My stepdad and I, unfortunately, have very similar personalities, which added to the turmoil of living with him that was fueled by these factors and a heavy dose of the normal angst every teen encounters as they mature. Once I moved out of the house during college, he and I were able to see eye-to-eye, and we now enjoy a rather nice relationship as adult parent/child friends.

Which brings me back to my daughter. I’m not so much worried about her idealizing her mommy to a level that is unattainable. Although that is possible, her mommy really was an amazing mother. Sure, there are areas we all can improve on, but she truly did not have many. (And I promise this is not just me idealizing her now either).

But what about all those other times when she needs a mom? Not the times when she needs help with the technical aspects of things like her first period or shaving her legs-I can talk her through those things. It’s the times when she needs help with the emotional aspects of situations that I worry about. It’s having someone there who knows what it’s like to experience those things for the first time.

And it’s knowing that I can never be that for her.

That’s the part that has me grieving most tonight. Not for all of the things I miss about my wife.

But for all of the things my daughter will miss about her.


  1. One thing that I'm very grateful for is that my wife spoke to my Teen several times as she entered puberty; concerning both her physical changes and the emotional aspects.

    We still talk about such things. I use them as opportunities to remind her that her mother was deeply involved with her life. But also to get practice as my younger daughter will someday need that same emotional assistance. I have no illusions that I could fill those shoes, but big sister may be the next best thing. Not the same, but close.

    It's hard to remember that we can't be both father and mother because as a parent I think you instinctively want to fill that void for your child; knowing all along that you can't. You can only be the father that your child needs to cope with not having a mother. For me that is hard and it sounds like you're doing the hard things well.

  2. The Widower Dad - I remember wanting my older brother or stepdad to teach me how to shave. I was too embarassed to ask, and they didn't offer, so I taught myself. It sounds like your girls are in good hands and that you're making good decisions in dealing with sensitive issues. Thanks for sharing.

  3. jeff jrager01@yahoo.comDecember 7, 2009 at 1:28 AM

    I am sorry for what you and your daughter has endured. I am also a single father. I am 34 and have fullcustody of my daughter and have had so for the past 3 years now. She will be 5 in January 2009. I permit her mother to contact by phone or visit in person at anytime in reason. Her mother will see her maybe once a week and call her no more than twice a week. My daughter came to me this evening and said; "mommy is a bad mommy". I almost cried. I know where she is coming from, but to hear her say that was heart breaking. I did talk with my daughter for a good 2 hours. I just do not know how to remedy the situation. I have spoken with her mother on several occasions. Her mother says she cares, but yet she shows that she does not. What can I do? I am tired of seeing my daughter hurting.

  4. Jeff- Thanks for stopping by. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you to raise your daughter while her mother is acting the way she is. It sounds like we have both had to address abandonment issues with our daughters, albeit for different reasons. I do not claim to be an expert, but sometimes talking to someone else who understands can help. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail any time.

    Keep doing the best you can. And hang in there.

  5. I feel so lost. I am 51 and I am rasing my 6 yearold daugther alone. Her Mom past away in April. With that said I did have custody for the past three years. I lost my job the same week her mom died. Althogh money is not a huge issue, I sold the house in PA and moved back to Florida. I just bought a new home for cash and started a new postion at 1/3 the income. I do have to travel again for work but not as much. I just feel there is not enough time in the day and I am not there enough for her (work, shopping, cooking, cleaning you know)Just venting

  6. Anon - I'm very sorry to hear about your situation. Any one of those things alone is difficult, but all of them together can be overwhelming. I feel much the same way regarding the amount of time I spend with my daughter. The only advice I can offer is to make what limited time you do have count. A little undivided attention can go a long way. And feel free to vent here any time.

  7. I'm not sure if you want to post this, but I wanted to offer you a copy of an interview I just did with Staci Eldredge, the author of Captivating, that is all about how we should be raising girls differently than boys if we want them to become who they were really meant to be.

    I'm not a single Dad going through what you guys have to deal with, but the same issue of "feeling a little lost with raising my own daughter" was plaguing me, which is why I did this interview.

    The interview is currently hosted here:

    But I'd be happy to give you permission to repost it somewhere on your site as a resource for parents looking for advice to raise daughters. If you'd like me to send you the code to repost it, please let me know.

    Let me know what you think of the interview. Hopefully it can be of some help to your readers.


  8. i just lost mu wife on christmas day 2010.i have a one year old baby boy to raise.i am so sad and lost and angry.i lost my soul mate,my best friend,my lover,my whole world is just crumpling.she was the most loving person in the world,and she was mine.she was so proud of being a tears my heart now to see my son searching for her at home and she is not there.i know i have to be strong for my son,but who will be strong for me.i am trying my best to give him a routine,but my routine is gone.i can no longer call her when leaving work to see if we need anything,i no longer get her texting me telling me she loves me.the worst part is the absolute silence in the house,after i put my son to sleep.i miss her and i feel so cheated,my son is cheated out of his loving mother and i lost a loving wife.

  9. Im not in the situation above. But a freind of mine is. He split with his wife, and now her parents raise the child and he can't get full custody because as far as the law says, she is looked after with the grandparents. My freind is a good man. And he split with wife who was heavy drinker and I think violent? He only gets his daughter a few days a week.

    I suggested the following for him to help him and his daughter with the situation. Its a suggestion, but thought I would post it here to as there doesn't seem to be much info on this.

    Dad should keep a diary - of his thoughts, feelings, struggles failings. Firstly because the trials he faces with pass, and the memorys fade and when his daughter comes of age to ask, he may forget important details in the situation and the emoition. Write from the heart as well as the head. Explain your thoughts on the paper. This way your daughter can one day read about what you went through. Write honestly as though no-one (not even your daughter) will read it.You should write when ever the thoughts and feels are fresh. Writing can also be an outlet and help to heal dad.

    Step two. make a point early on in the loss/seperation of your wife or partner to write about your partners positive traits. Positive traits you have seen in her as a mother, as a wife , girlfreind or partner. Don't be afraid to include the little details. Especially if your wife has passed away. You can let your daughter read about these things (and you can tell her ) so she has some positive mummy traits to aspire too. To try to live up too.

    Good luck to all the single dads reading this. It means you really want the best for you child. Can I also say I think a good church is a place to find awesome female role models.

    Take care.

  10. its abit hard to reflect how ur feeling. am a single dad n lost my love almost seven years ago and was left with atoddler of nine months a(girl). the journey has been very tough, but i've nt seen anything as satisfying n joyful as watching a daughter grows step by step. i tried to remarry 4yrs ago bt the woman couldnt stand the bond btw the father and daughter and she had to leave despite giving her everything money can buy n lots of reasoning n begging. so dont worry the challenge, at long last its extremely fulfilling.

  11. Actually, Being a single father is a difficult job, but one with innumerable rewards. Whether you are a divorcee or a widow, being the prime caregiver for your children is a big responsibility that will likely become the focus of your life. Even those single fathers who work and have childcare help understand that raising their children is their life’s work.

  12. I just read this and you had me in tears . I hope you find the one woman that can be there for you and your daughter.My daughter just a month old and we also alone and im still trying to deal not having her mom with me let alone raise her on my own but hearing your story has given me new hope for the future . Thanks your words touched me .

  13. Hello. My wife passed away suddenly without warning, leaving me with our two children. A boy 13 and a girl 12. I am struggling to say the least. We had been married 16 years, lived together for 3 before that. Now she is gone for good. I am lost, lonely, feel broken. If it weren't for leaving the kids with no one, I would have taken my own life by now. I don't have tie to feel sorry for myself though, the kids need things and I do my best. My daughter is starting to show signs of depression. My son has already been baker acted for a not quite serious attempted suicide. I love them so much, but I am so depressed myself. Everyday is a struggle to get it all done. Their diet is poor. Their lives are full of stress. Their mom had the flu and the hospitals would not admit her. She finally had cardiac arrest last Halloween morning and died on Friday, Nov. 4th, 2016. I let her down and failed to protect her. Now our children suffer. I'm just venting.