In praise of A single dad

Rebekah with her dad and sister

Rebekah, 16, student


Rebekah’s mother died of breast cancer when she was a baby. From then on, she and her sister were raised by their dad.

Since my mum passed away when I was one and a half, my dad’s been a mum and a dad to my sister and I. When we were little, he would cook the dinner, do all the cleaning and help with our homework. He even used to plait my hair before I went to school. All of the things you might normally expect a mum to do, my dad would take on.

Growing up, I used to go to dance classes and gymnastics. My dad would take me to all of these classes and he’d even wait there to take me home. My gymnastics classes took two hours and dad used to just sit and wait for me – even when he could have been off doing other things. He’d always come to all of my dance competitions.

Apart from my sister and I, my dad’s biggest passion in life is golf. He literally plays every single day. After my mum died though, he stopped playing, so that he would have more time to look after us. He took early retirement for the same reason.

Now that my sister and I are a bit older, my dad’s taken up golf again. He’s actually taught me and we’ve started entering parent and child competitions together.

I’d just like to say thank you to my dad for always putting my sister and I first and for taking on the role of two parents. He’s the funniest guy and he just makes me laugh. Plus, I always know I can talk to him about anything – relationships, school, problems, anything.

Mark with his dad and brother

Mark, 30, teacher

Mark’s mother left when he was four, after which he and his brother were raised by their father.

I grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Nova Scotia, Canada. The best way to describe our household is that I basically lived in a university house from the age of four. We had pizza or fish sticks and fries for dinner probably three times a week. It was loads of fun.

One time he took us on holiday to the bar from Cheers. Another year, when I was twelve and my brother was fifteen, my dad came to us and said, “listen boys, do you want to skip Christmas this year and get a pool table instead?” We were like, of course!

He was 100% involved in our hockey – driving us to games and coaching us. He was really fair about how he gave time to both my brother and I. He would alternate year-on, year-off with my brother and I, in terms of being one of our ice hockey coaches.

Growing up, my friendship group included lots of kids from single parent families, but everyone else lived with their mums. I feel like nobody else really got to know their dad, so I feel lucky that I did. I absolutely love my dad.

Chris and his dad

Chris 34, journalist

Chris’s mother died when he was eighteen, at which point his father took sole care of him and his sister.

In 2001, my mum passed away. At the time, my dad was working in the shipping industry in Birkenhead, but he was made redundant just a short while after my mum passed. It was quite a terrible time, but my dad’s main concern was to make sure that my sister and I were alright.

My dad’s generally a quiet and reserved man, except where football is concerned, at which point he becomes much more vocal! After my mum passed, like a lot of men do, I suppose he just tried to ‘get on with things’, putting his own concerns aside to take care of us. He’s not one to seek help.

I think circumstances have definitely brought us closer together. Whenever I’ve had relationship issues, I’d always go to him and he’d always be there to offer advice. He’s always encouraged me in my career and everything else too. He’s from a working class background, and did well in his profession. He was keen for me to do well in whatever I pursued, which I think I’ve done.

It’s great to see him getting to be a granddad to my sister’s two kids – and her dog! They all love him and he has a calming influence. I’d like to thank him for always being there for me. He’s a whizz at DIY, he’s always there to give a lift and he’s always available on the end of a phone. He’s managed to get his head around text messages, which is no mean feat for a man of his age.

I still see him loads. We’re both staunch Tranmere Rovers fans – mostly to our detriment. After my mum passed, Tranmere had successive relegations and we ended up in the Non-League. It felt like there was a parallel. But there’s a message there too: My dad and I stay loyal to Tranmere through the bad times, just like we stay loyal to one another.

Jen with her dad and sister

Jen, 26, teaching assistant

Jen’s parents divorced when she was thirteen. Her father took custody of both herself and her sister.

Since my parents divorced, my dad’s aim in life was to keep my sister and I happy.

He had his own company when we were at school, so that he could work his own hours and be available for us. We lived about an hour away from school, with no train station nearby. My dad would drive me to and from the school bus-stop every day (always with Smooth FM on the radio), as well as picking me up from countless netball, hockey and tennis matches too. He spent his weekends taxiing me around to friends’ houses and never once complained.

He does an amazing roast dinner and even managed to light a BBQ with no matches the other week.

I never wanted for anything growing up. He still makes sure we have a birthday cake every year and even got quite good at picking up on what we wanted as presents without asking (hair straighteners one year, Spice Girls tickets another).

I ring him every day – even when I don’t particularly have anything to say. When I do need to talk things through, he’s very good at listening and gives good advice. It tends to come down to, “it will all come out in the wash,” which is his way of saying that everything will be okay.

I am who I am because he raised me to realise what is important in life.


Jordan, 37, engineer

Jordan’s mum and dad divorced when he was five. Afterwards, he and his three brothers were raised by their dad.

My dad won custody of us when I was five. After that, he raised us four boys all on his own. He’s done an amazing job. All four of us have gone on to have careers and all bought our own houses.

I had a fantastic childhood. Rather than it being four children and one parent, it felt like we all grew up as a unit of five equal people. There was obviously an authority figure, but really it was like a group of mates.

We had a dog, we had a tree house, we always went on holiday and we’d go out to the Forest of Dean for adventures. We made a greenhouse together in the garden once, so that we’d be able to grow our own fruit and veg.

When my parents got divorced, my dad was an accountant with a good firm. He gave that up for a less well-paid job so that he’d be able to walk us to school on a morning. For a young man of thirty, he gave up a lot.

At times, in the past, we used to give our dad a card on mother’s day. He’s the first port of call for any issues – relationships, financial worries, anything. Growing up, we could talk about stuff like alcohol and drugs.

Even now we’re all grown up, we still go to him first. One of my brothers lives in Vancouver, one lives in the Czech Republic and another lives in Worcester. We’ve got a group chat on messenger, where we share pictures and updates together every day. He never puts his phone on silent, for fear of missing one of us.

All of us would do absolutely anything for the old man. He gave up his life for us. I wouldn’t swap my dad for two parents.

All stories as told to Ciaran Varley

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