How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Welcome to Single Parenthood?

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Growing up, the thought that my parents weren’t married didn’t really change my life. Sure, we went to my grandparent’s church a couple of times and I wasn’t allowed to eat a special cracker, but they loved each other.

That was good enough for me.


I was seven years-old when they broke up. It didn’t occur to me that they weren’t married then either. They had me and my younger brother together. They owned a home together. They fought together like any of my friends’ married parents did. And it hurt when they weren’t together anymore, just as much as a child of any married couple.

My mother raised two boys on her own. No child support. No help. She went on to become one of the most influential people, dare we say women, in radio. As a parent, and now father of two, my mind is blown.

These past three weeks, now with two kids of my own, I am in the midst of understanding her like I’ve never understood anything in my life. When I am home, I’m always with one of my sons. When I am at work, I ache to be home with them. When I am asleep, I am not actually asleep. At all.

Look at that arm. I was a prodigy at throwing tantrums.

Having two kids, based on my limited experience so far, I feel more like a single parent at times. My wife and I are on full-time man-to-man defense. One kid is crying, the other is pooping. One kid is sleeping, the other is banging on the piano. It’s not double the work. It’s more.

I don’t mean to diminish the intense rigors of actual single parents. Quite the opposite. When I had one child, I thought parents of two kids or more were superheroes, objectively. I thought to myself, “I can barely handle one kid. How the hell do they survive?” But single parents don’t even get that luxury with multiple children.

In a two parent household, like we have now, we cover one kid at a time. It’s sometimes lonely. I miss my wife. We had just started getting back our time together as Finn matured. But now, we wrestle in a tag-team competition with two matches going at once.

I’ve gotten a few emails and comments asking why I don’t write more about my mother. In part, it’s because I believe she deserves her privacy. She is still in the public eye whooping major ass, as ever, in her career. Perhaps, I write about my dad more because he was more complicated and absent than my mother was for me. She was a provider, protector, magic-maker, teacher, guide, inspirer and nurturer. But mostly it’s because a father and son have a different set of work to do on each other.

The empathy I’ve gained for single parents through the lens of my newborn son and my history of growing up with a single mother can’t be overstated. I am temporarily living a parallel lifestyle to one that is under-appreciated and misunderstood greatly.

So, be singularly helpful to your single parent friends. They deserve it.


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14 Responses to “Welcome to Single Parenthood?”

  1. Karin says:

    Okay, so now I’m curious. Who is your mother?

  2. Jo says:

    You are a complicated man, Charlie Capen! But you have his parenting thing down and this marriage thing, too! Your wife and kids are super blessed to have you!! Keep up the good work! 🙂

  3. dorkdad says:

    As usual you are very eloquent. I eagerly anticipate your insights when you move from man-to-man defense to “zone”.



  4. Thanks for sharing Charlie. I too marvel at parents who have more than 2 children. It takes but one tiny bit of planning or inspired spontaneous anarchy from the little people to completely evade and disrupt the big people. I’ve witnessed it at shopping malls in the slow motion vision of my mind being played out to comedic effect. That amusement would come back to haunt me once I become a Dad. Good luck sir. You’ll be great. And kudos to single parents everywhere. You are amazing.

  5. buffi says:

    Thank you Charlie, for acknowledging single moms. My husband left three years ago, when my kids were 14, 7, & 5. It IS hard being mom & dad to these kids, but it’s great too. They have such an amazing bond with each other and do a great job pitching in to take care of mom when I’m sick or crazy busy with school. I’ve been blessed to have men in our lives from church and friends who have managed to step up some and be a good example to my daughter and sons.

    My kids’ dad has been a much better dad than he ever was a husband. He lives several states away, but he webcams with them several times a week and they can call him whenever they want. He is also very good about financial support. I am SO in awe of moms who don’t have the support I have yet still have these great kids.

    You are already such a great dad who appreciates your precious boys and your wonderful wife. You are a great role model!

  6. Karls Mom says:

    what I need as a single parent are blogs like yours.
    truly, coffee and humor keep me moving on.

    thank you and greetings from germany!

  7. Natasha says:

    I appreciate that you addressed the loneliness of parenting. As a single parent that loneliness is magnified sometimes. There isn’t another exhausted adult body to lay against or be still with. The warmth and insight you have is remarkable. It always reminds me that there are great fathers among us

  8. Nicole says:

    Being a single parent is tough, but it’s better like this than to be in a bad relationship

  9. Erica says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother! As a single parent of two, I wholeheartedly approve this message. Don’t be so modest. You seem to be acing the parenting exams yourself. Well done, Dad!

  10. Courtney says:

    I am not a single parent, but was raised by one. She busted her ass to work as a nurse, then go to law school…all while parenting me. While there are certainly things that could have been better, I know she did that absolute best and that it wasn’t easy. My husband travels…a lot. So I have so much appreciation for the parents that are single on a full time basis. I have a light at the end of my tunnel…my husband will be home for the weekend to help. Kudos to all of you single parents out there who do this day in and day out!

  11. Kat says:

    When I was in labor and delivery with our second baby on the way the nurse told us to be prepared because 1+1=11. It’s so true. Good luck.

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