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Raising Daughters as a Single Dad
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Raising Daughters as a Single Dad

I knew it would be challenging to raise my daughters without my wife. But I soon found out I wasn’t really on my own.

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Father and Daughter

Photograph posed by models

After my wife died of cancer, I became a single father to our five children—two girls and three boys. Raising children on my own presented challenges, but it was especially challenging for me to raise my two daughters. There were so many things they needed that only a woman could truly provide. As President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “Mothers and daughters play a critical role in helping each other explore their infinite possibilities, despite the undermining influences of a world in which womanhood and motherhood are being corrupted and manipulated.”1 How could I compensate for that?

Yet several gospel principles gave me strength as I sought to guide my wonderful daughters and also my terrific sons. These principles might help other single fathers of daughters, single mothers of sons, and all single parents.

Maintain a Gospel Foundation

I learned that for all my children (and for me), remaining faithful to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ was, as it had always been, where I should start. “Trials have long been a seedbed for the growth of faith,” said President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.2

As we exercised faith, we found it was important to do several things:

  • Remember the small, simple things. Through family prayer and scripture study, we received “great things” (Alma 37:6) in our lives, like hope and joy.

  • Strengthen each other. Spend time together, talk, and cheer each other on. Simple words of support can make a big difference.

  • Set an example for each other. Encouraging my children to be good examples meant I needed to set an example for them too. I needed to continue to “talk of Christ [and] rejoice in Christ, … that [my] children may know” (2 Nephi 25:26) that they should also look to Him.

  • Trust in Heavenly Father. His plan for each of us is a plan of happiness. Even in tough times, “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25), and families are meant to be together forever. These truths brought us strength each day.

  • Accept and magnify callings. I knew it was important to continue to serve in callings, to minister, and to associate with other Latter-day Saints. When I found out one of my daughters wanted to sing in the ward choir, I joined the choir too. We had a lot of fun singing together.

  • Listen to general conference. Once, just before general conference, I was feeling discouraged and prayed to know if anyone understood my situation. That very conference, Elder David S. Baxter of the Seventy said: “There are, of course, some single families where it is the father who is the single parent. Brethren, we also pray for you and pay tribute to you.”3 That helped me understand that the same love and support given to single mothers is available to single fathers too.

Allow Others to Assist

Just the same, I was a father trying to raise daughters on my own. I sought to create one-on-one time with both of them to strengthen our relationships. Yet how could I help them prepare to be women? I soon found there were more resources than I imagined:

  • Family members. I thank the Lord for a sister-in-law and a daughter-in-law who lived nearby and came to my rescue. They attended maturation meetings with my daughters. They helped my daughters get ready for dances. Most of all, they listened. They shared my daughters’ hopes, fears, longings, and desires. They helped them transition from child to adolescent to adult with a different understanding of that process than I could provide, never having experienced it in the same way.

  • Neighbors. Good neighbors watched my daughter with their daughter after school until I got home from the office. Other neighbors took my children to school when I had early meetings. One neighbor with a lawn-care business had his crew mow my lawn regularly for free so I could spend more time with my family.

  • Ministering brothers and Church leaders. My ministering brothers coordinated with the ward council, and it seemed that everyone in the ward, especially Primary and Young Women leaders, went out of their way to help my girls. I learned that one of the great things about the Relief Society is that they offer, well, relief. Once, a group of them cleaned my whole house, top to bottom. And at Young Women activities, someone always made sure my daughters felt included.

Not everyone will experience this same level of support. But I’ve learned that until we let others know the gaps we see our children experience without a mother, those individuals may not understand how they can help.

Remember That You’re Not Alone

Elder Baxter said: “Single parents, I testify that as you do your very best in the most difficult of human challenges, heaven will smile upon you. Truly you are not alone. Let the redemptive, loving power of Jesus Christ brighten your life now and fill you with the hope of eternal promise. Take courage. Have faith and hope. Consider the present with fortitude and look to the future with confidence.”4

Like anyone going through challenges, single fathers may feel overwhelmed. I know I did at times. But I also know there’s a lot of hope and a lot of help for single fathers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.