Through My Daughter's Eyes

I got home from work last night and made dinner for me and my daughter. Working two jobs has started wearing me down so all I wanted to do was make it through dinner and bath time, and get to bed early. So we sat down, said our prayers, and then she looked up at me and said “why don’t I have a daddy?” I suddenly had no appetite, no words, no train of thought. Nothing.

Let’s go back five and a half years to 2011. Her father and I had been best friends for years, were very much in love, and decided to elope. Pure bliss. A few weeks later, we went to my doctor and found out I was pregnant and I thought my life couldn’t get more perfect than it was in that moment, but my world quickly crumbled around me. Past miscarriages made me a high risk, so I was immediately put on bed rest, he started going out and getting drunk more with his friends, and came home one night and let it slip that he had been cheating on me with a friend of mine. So there I was – 19 years old, unemployed, pregnant, and married to a cheating man.

See? World = crumbled. It was a lot to take on at once, so I had him move out while I tried to figure out how I wanted to handle things. Shortly after he left, I found out he and my friend were also expecting a baby – due just a few short months after we were due. I went through my pregnancy alone, delivered her alone, and brought her home alone – all while another woman was doing the same thing but with my husband, my best friend.

I filed for divorce after I had her. We made child support and visitation agreements amongst ourselves because he had yet to meet her, or even ask about her. We stood in court and he signed his rights away. No mention of child support, no mention of visitation, no mention of my daughter’s name. Just “no, your honor, I do not want rights to this child.” She is now almost 5 years old and we have not heard from or seen him since.

How do you explain that to a child? How could I say “he chose his other daughter over you” without breaking her heart? So I sat there, for what felt like hours, feeling my own heart breaking – for her and for myself. It’s been just the two of us since day one. I’ve had over 5 years to prepare for this. A part of me always hoped it would never come up, that she would feel loved enough to not notice something was missing. I knew she deserved answers – she deserves the world – but there was no right or easy way to tell her she didn’t have a dad because he chose not to be.

I was prepared for a long night…a night full of questions, lots of tears, and little sleep. I was prepared to fumble my way through a conversation I’ve been dreading because I knew she wanted to know. I was completely unaware of any facial expressions I had made, or anything I may have thought out loud, but I zoned back in and built up enough courage to start explaining everything, until I heard her little voice again.

“Mommy… It’s okay that I don’t have a daddy. I like that it’s just you and me because we’ll always have each other.” And that was it. She no longer cared for an explanation. Having me by her side was more than sufficient. The conversation suddenly shifted from one that made my heart feel like it was going to beat right out of my chest to one about Paw Patrol and which book we were going to read before bed time.

So we made it through bath time, and we made it through dinner time, just like we’ll make it through everything else. Bed time finally rolled around (thank God!) and she wrapped her little arms around my neck and said “I love you more than anyone loves anyone.” She was out, and the day that felt like it would never end finally ended.

That one short part of my long, long day made me realize how hard we as single mothers can be on ourselves. We set the bar so high because we have so many roles to play and so many hats to wear, and we tend to forget that we’re not superheroes – we’re human. We don’t have the right answers to everything, and we don’t always know how to find the right answer, but that won’t stop us from trying. We’re moms, it’s what we do. I know I’m guilty of feeling like I have to accomplish everything and then some, or of feeling like I’ll never quite reach the bar I’ve set for myself, and I’m realizing that maybe I’ve set that bar too high. So what if she doesn’t have a dad? I don’t have to play the role of dad, I’m the mom. I can be the mom and give her a good life on my own. Now I’m challenging myself to see myself through my daughter’s eyes. On the days I feel most down and inadequate and think I just can’t do this or that I should be doing more, I’ll remind myself that I am somehow enough for her, and that should be enough for me.

-Jamie Arnold