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Arts & Culture / Claire Blackmore

It Happened To Me: Being Raised By A Single Dad Made Me The Woman I Am

Ah, you really can’t beat sharing stories to make you feel like you’re not alone in a situation – we can all identify with a bit of true-talk after all. Not only that, being open and honest about real things that happen to real women is the fastest way to smash taboos and get us all talking about tricky topics. There’s no such thing as an over-share.

Here, Rachel 22, tells us what it was like to be brought up by just her dad…

“My mum and dad split up when I was about two, so I was too young to remember all the details of how I came to live with just my dad. My mum left our home and moved away, so I would only see her in the holidays and it was this way all throughout my childhood until I went to live with her for a year when I was 17. Because of this, my relationship with my Dad is so much better than the one with my mum and he did an amazing job of bringing me up.

“My dad is a very laidback person. He tries to make a joke of everything and his one-liners kill me. I’ve heard them so often! Every birthday he tells the same dad-joke – on my 22nd he said, “oh it seems like only yesterday you were 21”. He always tries to lighten the mood and he’s there for me when I really need him – even now that I’ve left home. There have been times when I’ve had an empty fridge and he’d just bring me some stuff from his own freezer to feed me.

“My dad can also be quite huffy and very impatient, two traits I have definitely inherited. He’s extremely intelligent though, we can watch any game show on the TV and he knows all the answers. I did pretty well at school and was in the top sets, so I guess I got that from him too.

Daddy’s girl

“I’d say the best thing about being raised by a single dad is the bond that you form. A lot of women aren’t always close to their father and tend to lean more towards their mother, but my relationship with my dad is excellent. He’s still the person I turn to when I need advice, or even just a whinge. We speak a lot and never argue. He’ll come and stay with me or I go and visit him and we aim to see each other at least twice a month.

“But it wasn’t all plain sailing growing up without a mum. A single dad with a daughter has to learn the girly side of things. Your dad doesn’t know all the make-up tricks, latest hairstyles and fashion trends. I could tell him what I wanted and he would buy it for me, but he couldn’t teach me new things.

“I think the thing he struggled with the most, was me growing into a woman. The teenage years probably hit him the hardest, when I no longer wanted go out and get scruffy in the woods with him – I wanted to be out with my friends instead. Their was a period of general withdrawing, where I stopped being my dad’s friend in a way, but I know now it was all part of being a normal teenager.

“Because it was a man calling the shots, I think I was raised a little bit of a tomboy when I was small but I didn’t mind. I preferred to be having fun and I didn’t care what I was wearing ­– I’m still not the girliest of girls to be honest. When I reached my teenage years I started wanting to be more feminine and took a bit more interest in different clothes and makeup. Dad was sweet and would buy me the things I wanted and let me choose how I wanted to look.

“Looking back, I was quite a moody teenager, but my dad dealt with my strops with a pinch of salt. He just let me get on with it and eventually I’d forget why I was in a strop and everything would be okay. I wasn’t really a problem with boys though, I used to have lots of male friends instead and I didn’t really start dating until around 16. My dad knew about him but didn’t ask many questions, he didn’t want me to shut him out of my life so he left me to it.

“I did feel like I could talk to my dad about everything though. I went to him when I was struggling at school and confided in him when I was being bullied. And as I got older, he was there to support me when I split up with boyfriends or if I fell out with best friends.

Period talk

“When it came to periods and puberty I did call my mum first – because I wasn’t sure what it was when I started. She then told my dad and we talked about it together. We couldn’t ignore it because it was only us two in the house. My dad was really great through it all. There were times when I’d come on my period and be stuck on the toilet without anything and he’d quite happily run to the shop to get me the essentials.

“He spoke to me about sex after I did sex education at school. I had a book all about it and Dad was happy to answer questions for me. We talked more about practicing safe sex than actual sex, but he dealt with the situation really well. It was a little embarrassing but also nice to be able to have that conversation with my dad ­– I know a lot of men would shy away from talking to their daughters about it.

“A couple of times I did speak to friends’ mums about things too. A mate’s mum told me about upper lip waxing and invited me round to do it for me. However, there weren’t many things I felt I had to ask another woman that I couldn’t just discuss with my friends or my dad if need be.

Father figure

“I think being raised by my dad has helped me not focus on material things such as clothes and make up and not to have hang-ups about my body. Living with a man, there just wasn’t the constant picking and obsession with self-image like there is with a woman. I am fairly comfortable and confident around both sexes and all types of people. My dad has brought me up to be polite to people and to always think of others.

“My best memories involve the stuff we used to do together. On a Sunday afternoon after dinner we’d go for a walk or sit and play games. He was unbeatable at Connect 4! He took me kayaking, camping, walks and bike rides. I remember once walking through the woods and we had to slide down a hill covered in wild garlic, he never got the stains out of the clothes, and our house stunk for weeks. My dad also never once said a bad word against my mum in front of me so as not to taint my view of her.

“I have a little boy of my own now, he’s 16 months old and loves his granddad very much. I find myself going to my dad for parenting advice and I aspire to be as good a parent as he was with me. I hope one day my son looks up to me like I look up to my dad.”

Do you have an experience you’d like to share? Get in touch to tell us your story.

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