The joys of fatherhood are a wonderment to behold for those of us dads, who despite being estranged from one’s partner, suffer the continued cohabitation for the ‘sake of the children’. As I have scribbled here before, living in the same house as the mother of your child can be more than just a little taxing for everyone, but the rewards do, ultimately, make the sacrifices worthwhile…in my opinion.
Let me elucidate. I have been blessed with a perfect child. Yes, I believe there is such a thing. Okay, I may be exaggerating the point here but she – my teenage daughter – is despite everything a blessing: she is my life, my world, my everything, as someone once nearly said.
In spite of her father having two failed relationships and who is now with the same partner for almost five years, she has never flinched or wavered from the straight and narrow. As anyone who has separated and found new love will testify, one of the biggest hurdles and fears is trying to introduce a new partner into the relationship – be they male or female.
In some ways I may have been fortunate as my daughter has never known anything else, she was only two years of age when I decided to call time on my relationship with the mother. Having moved out of the master bedroom to sleep on the couch for the following four or five years – yeah, it really was that long.
My daughter was too young to really understand what was going on and she must have been at least five or six years of age before I had my first serious relationship, which lasted little over a year. That first break was full of heartache as to what path to take. I knew if I wanted to start a new life with someone else, I would lose my daughter. But by that time, I had already given up working fulltime, becoming a stay-at-home dad, I was the one who prepared all my daughter’s meals, got her to and from nursery and then school.
I always remember one particular evening whilst walking home and her asking me if I was going to leave? She started to cry and said tearfully: ‘but who is going to look after me?’ It spoke volumes and who, who could possibly abandon a child under those circumstances?
My life revolved/revolves around my daughter, so in the end the choice was simple: my relationship ended and I continued being the dutiful dad. A couple of years later and a second person entered my life and the same equation eventually came to the fore with the same results. Nothing or no one can take precedence over my daughter.
Now, five years into my third relationship with a woman who I really do not spend nearly as much time as I should and who has all the patience of a saint, I may be on the road to a happy equilibrium. With all three women, my daughter has been a revelation. Despite my initial misgivings about bringing this third woman into the family home, my daughter has shown a level of maturity way beyond her years.
All the while I wondered if I was doing the right thing. How has this crazy family life impacted on my child’s upbringing, my spending time with this other woman sometimes away from home, has any of this affected her outlook on relationships? What will she be like when she grows up and God help me; discovers boys?
However, and I repeat, she is a model child. She is excelling at school, speaks three languages going on four, has an insatiable appetite for literature and constantly makes me weep with pride when I listen to her playing the piano: Grade 5. She is intelligent, feminine, elegant, graceful, polite and articulate. It truly is difficult to find faults. I cannot remember the last time I have had to raise my voice other than perhaps in frustration because she is, if anything a little on the shy side and rarely wishes to venture out from the house – she may have got that from me.
So, I have no idea if this abnormal family lifestyle has had any adverse affect on her and only time will tell I guess. For me, yes, there have been many sacrifices. Lack of constant work obviously means there’s no fancy car, let alone a new modern one. Luxuries are exactly that and are sparse but my sacrifices are ultimately only materialistic ones, for my reward is the teenage daughter I greet home every day from school, who fills me with so much pride I have to pinch myself. She’s perfect.