I’m a single dad, not a child molester

Let’s begin with a story. There’s a little girl we’re going to call Brittany. Now Brittany is in the fourth grade at a school she’s been attending since kindergarten. She’s outgoing and cute, dresses odd at times, can be very funny, is a tad bookwormish, and is most definitively a Taylor Swift fan.

Brittany meets and becomes fast friends with girl in her class named Mallory.  They both like the TV show Good Luck Charlie and play Tap Pet Shop on their iTouches, not to mention Mallory loves Taylor Swift also. They quickly become inseparable pals eating lunch together every day, playing during recess, and drawing pictures of one another under rainbow and butterfly filled skies. One afternoon Mallory comes running home from school asking her mom and dad if she can have a sleepover at Brittany’s house this weekend. It seems Brittany recently got Just Dance 3 for the Wii and they plan on having a dance party late into the night.

The usual next step entails Brittany and Mallory’s moms talking on the phone or maybe meeting up for a quick ‘get-to-know’ and it’s party on. But if it ended there, it wouldn’t be much of a post. Well it isn’t all because there’s  one small detail I left out. In this story you’re Mallory’s mom or dad and the sleepover she wants with Brittany, well, it’s going to be at my home – her divorced, unmarried, and single father.

Now let me ask you this question. What is the very first thought going through your mind after realizing the place where your daughter is going to spend the night is a single dad’s house? You don’t have to answer that because I already know. It’s something like this… Not a chance in hell! And here’s a secret, I would probably say the same thing.

•♦•

Next month marks seven years since my divorce, which is longer than I was married and neither of my kids have known any different. That’s seven years of co-parenting on my own. That’s 2,555 days full of diaper changes, potty training episodes, nursing nosebleeds, performing tuck-ins, and reciting bedtime stories. I’ve doctored diaper rashes, attended parent/teacher conferences, and sat through a dozen God-awful elementary school musicals. I’ve read to classrooms, been a teacher’s helper, and ate $2.30 school lunches with a table of seven year olds.

There are only two feats I’ve yet to check-off from the parenting to-do list – breast feeding and giving birth. If you’re going to judge a parent based upon his or her aptitude and performance, go ahead and induct me into the Mommy and Daddy Hall of Fame, right now. So why is it when Mallory asked if she could have a sleepover at my house you looked at your spouse and thought “how are we going to get out of this?”

•♦•

It’s one of the harshest realities I’ve ever faced as an man, and a father – the perception that since I don’t live with a woman I’m less of a parent. In the court of public opinion I’m a dad who’s guilty until proven innocent and even if I am acquitted I still need an ankle bracelet and must check in with my parole officer once a month.  Because I failed at a marriage it seems, as a man, I’m no less inclined to fail as a parent. Why, and this question is directed at me as much as anyone else, do I feel way more uneasy if my kids are in a home where the responsible parent isn’t a woman? Why do I believe it isn’t a good idea, since there isn’t going to be a mother around, and therefore I make up some lame lie excuse about why my kid can’t spend the night with her friend?

Why do feel I need to ask around, run a complete background check, and ask for blood and urine samples because the dad isn’t married? And why would all of this anxiety disappear if happened at a divorced mom’s house? The fact isn’t lost on me that my daughter has tons of sleepovers but none of them are at my home. In the last seven years she has only had one friend spend the night and it was a neighbor who lived 200 yards away and her parents had me on speed dial. Sure, my daughter wants friends over but it never seems to materialize, as if by magic the other kids are always busy…until the next weekend she’s at her moms.

•♦•

Why are single dads looked upon more critically than any another parent? While single moms are virtually sanctified to the level of Mother Theresa for their seemingly endless supply of self-sacrifice; why are single dads expected to be self-centered, negligent, and unreliable  – especially as a parent? It’s undeniable that a single father is first and foremost regarded as single. Because I’m not with a woman, why is it assumed I must have the parenting skills of a green sea turtle? That I will invariably let your kid watch too much television, drink gallons of soda, and run with knives.

But let’s be completely honest. The true reason why you don’t let Mallory spend the night, whether you want to admit it or not, is that doing so fills your mind with dreadful images better left unsaid.

I could tell you that I, like most dads, just want the best for my kids and for them to have happy and joyful childhoods. I could also tell you that as a divorced dad I guarantee I work harder towards achieving that than any married dad ever will. I could mention how it offends me that you think your child would be any less safe and secure with me just because a woman isn’t under my roof. And I could bring up  that if you actually got to know me you’d quickly realize I, and many other single dads like me, aren’t anything like the deadbeats you hear about in the media.

But chances are it wouldn’t do any good, so instead I’ll just leave you with a harsh remainder until your kid’s next sleepover – I’m a single dad not a child molester.

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27 responses to I’m a single dad, not a child molester

  1. I am right there with you on this. When the ex and I separated, some, not all of my daughter’s friends stopped coming over as much and sleep overs have been limited to maybe two of her friends.

    I guess folks just have these thoughts ingrained in their heads and will never shake them. If the shoe was on the other foot, I may be the same. I haven’t crossed that bridge yet. I can’t say I blame these parents and quite frankly it puts me at ease. I never ever put myself into a bad or uncomfortable situation so they are doing me a favor.

    I honestly understand their point of view and can’t pass judgement. They have the right to raise their kids their way. As I have the right to raise mine. My daughter will learn to see people as who they are and not as society portrays them.

    I am glad you are out there giving folks the truth about guys like us!

  2. Interesting….I see how this could be a problem…..

    As you know, I have a daughter. She’s in the 4th grade, prime sleep over age and of course, loves Taylor Swift. Now, the PIT & I have our own problems when it comes to sleep overs….IE: the PIT won’t go. She will not sleep over anywhere…she’s just not having it, for now.
    However, back in MN, one of my best friends is a fifty some year old, former Marine, hippie. I got plenty of looks hanging out with an “old hippie”..ppl would assume we were “an item”…..ppl would make remarks like “he must have money” and I would reply with a smile and “he’s poor but he’s hung like a horse” not that I actually knew, I just liked to make ppl as uncomfortable as they try to make others. The Hippie was/is very close with the PIT. He’s been a consistent, positive friend of ours since she was 5. He babysat the PIT for me while I took my conceal and carry classes…he got grief and followed around by a woman at the park where he had taken the PIT to play..asking him who he was and if that child was his….now, I’ve been to the park with the PIT several times and nobody has ever asked me who I was or if the child was mine….granted, not a lot of dads are actual dads like you are, but that doesn’t mean that all dads should be treated like predators. More dads need to call bullshit just like you did, right here, right now….well done and I second that Bullshit btw….
    Keep up the good work and maybe it’ll spread!

  3. I been there, Kyle. The assumptions and prejudices against single dads is prevalent but I do believe it is changing. I was the 24/7 single divorced dad to my two boys when they were both young and in elementary school. The treatment I received is what motivated this, my second career, as a dad advocate, writer, radio show host, and #DadChat founder.

    The cure? Be present at your kid’s school…let other parents get to know you and some of that fear will vanish. Some parents will continue to carry a prejudice but you must shoulder on.

    Ted Rubin, a friend and sort of mentor, made a GREAT comment after I led a panel at BlogWorld LA on the lousy stereotypes of dads in the media. He said, “Stop Whining” and get on with it. I thought he was right on. Our panel did have too much whining. Of course there are problems, but we dads are making a difference and the brands are beginning to notice as well as those in our communities.

    You’re doing a yeoman’s job, Kyle…stand up and be proud! I am for you!

  4. I’m not sure if you think it’s a bad thing to not have sleepovers. Being the father of 3 girls, I wouldn’t allow them to have a sleepover at a friends single fathers house. Even if I really knew the guy. If I knew the guy, I might ask if I could hang out for the evening before they went to bed, but even that’s unlikely. I also wouldn’t encourage my kids to have sleepovers with their friends at my house. For one, adding even one more girl, assuming there would be a disproportionate increase in screaming, is painful even to think about. But there is also the potential problems of being that dad who had her daughters friends over with no other adults in the house. People jump to conclusions and I don’t want to even be associated with circumstances where someone was uncomfortable with their kids being at my house. It’s the same reason that I was never comfortable having non-family women at my house if my ex wasn’t there at the time. It’s not because I didn’t trust myself, but I was worried about my reputation and what people might assume. It’s just better to keep clear.

    Good post!!

  5. T

    My daughter’s best friend lives primarily with her single dad. And he’s one of my best friends. I wouldn’t (and haven’t) hesitated one moment to allow my children to stay over at his house.

    My daughters have also friended another daughter who lives with her single dad. Except… I don’t know this gentleman at all and haven’t met even his child. This is someone my girls know from my ex-husband’s fiancee. She, apparently, trusts him. My ex, apparently, trusts her. So, her daughter and our daughters have stayed the night there on more than one occasion. Does it make me nervous? Well, yes it does but it also makes me nervous that my ex and his “almost wife” allow our children to run up and down the street unsupervised. I don’t have a say in the matter. Does my mind stray to the uncomfortable thoughts you mention? Hell yeah. But sadly, the media does nothing to stop these horrible images and thoughts, do they? Anyone, MALE OR FEMALE, could hurt a child these days.

    All that we can do is trust that we’ve taught them to speak up for themselves and pray for the best.

  6. This is a very important conversation to me. I have two boys and no girls. Here’s what I know: they cannot spend the night at any house where I don’t feel I can trust the people/person who live there (and I’m am stinkin’ paranoid). If I have not met the husband of a mother, my kid(s) will never stay the night. If I don’t know the wife, aunt, uncle, brother, dog, mouse, other kids at the sleepover, (you name it) in that house, my kid(s) won’t stay there, ever. Not at age 9 and CERTAINLY not at age 4.

    I don’t care HOW offended a person may be. The first thing I tell them before my kid spends the night is how easily uncomfortable my kid gets if you get in his space. I make it very clear that my kid will tell me anything that makes him uncomfortable. Sure, I might feel a little shocked if a parent said that to me, but it would let me know that this family takes safety seriously and that they are honestly scared to death. Why wouldn’t I understand completely?

    On the homefront, I prepare my kid for any situation I can think of that could occur, which should make them uncomfortable. There are four people that can help my kid with “personal” issues: Me, my husband, and their two grandmas. If these people are not around, my child must either take care of it themselves, or ask to call home.

    We have to teach our kids about the signs and the situations that are inappropriate. If they are not mature enough to have these discussions with, then they have no business having a sleepover, regardless of where it’s at. My own mother knows my kid’s have boundaries with their bodies. I tell my 9-year-old that, “If a person makes you feel bad for setting boundaries, then they aren’t good people.” Even the best person should understand how these boundaries protect our children.

    Sadly, I know that there is a judgement against single fathers. I don’t think it’s fair. I am impressed that you are a big enough person to relate to where they are coming from. I just wish this wasn’t the manner in which people were deciding when and where to let their children sleepover. We need to take the time to get to know people and talk with our kids. My oldest has had sleepovers at just a few houses and these are houses I have either stayed at myself or have spent numerous hours in, getting to know the parents who have become my great friends. Any other sleepovers I have turned down were because I didn’t know enough about the family and my kid usually agreed.

    Ok, I’m done!

  7. Linda

    When my daughter was in Kindergarten she was best friends with a girl who was being raised by her father (the mom gave up custody after she was born). Luckily for him, he had sisters that would supervise sleepovers and birthday parties. This post has me thinking what would I have done had he not had his family around?

  8. Bruce

    Your post hits the nail on the head when it comes to the attitude towards single dads. I have had full custody of my 3 kids since ages 2 (daughter),6 (daughter), and 13(son). That was 10 years ago. I have had multiple sleepovers with my daughters and their friends as they grew up. I even had my mom stay over for the girls sleep overs just to put on a good show. Initially i could see the concern in some parents eyes, but years went by and now i have no problems with parents, since the girls have been with me for some time now. The issue is the bias that exist in this situation. Trust me, there are some moms that I would rather not have my duaghter spend the night over at their house. They live like pigs and the boyfriends are more of a fear than any single dad I know. Yet the single dads are still looked down on when it comes to handling young girls. I have been through more checks and inspections and evaluations that any mom ever has, I have paid my dues.

  9. It’s still the custom in medicine for a physician to be chaperoned by a female nurse when performing a pelvic exam. The chaperone is not for the patient’s protection, but the doctor’s.

  10. Equalist

    I’m sorry the column seems almost supportive of the idea that men are guilty until (continually) proven innocent. The fact is, the fear of men as child molesters is way overblown — just as the confidence automatically placed in mothers is equally overblown.

    That being said, I never had sleepovers at my house when I was raising my son, either — but that’s because I never allowed them. And, that’s because, regardless of what other parents thought of my parenting (stellar, I might add), I didn’t want to expose myself to the risk of false allegations.

  11. When my parents divorced, my dad won custody of me. I was around the age of 7. I can’t tell you how I felt the first time I heard the mom of my good friend (and neighbor) say that she wouldn’t be allowed to spend the night because I didn’t have a mom living in my house. My dad worked for the school board and was well known in our community, so most of my other friends stayed the night without their parents having an issue. As a matter of fact, it was just that one time that there was a problem. But that one time has always stuck with me.

    Because it’s stuck with me, I always swore than when I had a kid, it wouldn’t matter if my children had friends who only lived with their dad. I would make my decision based on the parent and not the sex of the parent. I have stuck to that decision that I made at the age of 10 and it’s worked out well for me.

    I personally think it’s extremely ignorant to not allow your children to spend the night at their friend’s house if there’s only a single dad there on the basis alone of him being a single male. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Times have changed. A lot more fathers have sole or shared custody of their children. Denying your child staying the night at their friend’s house just because there’s no mom in the house is being judgmental on so many levels. And what is it teaching your children? Fathers are less than mothers? It’s OK not to get to someone before forming an opinion of them?

    And really, why don’t women feel the same about letting their sons stay the night at houses without a father? Females can certainly take advantage of little boys the same as males can little girls. Especially as the boys get into their early teens. I’m just saying that I think the whole notion is very discriminatory and baseless. Parents should make the decision based on the person and not their sex. There are 2 houses I don’t let my son stay the night at because of what the parents let the kids do in those houses. They’re a free-for-all with no boundaries or discipline. One house, the parents smoke so much inside, it’s almost as bad as a dive bar.

    This is a GREAT post, CP!! I’m so happy you wrote it! You brought up excellent points.

  12. I don’t like my kids sleeping over friends’ houses. Single parent/two parent households, doesn’t matter. On the flip side, no one’s sleeping here either.

  13. If I had my way, my daughters would never sleep over at another child’s house, single parent or married couple. The potential for “issues” is high. I was abused as a child, by a family member, when I was “sleeping over” at their house. I would never, ever want my children to experience such a thing.

    However, I have had to “suck it up” and allow my daughters to spend to go on sleepovers, because I realize that I can’t allow my fears and past experiences to hold them back in life. But truly, if they asked to spend the night at a friend’s house with a single dad, I would absolutely and without hesitation say no. Nothing personal, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable with it.

  14. mjay

    Single dad here, as well, of two girls.

    Your story is all well and good, but all it takes is for a vindictive ex or one of her friends to file charges against you and you’re history. It happens all the time. All you need is about $80 K and a little luck and you can get those charges dismissed….

    Better safe than sorry.

  15. mjay

    “And really, why don’t women feel the same about letting their sons stay the night at houses without a father? ”

    This is America – boys are disposable.

  16. Akk, that sucks.

    If it makes you feel any better, I won’t let my boys (because they are NOT disposable) stay over at any one’s house either. Mostly because the time I do have with them is precious (and I don’t want to share it with anyone, because I do have to share it with my ex), but also because unless I know and trust BOTH parents (or one, as the case may be), there is no way they are going to stay overnight – or even be babysat.

    I’ve had friends/aquaintances where I’ve trusted one partner, but not the other. I have also let them be baby-sat by a man (solo). He was part of a partership, but I trusted him.

    So, its not about gender for me, but about my level of trust. I can see how this happens though.

  17. I read it and my first thoght was not that you were a child molester but an excellent parent. Has someone you know tried to poison your relationship with your daughter? If your name is a clean, good name a suit for slander or libel would be appropriate. Be as pro-active as you can to clear your name, Don’t let evil-mouthed people without souls ruin your life.

    I wish you well.

  18. Using hypnotherapy I helped a client who was in a similar situation to you but his was worse. He began imagining all the things that people might be saying about him and it hurt him a lot. All that on top of a messy divorce! Thankfully he was able to pull it back and regain that control. Must suck to have to deal with the kinds of things you mention in this post.

  19. Ryan Ward

    Wow my friend, I got goosebumps reading this. But my story is worse.

    I too am a single father. However I have sole custody of my daughter. Her mother is a deadbeat. I too have been a single father since my daughter was 2. My daughter is also currently in 4th grade. She too likes Taylor Swift. In fact she too just got that dancing game on her wii yesterday. Well we rented it at blockbuster and copied it. (don’t ask).

    My daughter has never had a friend sleep over. Well unless the mother sleeps over. But … Well most times I just don’t have any interest in the mother sleeping over. You get my point.

    My daughter are I are inseparatable. I moved to California without having any family here or anything back in 2002. When my daughter was 2 I separated from her mother. Never got married. She disappeared into a major drug addiction and haven’t even heard from her in 5 years.

    My daughter and I go everywhere together. The salton sea, Joshua tree, road trips as many as I can go on with her. In 13 days we are going to the grand canyon.

    I lost my job last year and was unemployed for a while. Instead of taking my 72 more weeks of unemployment I was being handed to from the government, I decided to enroll for grad school and for my masters degree. I didn’t want to have my daughter see me as a bump on a log.

    Now this is where the story takes a turn for the worse. I also have a 4 year old daughter. And this daughter has been court ordered out of my life.

    How?? How you ask? Well I broke with her mother before the child’s birth. I think her getting pregnant on purpose by stopping her birth control had mostly all to do with my bitterness. But broke up we did. She has fought for 4 years to get me removed from my other daughters life and did. Then I was eventually granted visititation. But she stopped it when my daughter was 3. 5 more court dates and this woman has successfully got the court to order supervised visitation 350 miles away from my home at a facility that charges over $300 per visit.

    I’m unemployed and cannot afford $300 supervised visits that are 350 miles away, especially now that my unemployment is gone because I enrolled in school. I get no support for my oldest daughter. Not to mention they are completely unnecessary. I’m already in sole custody of another little girl.

    Now understand my oldest daughters teachers, her school psychologist, her speech teacher, even the school principal (who I have gotten to know) all wrote glowing letters about my parenting. The psychologist even wrote she hasn’t encountered a more dedicated amazing father in her 20 years of doing social work. Her words, not mine, just relying the letter. I was quite flattered myself.

    The court didn’t even want to see these letters. They just listened to false accusations from my youngest daughters mother about how I left my oldest daughter alone when she was 6 to go get her medicine when she was sick. Apparently this was good enough reason to change my visits to paid supervised visits.

    As a father, I am automatically treated as the weak link. I hear everything oy are saying about the expectations of a father. On the other hand I am disgusted with everything acting like I am some kind of saint because of how “good” of a father they see me being. That doesn’t speak well for other fathers. Im just being a parent, not tryng to be some extraordinary person. What I mostly find a shame is if I was a woman, it wouldn’t be anything extraordinary at all, it would be expected.

    Anyhow brother I really felt a connection to everything you were saying in this article. The ankle bracket reference was what sucked me in. I’m also currently fighting the child support people. My youngest daughters mother even though she lives with her rich parents found a loop hole in the system and went on welfare. They are going after me for it all. That’s right, sole custody receive no help of any kind with no income and they want me to pay her welfare. This is also largely why I enrolled in school. Otherwise I was told I could possibly be sent to prison? And my oldest daughter into foster care!? The county worker told me this. They already revoked my passport. So much for studying abroad. Oh and my drivers license is next. So much for ever saving up for those 350 mile away $300 supervised visits … Just in case I win the lottery or something. Oh wait they’d take that too, Nevermind.

    Anyhow we are happy and doing great. My daughter and I are in the library right now. I’m forcing her to read chapter books because she keeps tryng to read comic books. She wants to read books that are “fun”. I keep telling her ALL books are fun. Even these books I’m forced to read for my new grad classes. (okay a fibbed a little. This book on Plato is kind of dry. Lol).

    Good luck brother, great article.

    Godspeed-
    Ryan and Chloé

  20. Ryan Ward

    I meant my daughters mother got pregnant on purpose, I didn’t get her pregnsnt on purpose. She decided for us by stopping her birth control without asking me.

    Just to clarify the story above.

  21. kandy

    God I can’t stand situations like that! I hate women who when they have a father that WANTS to be part of their childs life they deny them! I have a question. Were your letters cirtified? If not judges don’t tend to look at letters that are not cirtified.

    I wish that my son’s father had HALF the manhood you guys do. He owed 12K in child support and WILLINGLY has not seen his son since a few days before he turned 2. He will be 7 in April. He had cheated on me with our babysitter (and we did stuff every night so it was not like he had not been geting enough). It realy infuriates me when men treat kids like my ex treats my son and there are women that FORCE the father to not have anything to do with their son.

  22. David Fletcher

    I see it like this….My 13 year old daughter lives with me too. She has had a few sleep-overs and she even had a sleep over party where she invited half a dozen of her girlfriends who all came. The music and noise was intolerable and I had work the next day, so if I can avoid that again I certainly don’t mind lol. She often asks me if so and so can stay etc and I always say its fine. It doesn’t always happen but thats understandable. I mean how many child sex offenders can you think of who are female? My point is, being a parent I fully understand other parents concerns and so I don’t take it personally. It’s just how it is !

  23. As an unmarried father that has split up with his partner these are the types of situations that I find myself in aslo. The problem is that men are usually the child molesters and all us men are placed in this category by females. Trust is not granted but has to be earnt.

  24. uhh

    When you asked “What is the very first thought going through your mind after realizing the place where your daughter is going to spend the night is a single dad’s house?

    You don’t have to answer that because I already know. It’s something like this…”
    This was NOT my answer at all…considering I was raised by a single father. :/

  25. Walsh

    My 9 year old daughter has been asked a number of times for a sleepover at her friend and single dad’s house and I have always said no. I am a weigher-up of pros and cons:
    Pros: 99.9% chance that sleepover will occur without incident = had a great time
    Cons: 0.1% chance that abuse may occur = daughter’s life ruined forever
    So if I weigh up ‘life ruined forever’ (very small chance) with ‘had a great time’ (very big chance but nothing she couldn’t get from a daytime playdate) there is no question that sleepovers are ruled out.

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