a post-mother’s day letter celebrating single parent fathers
After another Mother’s Day was marked with cards, flowers and social shares, Milly McMahon discusses how this date encourages her to celebrate how her single parent father has shaped her life. In addition to detailing his role in her coming-of-age...
My earliest memory of my father as a child is overwhelming terror. Thickset with farming hands the size of JCB claws, l was intimidated by his towering presence. Confidently careering towards me, despite my shrill protests, he would scoop me up in one and arm and throw me high into the sky, transforming my tears of fear in to squeals of joy. This would be a metaphor for our relationship. Guiding me to become the person l am today, investing his all in enabling me to believe in myself, his principle life lessons were twofold; firstly, appreciate the gift of life and secondly, eat lots of oranges. Raising me as a single parent while he worked full-time was challenging. The complex needs of a teenage girl are straight up impossible to predict, and yet he always fiercely defended me for who l wanted to be, however unconventional or bold. When l have retreated into myself in fear of the world, he has found me, dusted me off, mothered me tenderly, loved me deeply and set me back on my way without judgment.
Each time Mother's Day rolls around l reflect on what my father has done for me. I am forever indebted to him for the strong feminine ideals he has instilled in me. A modern man with a kind, forgiving heart, he respects women more than any other man I have ever met. He has taught me how to treat myself with dignity, impressed the importance of nutrition, mended my broken heart whenever it has been tattered and adopted me as his travel buddy - together we rejoice in exploring the world, discovering every corner of its exotic glory. He has done all this while hanging up the washing, buying daffodils for the kitchen, cooking dinner, watching Towie, accompanying me to the spa and riding ponies. He is an exquisite mother and an example of a truly great man. I have seen him cry and he has held me when I've cried. To those like me, who have not known a close female role model, we understand how a strong father can help guide us to realise everything we deserve, without feeling any absence of love. My father encourages me to embrace my identity, to love clothes, beauty, my health and to be feminine. l have come to favour a soft, glamorous aesthetic, which he celebrates. In various conversations I've had with like-minded women working in fashion and beauty and primarily parented by their father, all offer similar feelings on their father's affirmation of their femininity and fierce ambition.
Pioneering menswear PR Annoushka Giltsoff enjoys a beautiful, close and nurturing relationship with her father. She speaks of his influence poetically. "The experience that I feel has ingrained a sense of care for others, what many consider the defining role of a women to be, was being with my father through periods of mental illness. While not a fond memory, his honesty with the situation removed ideas of things that are perhaps still considered a taboo — men crying etc. For this reason I feel that I perhaps don't uphold traditional emotional expectations for both men and women, something that I hope will be of benefit when it comes to my own relationships. My father has four daughters, all with a different sense of womanhood. Caring is so natural to my father; I think he has considered little else outside of looking after us all for a very long time."
Cozette McCreery is a well-established knitwear designer and pioneer on the London style scene. Her approach to creative innovation is vivacious. Her thoughts on her father's humour and eccentricity are warm and heartening. "He is quite old school in his opinions but I call him on it. I do think that me being a tomboy probably helped, I don't know if me being a tomboy is because of being brought up by such a strong male character, who knows? Often we'll chat, especially about relationships and I'll have to go, 'er Pops, I'm not your son!' when it gets a bit TMI on the workings of the male brain when dating (laughs). Even though he's a combination of the Don from The Godfather, a Jewish mother, an Irish Catholic mother and that often this can be exhausting for a headstrong, opinionated, self-sufficient me, I wouldn't have him any other way."
RKM Beauty PR account manager Emily Cooke looks like a quintessential English rose. She is passionate about next gen beauty and fitness. Emily feels as protective of her father as he does of her, and chats about their relationship tenderly. "My dad always wanted to have girls. He grew up with his mum so has always had a strong, female presence around him. He's very sensitive and compassionate when we're overreacting but can also calm us down when needed! I remember when I started my period for the first time. When I walked through the door he gave me the most endearing smile and hugged me - no words were needed and I almost felt proud that I had become a woman."
Manoeuvring through the most awkward of situations may not be easy, but my father always allowed for me to be free. I remember him dropping me at the local nightclub where l worked behind the bar, tying my top high under my chest and my skirt rolled up short, stilted on platforms, caked in makeup, he kissed me on the cheek and told me he would pick me up after my shift at midnight. Chuckling as l staggered off, he muttered something about Bambi on ice. John Patrick McCarthy owns a photographic studio in East London and raised two girls. Both are now in their twenties. He has found the experience of being a mother to his daughters progressive and inspiring. "The biggest lesson that they have taught me is unconditional love. Raising the girls is the best and most complex thing I have ever done. They are both very caring towards me and look out for me and my happiness and well being. A friend who knew my family well put it best after visiting us for a week. She said: "John you were always like your Dad and now you are completely like your mum." For me, the best advice l have read on how to raise children are Kahil Gibrans words in On Children, in which he so eloquently reminds us that we are only looking after them till they become themselves. I can't wait to see what my two get up to next."
Returning to Annoushka to offer some final musings on her father's maternal role modelling l asked, "What is the one thing you would like to say to your father this Mother's Day, for all the years he was your strong female figurehead as well as your humble pa? Her words bring this love letter to a poignant close. "That I don't belong to any man (like you have always told me), but you," she replies with a proud and empowered defiance.
Text Milly McMahon