A single father’s moving Facebook post about parenting his daughter after her mother abandoned her has gone viral.
Richard Johnson, 21, claims he hasn’t wanted children for much of his life. “Everyone in my family is either divorced or a single parent,” she says. Johnson tells Yahoo Parenting, “My father wasn’t in the picture, and I never wanted that for my kids, so I was dead bent on not having any.” That changed, though, when he met the lady who would become the mother of his daughter. “We decided we wanted children, and I wanted to provide them with the life I lacked.”
Even yet, the Las Vegas father says the news that his fiancée was pregnant was the scariest moment of his life. “The more I considered it, the more terrified I became.” Except for what I saw on TV and in movies, I had no idea what it meant to be an involved father.”
Johnson tells how he ended up raising his daughter, Persephone, by himself in a letter to Life of Dad, an online forum for fathers. The statement was posted to Life of Dad’s Facebook page on Tuesday night, and it has received over 12,000 likes and 650 comments. “About a month after [my daughter’s] birth, her mother left.” “We don’t know why,” Johnson says, “but we assume postpartum depression played a role.” “I landed on your page by mistake during the first few weeks when it was just [Persephone] and me. I was terrified of becoming a father in general, but suddenly I was a single father with two responsibilities. I wasn’t sure I was up to the task. I’d studied every ‘new parent’ book I could find and watched over 1000 hours of YouTube videos on topics ranging from hair braiding to nail painting to theories on how to deal with typical parental concerns. I began to pay closer attention to your page and noticed that there were other fathers in similar situations to me. The website started to become a tremendous confidence booster for me, and it really helped me get through everything. … You certainly made a difference in my daughter’s and my lives during a difficult period. We’re both really happy now, and we’re still learning and growing together every day. She’s now ten months old, and I’m constantly being approached for parenting advice by my friends. My daughter and I have gone a long way, and we owe a lot of it to this page and the people on it. So, on behalf of both of us, we’d like to express our gratitude.”
According to Johnson, Persephone’s mother took the girl with her when she left in February. Johnson tells Yahoo Parenting, “She took my little child to California, but then called a week later and said if I didn’t come to get Persephone, she was going to put her up for adoption.” He went out and got his daughter, brought her home, and claims they’ve been together ever since.
Johnson adds that the early days as a single father were difficult in a follow-up Facebook letter posted Wednesday morning. He adds, “I spent more than a few nights holding my young baby while she slept weeping because I wasn’t sure I’d be a good enough father for her.” “One night, in particular, she crawled for the first time. She approached me and placed her teeny-tiny palm on my cheek, staring into my eyes. ‘Come on, Daddy, we’ve got a lot to accomplish,’ I deduced. So I assured her that there would be no more tears for either of us and that we would struggle to be happy. We’ve kept our end of the bargain.” More than 3,300 people have liked the follow-up post.
Johnson added that once he accepted his new role as a single father, he sought counsel from friends and even started a support group with other single parents. “I had never been around babies, and I had no idea what girls were like.” However, I sought advice from elder friends who had reared daughters. “I practiced braiding hair, and I’m not bragging, but I can now braid hair better than most ladies,” Johnson adds. His 10-month-old isn’t quite ready for hairstyles yet. “She doesn’t have any hair yet, but I want to be ready!”
Johnson and Persephone have moved in with a friend who is a single mother with a 6-month-old son, though they are not romantically linked. He says, “We’re each other’s rocks.” “I look after her son while she is at work, and she assists me.” Johnson currently works part-time at U-Haul, a company he says is particularly supportive of his circumstances, but he wants to find night work so that he or his friend can constantly be with the kids.
Johnson was caught aback by the strong response to his article. He says, “I don’t comprehend it.” “I thought this was something a parent should do.” When I was a child, I used to play football and there was no one in the bleachers to see me. I don’t want my daughter to go through anything like that. It was horrible, one of the worst things that had ever happened to me. As a parent, I suppose you have a choice, but I believe there should be none. You should not abandon your child. You are meant to love and nurture a life that you have brought into the world.”
Johnson’s narrative, according to David Guest, one of the website’s founders, is representative of the guys the website brings together. “Fatherhood is a universal experience,” Guest tells Yahoo Parenting, “and it’s the most essential and emotional one a man will have in his life.” “Reading Richard’s post, you can truly feel his challenges with being left alone with his small baby, his openness and sensitivity, his fears of ‘I didn’t know whether I could do this.’” It’s relatable because you feel the same way even if you have a wonderful co-parent, let alone if you’re doing it alone.”
Johnson claims that the Life of Dad saved his life. “I used to be so depressed when I was alone that I didn’t want to see a bunch of happy couples with their kids,” he adds. “However, as soon as I got out of there, I checked Life of Dad and discovered that there were other single dads out there.” Deadbeat dads have such a bad reputation, but I know that isn’t always the case. People are sometimes dealt a bad hand, and it’s inspiring to read about their experiences.”
Johnson had no idea whether or not his post would be made public. “I just wanted them to know that they helped a stranger because I would always be grateful to them.” “There were a lot of nights when I didn’t know if I could do it,” he admits. “However, this website was important in helping my daughter’s father grow into the man he needed to be for her.”
Johnson says he can’t believe he used to be against having children. “Going from that to waking up before she does and getting her outfit ready for the day has been wild,” he says. “I’d like to give her the best possible start in life.” I want to educate her to have faith in me, to know that I will be there for her when she sleeps and when she wakes up. I now look forward to seeing her every day because it’s so great. When I look at her, she smiles. She is both my best friend and my shadow. I talk to her about anything; I know she doesn’t grasp all I’m saying right now, but she will one day. I take a lot of pictures and write to her every day so that one day she will be able to look back and create her own thoughts about what happened, hopefully without being angry. People on Facebook think she’s fortunate, but I’m the one who’s fortunate enough to have her.”