“Uncle-Dads:” Male Role Models When Dad Isn’t Around


role modelsMy daughter and I were reading before bed, just as we do every evening, but this time something different happened. As I read ‘Time to get up’ said daddy. ‘Wake up sleepy head’ said mama, my daughter squeezed my stomach and said “I-ya love mama soooo much.” I smiled. But what she said next hit me like a ton of bricks. “I-ya no have a daddy.”

I knew the day would come when my daughter would start asking about where her dad is and why he isn’t involved in her life. I just didn’t expect it to be so soon.

My mouth opened; it took what felt like an eternity for any words to come out. I assured my daughter that she does have a daddy but that right now he doesn’t see her very much. I showed her a picture of her dad; she smiled, eyes lit up and said “daddy?” Then she frowned, shaking her head “No. No daddy. Chester (our dog) is daddy!” She got off the bed to hug and kiss our dog.

The moment passed, and she was content believing that our sweet black lab is her daddy. But I think of those words often and ponder how to respond when it comes up again. And it will, along with the “why?”

While I cannot answer why because I don’t understand it myself, and I cannot change the reality, I am grateful that my daughter has other male role models in my brothers, her “Uncle-Dads.” My younger brother spends one weekend a month with us, going to the park, paddle boarding, throwing her up in the air and letting her jump on his stomach. Just being there. My older brother, who has two girls of his own, built us a fence so she can play safely in the yard and taught her to trace her hand (a huge hit).

These are just little things, but they make a huge difference in my daughter’s life. They are the difference between seeing what a positive male figure in a child looks like versus having no fatherly role model. And while her Uncle-Dads are not a substitute, they still make all the difference in the world to me!

Do you have other male role models in your kid’s lives, whether or not dad isn’t present?

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Hyland is mom to two-year-old Isla and fur-baby, Chester, with a full-time career as a corporate attorney. She grew up in New Orleans, where she developed a passion for cooking that later lead her to culinary school in New York. Although she isn’t often preparing beef borguignon or mile high soufflés, those skills come in handy when juggling a demanding career with picky toddler eating habits. She later moved to Denver where she attended law school, acquired a love for skiing and biking and started a family. In order to be closer to family as a single mom, Hyland packed up her bags and moved to Portland, where she is growing to love the rain through the eyes of her sweet and imaginative daughter. Hyland loves traveling and is currently looking for the next passport stamp for her and Isla.