As I continue my weeklong focus on Father’s Day, I wanted to take the time to introduce you to Miguel, 33, a Latino dad who in my opinion is two times a hero: Miguel’s both a U.S. soldier and a single parent to four children.
A divorcee, Miguel was born in Mexico City and raised in Waco, Texas. He has two boys and two girls: Miguel, JR. (14), Brooke (12), Nicholas (10) and Kimberly (7). When he’s not on father duty, Miguel is a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, where he’s served for over 15 years. Miguel and his children live in Beaufort, South Carolina where he is stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC as the Navy’s senior enlisted leader and supply chief for over 125 Marines and sailors. As if the battlefields of parenting life and the military weren’t enough, Miguel is also currently pursuing an MBA via Texas A&M University-Commerce’s distance learning program.
PapiBlogger: What circumstances led you to become a single father?
I became a single father in August of 2008. I had recently transferred from the USS George Washington after completing a small deployment in South America. In mid-July I had come back to Beaufort to help my then wife look for a new home and get settled before returning to my post. She told me then that she had fallen out of love and that she wanted to separate. Like most people, I never thought this would happen to me. I flew back home on August 15, 2008, and without notice my wife flew out the same day.
I honestly expected to at least get a little time to get situated and to try to work things out but it did not happen that way. It was definitely an eye opener. I went from just focusing on my career and never being home to having to taking care of my four kids by myself over night. The greatest challenge of my life had just begun. They say that you are never put in a position that you cannot handle, and now I truly believe that.
I had been on operational commands averaging 100 days out of the year at home and not all at one time. My non-operational command was recruiting duty and I was always working. This all happened on my first official “break” from the normal lifestyle of a service member. In a weird way, this could not have happened at a better time in my career. I was going to be home for 36 months in a non-deployable command.
PapiBlogger: What anecdote best illustrates the unique challenge of being a father and a mother?
In think the biggest challenge about playing both roles at once are time management and discipline. As a single parent, you don’t have the luxury of having down time or being able to play the good cop/bad cop with your kids. And as a single father you have the added responsibility of handling things that moms usually do. For example, I had to experience my daughter’s first menstrual cycle. I did not know what to do. Luckily, I had friends who helped me with that.
I love my mother with all my heart and now that I think about it, being to able to give the “motherly” affection to my kids was really difficult. I remember as a child going to my mom for everything and my kids do not have that. Their mom moved 2,000 miles away to Arizona. I had to learn how to brush little girls’ hair, try to dress them, and teach them the importance of being young ladies. That was the most difficult part, playing the role of a mother. Time management was rather difficult also. Until this year, I had all my kids in sports, ballet, piano lessons, school activities and I was attending college full time at night. I wanted to show my kids that anything is possible and they saw that.
PapiBlogger: Are there any benefits to being a single parent?
I would say there is really only one benefit in being a single parent. That is the ability to appreciate your kids to the fullest. Even after a hard day at work, seeing their faces at the end of the day makes me appreciate them even more. I have always loved my kids, but now there are no words to describe how much I truly love them. Although it has not been long, the sacrifice to get them what they want has made me more humble.
PapiBlogger: How do you feel that society views single mothers versus single fathers?
I feel society view single mothers as the norm and single fathers as a rarity. I have been in many casual discussions about this and most people tell me most fathers would have given up if they would have experienced what I have. Being a single father has made me better understand and appreciate what a stay-at-home mom does, and how difficult it can be for single moms.
PapiBlogger: What are some tips that you can provide to a man who suddenly finds himself as a single father?
Communication is key and the ability to explain to always reassure your children that everything will be all right and that together, as a team, you can overcome any obstacle. Kids do not understand why certain things happen in life. Put your kids first and then yourself. You will have to adjust and start prioritizing what’s really important. In my case, we had family meetings until we adjusted. That really helped.
I think it’s important for me to add that I want my children to have a relationship with their mother. I plan to send them to stay with her in July as I am scheduled for deployment to the Middle East for approximately 410 days. Upon my return I plan on having them move back home with me.
What an amazing role model you are for your children and other Latino Fathers. Happy Father’s Day Miguel!