When Richard Johnson posted a message to Life of Dad, a social network for fathers, on Tuesday, he probably didn’t expect to become the object of national attention. However, the single father’s Facebook post went viral this week, garnering over 17 thousand “likes” in only a couple of days. Johnson’s movingly honest discussion of his fears about being a single father struck a chord with readers all over the country, who have chimed in to show support and share their own stories.
Johnson, 21, is father to a 10-month-old girl named Persephone. In his post, he writes,
Her mother left about a month after she was born. We still don't know exactly why, but we suspect post-partum depression played a part. … I was so nervous and scared about being a father in general, but now I was a single father and had to fulfill two roles. I wasn't sure I could do it.
Johnson says that he did everything he could to learn how to be a parent, writing, “I had read every 'new parent' book I could find and clocked in over 1000 hours in YouTube videos from everything to braiding hair and painting nails to theories on how to deal with common parental issues.” He explains that Life of Dad helped him through it by allowing him to see that he wasn’t alone. He adds, “The page started to turn into a major confidence booster and really helped me through all of this.”
He finishes by thanking Life of Dad for the social network’s support:
We're both very happy now and continue to grow together everyday. She's now 10 months, and I now get asked by my friends for parenting advice constantly. We've come a long way, my daughter and me, and we definitely owe part of that to this page and the people within it. So from both of us, we wanted to thank you.
Hundreds of people have left comments from Johnson, offering words of support. Many have shared similar stories. Chris Bowen, for example, wrote,
Thank you for sharing. My wife passed away last December 21st. My 5 yr old son, Kai and myself are working through our new normal. I never envisioned raising a son on my own starting at 4 yrs old. We have our ups and downs. I'm incredibly lucky to have such a loving son who gives me purpose to push forward every day whether I wan to or not.
Hali Harper Wright commented,
My father raised my sister & I on his own, for the first 4 years. until he married our step mom (although, we consider her our only mom & real mom!) as our birth mom left us also after my sister was born. It was I'm sure super stressful & very demanding But, now being a parent myself, I have the greatest respect for my dad, and he is and will always be my hero & best friend!
Johnson has expanded on his original message in a follow up post, writing, “I've been reading everyone's comments and I'd be lying if I said I haven't became a tad bit emotional.” He asks people to be kind about his daughter’s mother, citing the seriousness of post-partum depression:
Her mother is an amazing woman and I will have to ask the few people who had negative things to say about her to please refrain from doing so. No matter what she is the mother of my child and I only wish the absolute best for her. … Post-Partum depression is truly a tragic thing and I would not wish that upon my worst enemy.
He explains that many of his fears came from his own history of being raised by a single parent, saying,
I come from a family of divorce and was raise by a single mother. When my father left when I was 6 I didn't know I wouldn't see or hear from him again until I was 21. So being that I never had a father it was truly frightening to become one. Even more so when I was going to do it alone.... The days have been rough and at times I wasn't sure I could make it another day. I spent more then a few nights holding my little girl as she slept weeping because I wasn't sure I was going to be a good enough father for her. One night in particular was the night she first crawled. She came to me and laid her tiny little hand on my cheek and stared into my eyes. I took it as "Come on Daddy, we have a lot to do." So I told her no more crying for either of us and we were going to fight to be happy. We've kept true to that promise.
I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING.