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“I love you, daddy! You’re the best daddy in the world.”

Life doesn’t get much better than hearing those words. Whatever we could wish for in our lives, nothing means more than that.

As a single parent there is another side of the coin: “I miss you I Daddy.” It’s always hard to hear, and I have yet to find any suitable words of consolation beyond reassurance that, “You’ll see daddy again soon.”

As far as being a single parent goes I’m one of the lucky ones – lucky being a very relative term here – in that I have joint custody of my children and share in the everyday minutiae that are among the rewards of being a parent. I guess it is to the credit of each of us as parents that this arrangement was agreed upon between my ex-wife and me with no debate or argument. It was a given from the get-go (or rather, the get-gone).  

While traversing the terrain of single life and single parenthood, I’ve heard from people other than my children that I’m a “great dad.” However, the impact of their words landing is a little rougher. I have to be honest, at times it can rankle. Not in a personal way – it’s intended as a compliment and is accepted as such and I wouldn’t be so graceless as to throw a compliment back in somebody’s face – but it kind of niggles nonetheless.

It seems to me that when it comes to parenting, the expectations that society carries are laden overwhelmingly on mothers. At every step, from pregnancy to birth and beyond, a mother’s choices are questioned and scrutinized far more than a father’s. Natural birth or C-section? To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? To work full-time, part-time or to be a full-time mom? To buy prepared baby food or to make your own?

The list goes on, and with the answer to each question comes the inevitable weight of judgement. Judgement that seems to evade fathers.  

This becomes very apparent as a single father where the very fact that you actually want to spend as much time as you can with your children and share in their upbringing (you know, fulfilling your responsibilities) marks you out as a “great dad.” This prevailing social attitude of giving credit to fathers for something so basic is unfair both to men and to women.

Within such a culture, women are laden with unfair, “Superwoman” levels of expectation, while men are expected to be well-meaning, bumbling incompetents who deserve a round of applause for managing to wipe the right end (presuming of course that they would actually dare to attempt to change a diaper in the first place).

As a single dad who shares custody of his children I don’t feel I’m doing anything special. On the contrary, I can’t conceive of any reason why I would accept any less than that. But maybe I’m in a minority; if my conversations with single mothers are anything to go by then I definitely am, as I am staggered by the amount of men who choose to spend as little as two evenings per week with their children. Some see their children even less than that.

Surely, surely the least that our children can expect of us is that we are there for them, a constant physical presence in their lives. I don’t doubt that the majority of parents love their children but love isn’t enough. Loving our kids is easy, it’s hardwired into us; but love is more than a feeling, it’s an action repeated in the small things we do each and every day.

Love is a good feeling, but many of the actions that love requires of us don’t feel good, at least not while we’re doing them. Love requires sacrifice; it can be unpleasant, tedious, repetitive, and, frankly, a pain. There’s a name for this: parental responsibility. And this applies to fathers every bit as much as it does to mothers. Our social expectations ought to reflect that.

I said that we owe our children our physical presence but that isn’t enough. In today’s technologically connected world there is a danger that children are at increasing risk of losing out on the one thing they want more than anything else from their parents: their attention.

Young children in particular are attention junkies with a need for an audience that could humble a Kardashian. There are few scenes as indicative of increasingly normalized contemporary parental neglect as the one that played itself out next to me while eating a pub meal this week: a two- or three-year-old boy’s futile attempts to pry his daddy’s attention from the screen of a mobile phone. For an hour this child climbed, kicked, and craved recognition; he succeeded in getting the attention of everybody but the one person that mattered to him.

I’m not perfect and my parenting routine (routine, ha!) is far from a well-oiled machine. I can be snappy, and I overuse questions such as, “How many pairs of hands does Daddy have?” and, “How many things can Daddy do at once?” I’ve been asked on more than one occasion why there is no clean underwear in the drawers.  

But still, I’m a great dad, you know.

Actually (my daughter’s current word of choice), it doesn’t matter if you know. What matters is that my kids know. They don’t think I’m great because I see them once a week and tell the world how much I love them on Facebook, but because I am a stable, constant, and loving presence in their lives.

They can, and should, expect nothing less. Neither should we.  

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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