“My girls inspire me to learn and do new things,” states Kevin Hanson, single father to two girls, Kelina ‘KK’ and Kera ‘Kiki’, ages 10 and 12. Kevin works at TelEm in the finance department and has several side hustles, including DJing and cooking.
In 2017, Kevin’s fiancée was diagnosed with cancer. After doing chemo for about six months, her cancer was determined to be terminal. She passed away in 2019. “Her last words to me were to take care of our girls. It was the hardest time in our lives. Through this time, we talked and prayed a lot. I told my kids: she will always be with us no matter what.”
How did you get through your grief and the challenge of becoming a single parent?
A lot of self-determination! When people found out, many suggested that I should place my daughters with their grandmother or an aunt. They said, “What do you know about raising girls?” Maybe they said that due to the stereotyping of Caribbean men. I thought: “No way, they are my responsibility; I cannot abandon them.” Those comments made me want to show them that there are no gender roles when it comes to parenting. I can do everything a woman can do in providing for my children. I also remembered my fiancée’s comments in challenging moments; she always said, ” Your daughters gravitate to you.” I think this is true; even when they were babies, they would drink the whole bottle when I fed them and only half when my wife did – ha-ha!
What was something you had to learn as a single father?
Being a man, some of the things required in raising children might be things I didn’t learn when growing up as a boy. So, despite helping my wife with household chores, when the time came that I had to raise my daughters by myself, it was a steep learning curve. Cooking was one of those things I had to learn. My daughters are my biggest critics. They will say when they don’t like something. People used to say: “Why are you posting about a simple soup you made?” Because I was proud! That is not something I used to know how to make from scratch, and now I do.
“My daughters are my biggest critics. They will say when they don’t like something. “
I also quickly learned that planning and balancing my time is essential. I work from 7:30 am to 5 pm, so when I come home, I have to prepare meals, clean the house, do laundry and spend time with my daughters.
Often people say it’s vital for a child to have both a father and mother in their life. What is your response to this?
I agree that it is important that they have good female role models in their lives. Their family looks out for them and takes them out to places like the movies and restaurants. When it comes to ‘women’s things’, I have people who are close to me. I am the only male in my department at work, and my female co-workers have been very supportive. I ask for their advice, and they teach and encourage me. For example, when I started to learn how to braid hair, I would learn the basics from YouTube, and my co-workers would help to show me more refined techniques.
Braiding, is that something you ever thought you’d have to do?
No, but you just gotta drop the thought of something like that not being masculine. It is something my children need, and you know how much money I saved by not taking them to the salon? A lot!
How do you bond with your children?
One important thing I learned is that my daughters are two different individuals. So, although I love them the same, I must respect their individuality. I do this by making time to do individual things with them so that it’s not always the three of us. Also, if one shares a problem, I keep it confidential.
“So, although I love them the same, I must respect their individuality. “
Also, kids know when things are genuine. So, when you spend time with them, do it with your heart, do not treat them as some chore or task. I involve them whenever I can, even if we are just in our home and I am doing things such as cooking or cleaning. I want them to feel that I enjoy spending time with them.
How do you keep your children safe?
I teach them the basics of not talking to strangers and how to ask for help. I cannot be with them 24/7, so they know how to handle certain situations – for example, by talking to a teacher and as soon as they come home that they can speak to me.
How can single fathers or parents be better supported?
For any parent, it’s important to have a good support system of friends and family around you. If we are discussing what can be provided regarding public services for fathers, I don’t think there are enough seminars or workshops to prepare men to be fathers. Often you hear about services for children and women – but if we want men to be better fathers, we should also include, encourage, and educate them.
Any advice for single fathers?
Do not be afraid to ask questions.
What is the biggest reward of being a father?
The look on their faces when they see me. I will come home, and their excitement is contagious. I think to myself: “Wow, someone is so glad to see me.” That is just the best feeling.