As the single and sole parent of my five children for over 18 years now (2 boys and 3 girls), I hoped I would be a natural role model to my boys for the way to grow to be successful men. I wanted my boys to man up as soon as they were old enough. Work hard, be a leader, be kind to everyone, treat women with respect, protect and provide for your family, and be charitable. Qualities people think men should have.

But what about my three daughters? I couldn’t replace the mother who had abandoned them when they were so young. I could hope and trust their young damaged psyches were behind the scenes gaining more and more strength from a cautionary tale they vowed never to repeat as women. I couldn’t be a role model to my girls for the way to be a successful woman – or could I? Did I want them to “man up” too?

Was I being a good role model to them being a success in their work lives? I lived with that question for many sleepless nights. What I knew intuitively was that it was important for me and genuine to me to always tell them they were smart, beautiful and loved – which I did then and still do today. I know this is important to a girl’s self-esteem and success in the world of relationships and family.

But now, as I watch my second daughter move on in her career and out of state from where we have all grown up together, I wonder what valuable traits for manning up in the work world and being a beautiful woman they may have learned, if any from me? Did it help that as their father, I did my best to “woman up”? (Even though I didn’t like the bra-buying and other parts of being a woman)?

What even are the valuable traits? To best answer these questions, I finally just (a tad nervously) asked each of my daughters. What is the one thing they have learned from me in my examples that helps them be a successful woman today?

And here’s what they said:

Daughter #1: Work hard to be successful.

Daughter #2: It’s never too late to turn things around.

Daughter #3: The right thing to do is not always the easiest or most enjoyable thing to do.

Being a parent is like being a trial attorney in that you never ask your children (your witness) a question that you don’t already know the answer to. I already knew my daughters had (wo)manned-up but it’s even more gratifying to know that I may have been a role model in some way for them.

Do you think a father can be a role model for his daughters?

Author's Bio: 

Over the past two decades, Matt Sweetwood has become the nation’s leading advocate for single dads everywhere. In 1996, after his wife’s personality disorder turned violent, Matt was awarded full custody of their five children ages 18 months to 8 years old. Since then, he raised his children on his own, gaining expertise in a range of single parenting and custody issues, including dating while caring for children and the legal, social, academic, and institutional prejudices against men who are single parents. Today Matt’s children are grown, and he is currently writing his first book, a free-ranging and heartfelt memoir of his experiences.

In his professional life, Matt serves as President of Unique Photo®, NJ’s premiere Camera Store. Nationally known in the photography industry as an innovator, he has helped acquire over fifty US and International Trademarks for both language and design at Unique Photo, and he founded and ran the Ozzie Award winning publication Photo Insider®. Most recently, Matt has been credited with the reinvention of the modern camera store, as well as the country’s largest in-store education program, the Unique University®. Unique Photo was named “2013 Dealer of the Year” by Digital Imaging Reporter magazine.