Gay Dad Jeff and Daughter AnnaBella, Hiking Through Life
This week’s #SingleGayDadSunday is Jeff; his daughter AnnaBella just turned 5 a few weeks ago. Jeff became AnnaBella’s dad when she was only 9 weeks old. Jeff is quite an extraordinary father; he believes that everything in his life up to that point has happened to prepare him for this new and all-consuming role in life: father!
Jeff learned all about love, family, challenges, hard work and rewards from his wonderful dad as well as his dad’s wife who raised him as her own, and whom he calls Mom. His family has accepted Anna with the same love he remembers receiving when he was a kid: his dad couldn’t be closer to his granddaughter Anna, and his mom has an equally amazing connection with her. Jeff considers himself one lucky guy to have these great people as influences on his young daughter.
Of course, Jeff faces challenges. Like every single parent we know, there is never enough time. As Jeff puts it, “I am always late!”
And another thing: Anna’s hair isn’t very easy for him. “As a gay dad who isn’t nearly [enough] in touch with his feminine side, I am at a disadvantage in the hair department! Poor girl gets a braid, a pony or a combination of the two! Oh, we did do a rag tie once, but her hair was too fine and thin to hold it!”
Jeff lives in a small town in Oregon and the dating pool is limited. As a matter of fact, Jeff was in a relationship when he suddenly became Anna’s dad. That relationship lasted the next three and a half years of her life. But, as Jeff says, "He was the wrong guy for us. Wasn't quite ready to grow up and have a family, not in the standards I want. Seeing her missing him and the way our separation impacted her made me really understand how selective I will have to be in order to try to build a family with another man. It would be amazing to find another single gay dad, but rural Oregon isn’t really the mecca for homosexuals!"
Daycare plays an important part in the life of this family. Jeff used to manage restaurants, but nowadays manages a wireless store, the type of job that requires lots of attention and many, many hours of work. There are not a ton of jobs in the area that would afford supporting a child on a single income! Jeff has been lucky, with great daycare experiences. His friends fill in when there are emergencies. Chelsea, Jeff’s best friend since he was a “silly 18-year-old” is raising her 3-year-old son on her own. Jeff has always looked up to her and sought her guidance while growing into the man he is now. Now they raise their kids closely together. This is how Jeff sees it: “She steps in and helps me a lot. Thank goodness between her and my Mama, the girl talks should be covered!"
Is there something he really misses? Yes, sleep! "I used to sleep like a rock. I needed about 10 hours to be satisfied. Sleep and I were close, the best of pals. Starting the first few nights Anna was staying at my house, maybe 3 weeks old, I couldn't stay asleep! I would wake up, in a rush and check on her. Now, I hear a snore and I am up checking on her. I am so definitely the over-worried parent! Once, I was driving down the freeway. Anna hadn't had her nap that day and was worn out from a day at the beach. I look back and her head was jackknifed to the side, her mouth slightly open and still as could be. I said her name twice, then shouted it. With no response, I veered to the side of the freeway, hitting the brakes and screaming ‘Bella!’ She woke up completely startled and I didn't sleep right for a week! After learning how to function on minimal sleep I realized all that can be accomplished in a day: breakfast, dishes, showers and hair, daycare drop-offs, work, work, work, daycare pick-ups, late dinners, dishes, laundry and an episode or two of ‘Game of Thrones!’” He’s finally caught up! Oh Cerci!
Making Time for Anna
Jeff tries to make sure he doesn’t work too many extra hours, but being a salaried manager in the retail world means there are times that he doesn’t have an option. He devotes his days off to Anna. "Times when I get the chance and of course a few sick days I will keep Bella home or pick her up early to try to get in some extra QT time! Last week we went to the Wildlife Safari; we got to watch a couple of grizzly bears tear apart a rib cage! A few months back I took a half day, picked Anna up and we did a five-mile hike in the Umpqua National Forest. Our backyard is where we spend lots of time!”
Making Time for Yourself?
A few times a year Jeff’s Mom takes Anna for a few days, and on those days he intends to grab onto that social life that has faded away. "I usually end up doing more laundry or falling asleep on the couch early. Occasionally Chelsea and I find a sitter and take a day trip to the coast or night out to the club out of town! Those little glimpses of pre-parent life are fun, but I am always glad to get my kiddo back and get home!”
The Perfect Day?
A day of hiking! “Bella has been hiking with me since she was a few weeks old. Her first time was in a Columbia backpack on my chest, snuggled in blankets looking like a papoose! We’ve hiked and explored many miles of trails together each year, and have explored all kinds of waterfalls! When Bella was about 3 years old we were hiking way up in the forest. She saw the light get caught in a dew drop as it fell from an old oak tree. Her imagination ran and she swore she saw a fairy! From that day on she would look for TinkerBell and her friends. She would see places that she just knew a fairy must live in and want to find them so badly. Now as we walk she explores as much as she can, finding flowers, rocks and walking sticks. Occasionally she will still point out a fairy house! Someday the goal after hiking all of the North Umpqua Trail here in Oregon is to start working on the Pacific Crest Trail! Also, there is a full eclipse that we have a date to watch together in 2037 up on the top of a mountain!”
Answers have been edited for clarity.