Patton Oswalt's Heartfelt New Essay Offers Comfort And Encouragement To Single Fathers

"You can do this. I promise."

A Plus' Project Dad content is inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul's Project Dad, a television series about the joy of fatherhood and family.

In April of this year, Michelle McNamara, true crime writer and wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, passed away suddenly at age 46. Oswalt has been open about his grief in the months since her death, penning a touching Time magazine memorial and sharing a heartrending Facebook update in August.

Oswalt's latest personal reflection comes in the form of an essay for GQ's December 2016 issue, in which he describes the experience of raising his and McNamara's 7-year-old daughter Alice as a single father. "I was half of an amazing parenting team, except we weren't equals," he writes. "Michelle was the point person, researcher, planner, and expediter. I was the grunt, office assistant, instruction follower, and urban Sherpa."

He describes his late wife as having "super-mom skills." Going on without her, he writes, "feels like a walk-on character is being asked to carry an epic film after the star has been wiped from the screen."

When he thinks he can't do it alone, Oswalt thinks back to when his daughter was first born, and when he first got married, and he recalls feeling "the same terror." But in those cases, he says, "I got the hang of it." And although he's made plenty of mistakes along the way, he believes he can get the hang of this, too. "If I can persuade a comedy club full of indifferent drunks to like me, I can have my daughter ready for soccer on a Saturday morning."


Oswalt hopes his experience will comfort and encourage other single fathers who may be struggling, because if he can do it, anyone can:

"I don't know what kind of single father you are, if you are one or ever will be one. If you're widowed or divorced, adopter or elder sibling. If you're feeling any fear or self-doubt, reassure yourself with the fact that I'm doing this. Me. Spend an hour with me sometime. I can't drive stick. I can't scramble an egg. I can't ice-skate. But I'm doing this. Being a father. I'm in charge of another human being. So you can do this. I promise."

Oswalt closes the piece by sharing that he does it all for his daughter:

"I'm moving forward — clumsily, stupidly, blindly — because of the kind of person Alice is. She's got so much of Michelle in her. And Michelle was living her life moving forward. And she took me forward with her. Just like I know Alice will. So I'm going to keep moving forward. So I can be there with you if you need me, Alice."

You can read Oswalt's full essay here.

Cover image: DFree /


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