I kind of feel like single dads get the short end of the stick. It can be awkward to take your kid to a playground full of moms, or to host a playdate when you know some parents are uncomfortable with the thought of leaving their daughter with just you, a single man.
It’s also true that we’re members of a society that puts single moms on a pedestal while kind of looking down on dads who do the parenting thing on their own. That's probably why we love stories where single dads triumph over hardship and come out on top. Plus, who doesn't love it when dads go above and beyond to be loving, caring, and devoted to their kids?
Richard Johnson's story was one that many parents could identify with, and one that touched many hearts.
Back in 2015, Richard introduced himself to the Facebook group Life of Dad. He wrote,
Life of Dad,
My name is Richard Johnson, and I'm a single father to a beautiful little girl named Persephone. Her mother left about a month after she was born. We still don't know exactly why, but we suspect post-partum depression played a part. In the first few weeks of it being just her and me, I stumbled upon your page by accident. I was so nervous and scared about being a father in general, but now I was a single father and had to fulfill two roles. I wasn't sure I could do it.
I had read every "new parent" book I could find and clocked in over 1000 hours in YouTube videos from everything to braiding hair and painting nails to theories on how to deal with common parental issues. I then started to watch your page more closely and saw that there were other fathers out there who were in similar predicaments as me. The page started to turn into a major confidence booster and really helped me through all of this.
I always look forward to photo submissions and reading the stories of some of the awesome dads out there in this community. You truly helped my daughter and me through a very difficult time.
We're both very happy now and continue to grow together everyday. She's now 10 months, and I now get asked by my friends for parenting advice constantly. We've come a long way, my daughter and me, and we definitely owe part of that to this page and the people within it. So from both of us, we wanted to thank you.
Persephone & Richard Johnson
The post got close to 100k Likes, and it opened up a conversation where other parents shared their stories.
A strong community is crucial when it comes to single parenting. After all, as Richard himself explained, it was reading about others in a similar situation that helped him persevere with Persephone in the months after her mom abruptly left.
In fact, the Life of Dad post got so much attention that Richard posted a heartwarming and vulnerable follow-up about how humbled he was by the internet's comments.
"You truly can't understand how much everyone's words mean to me. I am constantly criticizing myself on how I can be a better father and this was just the right medicine I needed," he shared.
He continues, "The days have been rough and at times I wasn't sure I could make it another day. I spent more then a few nights holding my little girl as she slept, weeping because I wasn't sure I was going to be a good enough father for her."
*cries silently into computer*
The internet displayed such a tenderness and affection for Richard's story that he decided to start a Facebook page exclusively dedicated to documenting their father-daughter journey.
Over the years, Richard has opened up about medical hardships Persephone endured, and how she came out resilient.
"I am proud to announce after a 3 hour long ultrasound, grunts and groans from our Doctor. Miss Persephone Lilith Johnson's heart is now at 100% health," he wrote one day.
He even shared some funny memes, proving that he'll no doubt be a pretty cool dad to grow up around.
They celebrated her birthdays in the most adorable ways possible, with her dad — who has an obvious knack for moving us to tears with his words — sharing updates like this one:
One year and 24 minutes ago. My beautiful baby girl was born. She changed my entire life. Breathed new hope into a broken man. Gave me hope for a better future. You calmed a storm within me. I can never understand how such luck was bestowed upon me. I certainly did not deserve it.
Miss Persephone Lilith, you are so deeply loved by so many people. You sparked an incredible amount of hope and love. They say the child learns for the parent, however I feel I am learning more from you than you ever could from me. I look at you and can't just help feel like everything will work out the way it should. Oh princess, this year with you has head so much for us. We have met so many wonderful and beautiful people. You've captured the heart of each. Persephone, I haven't been the greatest guy for a majority of my life, I was a man you would have not been proud of. I strive everyday to make sure I can be one you'll be proud of. So you will know without a single doubt in your mind that you are severely loved.
I love you so very much. You're painfully perfect and I just cannot express how grateful I am to have you.
I'm going to give you the world one day Miss Lilith. I'll work myself to death to do it. Everything you can ever want will be yours or I'm going to die trying.
Happy birthday my angel. Don't ever lose the joy you hold in your heart and never forget to smile.
In the two or so years since she was born, over five thousand people around the world have followed along as she took important calls, put on cool outfits, and ate very delicious food.
We even watched as precious Persephone (Percy, as they occasionally nickname her) got a new mom. In a heartwarming post about a year and a half into running his Facebook page, Richard posted:
"This lovely lady is my girlfriend and Persephone wonderful and gorgeous Mother Jennifer. We've waited a while to have anything on this page however Jennifer has been an amazing mother to Persephone."
He shares how the two met at a mall when she helped him pick clothes for Persephone.
I explained that I wasn't sure what actually matched and need some pointers considering my own closet had consisted of nothing but black, faded black, and dark black clothes. We had talked for months before I allowed her to meet Persephone. Upon meeting her Persephone had made the choice that this would be her mommy.
Since then, we've been witness to some fun family caricatures, Halloween costumes, and hockey games. To all the thousands of followers who have been there from the beginning, the Johnsons feel like family.
Which is why many were sad when Richard revealed earlier this month that he would stop posting on the page.
"It saddens me to announce that we will no longer be updating this page nor responding to anything. We have decided to let the page go silent. I will certainly save everything so Persephone can see everything when it’s finally time to tell her the story," he wrote.
Most of you have been here from the beginning and all our your heartfelt messages have meant so much to us. However it has come time to let this page go. After recent events, we will not be continuing with the page. We have had an extraordinary journey thus far and it’s certainly not over yet. I’m purging our lives of a few things and realize that would have to include this page.
It’s possible we will pick the page up again some other time down the line. You have all made a “chapter” in the book we call life.
I thank you all again for everything. Take care and keep writing your own story! It’s never truly over.
As Richard shared on his page years ago, "Life isn't about when the book ends, it's about how you decide to start the next story in your series."
We wish you a great next story, Richard and Persephone!