I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Thomas Mattingly

Parenting solo

Thomas Mattingling, Warwick, Hudson Valley, author, single dad
The opening lines of Thomas Mattingly’s new book reveal the shock many parents feel when they find themselves in a life situation they never expected.

“Single fatherhood? Very likely, you did not plan to be here.”

This is not the first book the Warwick resident has written. He’s also the author of children’s books and a novel. But this one, “The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball,” draws directly from his own life story, offering advice and inspiration to those who unexpectedly, and sadly, find themselves in his situation. 

Twelve years ago, Mattingly’s wife passed away; at the time making him the single father of a 7-year-old daughter (Jordan), a 4-year-old daughter (Katy), and a seven-month-old son (Wade.) Stunned and grieving, Mattingly clung to two indisputable truths to guide him. First: “If you have your health, you have everything.” And second: “Baseball is a metaphor for life.”

Throughout the years, Mattingly developed a game plan based around those two basic tenets. He concentrated first and foremost on keeping both himself and his kids healthy, and used baseball as a guide for how to deal with everything else.

READ MORE: Hudson Valley dad homeschools son.

For those who might not consider Branch Rickey, the former general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to be a great source of parenting wisdom, consider Rickey’s famous aphorism that “baseball is a game of inches.” Employing this philosophy, Mattingly says he focuses less on spectacular individual accomplishments achieved on a given day, and more on making small improvements that are consistently maintained.

An instruction manual for dads

Thomas Mattingly, Warwick, single father, , “The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball,” Hudson Valley

Until a fellow single parent suggested it, Mattingly had never considered publishing the lessons he had learned navigating his new-normal until a friend suggested it.

“She said, ‘You know Tom, you’re doing a good job of this and you’re a writer. Why don’t you share this with other dads, so they can see how you’re making this work?’” Mattingly says. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from perfect. But my kids have all grown up healthy and my daughters are geniuses. My son’s a genius, too, he just doesn’t study.”

Like all of Mattingly’s books, “The Single Father’s Guide” is written under his pen name of Matthew S. Field. It may not have reached The New York Times best seller list yet, but Mattingly and his editor figured out the reason why has nothing to do with the quality of the book.

“I think the reason for that is that guys don’t like to ask for directions. And this book is basically a 15-point plan with directions,” he says.

What your time is worth

Mattingly makes it look easy, but years of single fatherhood have led him to believe that raising a child does indeed take a village.

“We’ve evolved as humans to be in a two-parent family, or even bigger,” he says. “So that when one parent was dealing with something else – 10,000 years ago maybe somebody had been attacked by a bear and was recovering – someone else could step in to maintain consistency. When it’s just you, maintaining that consistency, day in and day out, can be challenging.”

For those parents who don’t have back-up, “The Single Father’s Guide” is full of ways to maintain that consistency, such as continuing family traditions and routines. That also includes avoiding taking on any new routines, such as the chapter in which Mattingly recounts his ill-fated decision to adopt a pair of kittens not long after his wife passed away. 

“If you already have a family pet when you become a single father, keep it.” he writes. “If you don’t already have a family pet when you become a single father, for the sake of your sanity, don’t get one!”

READ MORE: Hudson Valley father-farmer

Mattingly has spent his time as a single father navigating back and forth between working in corporate America and working for himself. Although he’s quick to point out that the substantial salary and other perks that came with his management jobs were always nice, what those jobs cost him in time was not always worth it.

Today, Mattingly buys and manages real estate with a few business partners, which makes the unexpected challenges that come up as a single dad easier to deal with.

“I think some of these smaller, entrepreneurial opportunities that I’ve had provided a whole different set of rewards, and some of them are not as measurable,” he says. “Like being able to study with my son for a science test this morning instead of having to be in Rochester at 8 a.m.”

Brian PJ Cronin is a freelance writer whose work appears throughout the Hudson Valley.

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