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Robin Huebner reports: Single father raising 3 girls says it gets easier with time

From right, Corey Walther sits with his daughters Caylee, 11, Cadence, 10, and Rylee, 12, in the garage behind their Mapleton home. Photo by Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 6
Corey Walther takes his daughters Rylee, 3, Cadence, 1, and Caylee, 2, for a walk in 2005 in West Fargo. Forum file photo3 / 6
From left, Rylee, Caylee and Cadence sit in the golf cart they use to drive around the yard behind their Mapleton home. Photo by Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor4 / 6
Single dad Corey Walther prepares food for his one year-old daughter Cadence while Caylee, 2, left, and Rylee, 3, hang out in June 2005 in their West Fargo home. Forum file photo5 / 6
From top, Caylee, 11, Rylee 12, and Cadence, 10, play behind their home in Mapleton. Photo by Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor6 / 6

MAPLETON, N.D.  - He does things for his children that many parents do, but there’s one place where this dedicated dad draws the line.

Corey Walther does not do hair.

The 43-year-old father of three daughters has been raising the girls on his own since they were infants and toddlers.

“I remember trying to do their hair,” Walther laughs, “I still can’t do it.”

Now, his girls are 12, 11 and 10 years old – with the youngest celebrating her birthday today.

As the family looked ahead to the celebratory weekend, Walther said life is almost a piece of cake.

“It’s easy now,” he said, “No more diapers!”

The Forum first caught up with Walther when the single dad was juggling a job and caring for his then- 1-, 2- and 3-year-old girls.

He and his ex-wife, who lives in South Dakota, had determined the girls would be better off with him.

“I’m more stable and older,” said Walther, adding, “I wanted all this, wanted kids.”

His neighbors are impressed with how smoothly things go.

“It’s amazing, for what he has to do with the three girls,” said Kara Hendrickson, who lives with her husband and two children near Walther in a rural development in Mapleton.

She says during the school year, Walther makes sure her child gets off to school in the morning, and the two families often work together on impromptu child care.

Hendrickson says she probably relies on Walther for neighborly help more than he relies on her.

“And I have a spouse,” said Hendrickson.

Going it alone

Far more men celebrating Father’s Day today are the sole head of their household than decades ago.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data published last summer, 8 percent of households with minor children were headed up by a single father in 2011. Back in 1960, only 1 percent of homes featured single dads.

The 2.6 million households with single fathers in 2011 accounted for nearly one-quarter of all single-parent homes.

Walther is used to going it alone, because he’s had sole custody of the girls since his youngest was just a few months old.

“It was crazy back then,” said Walther, “it was so much work – just constant, constant.”

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said.

Walther had little support at the time, because his immediate family was living in South Dakota, but after he got organized, he was able to manage.

It helped that he had – and still has – a job with flexible hours. As a hearing aid technician/office manager in West Fargo, Walther can schedule work around his girls’ activities.

“I never miss anything for my kids’ school, ever, no matter what,” he said.

A few years ago, Walther was fortunate to get some household help.

After his parents retired, they began staying with him and the girls during the school year to take on some of the workload.

Walther acknowledges it might have been easier for him to remarry and have a spouse share in the child care and finances. But while he’s dated several women since his divorce, he says he never remarried because he always made his daughters his top priority.

“I can support them with this job, by myself, without two incomes, and that’s what I’m happy about,” Walther says.

“I think I did OK,” he says.

My three girls Walther’s three daughters are each just a year apart but different in many ways.

According to Dad, Rylee, his oldest, is kind, independent and conservative.

“She’s starting to mature, quick,” he said.

Middle daughter Caylee is “pure daddy’s girl.” He says she is shy and soft-hearted and always reminds him to take his cholesterol medication.

Cadence, whose birthday is today, is outspoken and talks a lot.

“She’s wilder than both of them put together,” he laughs.

Walther says his daughters are polite to him and others and do their chores when they’re told, but he’s not necessarily a strict dad.

“I let ’em be kids, I let ’em get dirty,” he says. “If they want to go play in the trees, I let ’em go play in the trees.”

Walther takes the girls to shoot guns for target practice and shows them how to fix things when they ask.

“We were raised up like tomboys,” Cadence says.

And Walther admits to spoiling them with plenty of “toys” for use on his two-acre property.

The girls tool around the neighborhood on four-wheelers and golf carts, and they have a trampoline and above-ground pool.

To treat himself, Walther has a “man cave” with a kitchen and bar, allowing him to host neighborhood barbecues and bonfires.

Special dad The fact that he’s so involved is just one reason the girls think their dad is special.

“He brings us places,” says Caylee, “to Thunder Road or bowling, fishing, to the lake.”

“He had to raise all of us throughout the years, and he worked hard for us,” Rylee says.

“He’s funny, and he makes homemade sausage and jerky,” Cadence says.

In addition, Cadence says her dad is great at playing flashlight tag or hide-and-seek on ATV’s, so she always wants him on her team.

The family had planned to go camping this Father’s Day weekend, but it didn’t work out – so the trip will wait until next weekend.

Instead, Cadence will choose the fun weekend activity, since it’s her birthday.

And Walther says he doesn’t want to miss a moment, because it’s all “going so fast.”

Only a few more years, and the girls will be doing their own thing in high school, and will be out of the house after that, he says.

Walther offers this timely Father’s Day advice to other dads who have sole custody of their children:

“Be happy, because it doesn’t happen very often with fathers, it’s rare,” he said.

“It’s going to be more work for them, but it’s worth it,” Walther said.