Sitting in a church pew with his five children stair-stepped next to him, William Duran looks more like Mr. Mom than an ex-con.
He's both. And he's found patching his life back together on the outside has almost made prison look like Sunday school.
“It's been really difficult, being Mr. Mom,” said Duran, 35.
Beyond dealing with his emotions and those of the children after his wife left, Duran has struggled most with getting baby-sitting while he works. In fact, he was temporarily laid off from his construction job of three years when he missed work because he couldn't find affordable, steady care for his children, ages 22 months to 9.
“A month ago, I was stressed out. I didn't know how I was going to pay the bills,” said Duran, who was rehired by his former boss and elder at Newsong Church about three weeks ago.
“There was the possibility of Satan seeping into my life. Satan and I used to have a good relationship, until the Lord stepped into my life,” Duran said.
Without a driver's license for a dozen years because of driving violations, he's seen in Grove pushing 22-month-old Dax in a baby carriage with Javlynn, 4, Devon, 6, Dustin, 7, and Denton, 9, in tow during carefully planned — and budgeted — trips to the store.
Similar struggles are common among Oklahoma parents raising their children solo. More than 168,600 single parents raise their children alone in Oklahoma, up nearly 19 percent in the last decade.
Duran represents part of the fastest growing segment of that population: single-father households, which jumped by 40 percent to 45,934. The number is still significantly less than single-mother households, a category that U.S. Census Bureau figures show rose by 12 percent to 122,699.
Some studies indicate the trend may be pushed by more men becoming involved in their children's lives after divorce, more often seeking custody or sharing custody.
But other contributing factors may be the state's great single-parent population and Oklahoma's number one ranking in incarceration of women. And single parents also tend to be short on money, thus limiting children's opportunities, said Linda Terrell, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy executive director.
“I strongly believe that having as many caring adults in the life of a child on a regular basis is critical for everything from early brain development, to socialization, to emotional skill development, to learning how to be in relations with others. ... As a single parent, you have a limited number of caring adults usually in your life,” Terrell said.
Duran said he's thankful that church members have helped fill the gap in support for his family. He said that's something he desperately needed as both a father and a recovering
He said he abused his common-law wife so many times that a judge
He said he's glad he served two years in prison, alongside murderers and child molesters, because he found God in church services held behind those bars.
He got out of prison as a changed man in 2008. But he said his common-law wife of 12 years had struggled in drug rehabilitation and ended up leaving him with the responsibility for five hungry mouths and hurting hearts.
He said they'll make it.
“I didn't turn out so well, but I'm doing my best, and I think I have accomplished a lot. But I'm not done. Being with the Lord, growing with him is an all lifetime kind of deal,” Duran said.
Terrell said communities can help by reaching out to the single moms and dads down the street.
“I would say vote and get involved in making sure we have policymakers and elected officials at all levels that are prioritizing children,” she said. “None of us can do this alone.”