I was just wondering if there was a word for when a parent has to act as a mother and father to a child either because the parent is single and the other parent is absent from the child's life. Thank you!
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Single-parent will do in this case.
Single parent noun A person bringing up a child or children without a partner. - ODO
There are two ways to do this. One is single parent, as Nach contributed, although I would not use a hyphen -- in the U.S. at least.
The other way is like this:
My wife died young and left me with three motherless girls. It was hard. I had to be both mother and father to them.
When you choose this approach, it is most common to use it as in my example, with "had to be".
Note that the other, non-participating parent need not have died for this phrase to be used.