If there’s no relationship with a father who’s absent, nobody talks about it.
If there is a phrase that carries the emotional weight of the world, it’s absentee father. We automatically think of the deadbeat dad, the emotionally distant father, or the man who chose to abandon his family for no other reason than selfishness. If anything, absentee fathers set the example of why single moms are viewed with such reverence, as they take up the roles of both mother and father. Ask any dad who’s involved in his child’s life and his reaction will be one of either disgust or hatred towards these kind of men as they will never understand why any man would chose not to be part of his kid’s life.
I have seen firsthand, in the lives of those close to me, the wonderful effects of being a son or daughter to an involved dad. I have also seen firsthand, in the lives of those close to me, the effects of being a son or daughter of an emotionally distant father or not having a father present at all in their lives at all. There are plenty of men who simply never grew into their role as a father for whatever reason. They never really wanted it and now that it’s happened, still refuse to step into those shoes. For them, I have little sympathy.
But there are others that have made me change my judgmental attitude. I am seeing the effect on a father not having their child in their lives, and this changed my entire perspective.
I have seen service men that due to their oath have missed plenty of important moments in their child’s lives. These men, not only risk their lives constantly, sacrifice their emotional state as they get to see their kids every once in a while on a screen for only a few moments. After that, they are forced to swallow whatever sentiments they have to focus on the task at hand.
I have seen men having to move away from their families and taking on the jobs away from their family as local options are no longer in sight, as they search for a better life for their kids. And in their search for a future for their children, they are forced to miss the lives these kids have now. Their only hope is that they child won’t have to go through the same sacrifices when their time comes. This is often the story of most immigrants who have come to this country since its founding.
I have seen men working 12 and 15 hour shifts simply to ensure that there is a roof over their kid’s head and food on the table. These men pile on themselves unhuman levels of stress, burning out before their time, with the only consolation that their children will have anything and everything they need or want, except for a father.
And the one that I have seen hurt the most men, and the one that breaks my own heart every time I speak with a man going through this…
I have seen men who have braved the worst that manhood has to offer, break as their involvement in their child’s live is limited to 2 days every other week after a divorce. I have seen men cry simply because they can’t read their son or daughter a bedtime story every night as they did before. I have seen these men struggling with this new life, one where they are no longer constantly present within their child’s life. And this is when the divorce was amicable. Just imagine the many cases where the spouse demonizes the father figure to these children.
We need to see past the obvious judgmental views, and realize how often these men are sacrificing themselves, sometimes literally killing themselves, as they are trying to be in some way present in their child’s life, even if it’s indirectly.
In many of these cases, the men are forced to swallow in their emotions, if for nothing else, as a survival method just to deal with the day by day. The problem is that after a while it stops being a day by day mentality as you internalize it, and that’s when your soul starts to die and you lose yourself.
In other cases, these men are swallowed by the emotional abyss, as they feel ashamed of not being there for their kids, or not living up to the ideal of being a father. This creates a vicious cycle as they fall further into oblivion every time they realize just how deep into oblivion they already are.
Gentlemen, in both cases, seek help. You can’t be of any use for your child if you lose yourself. There is no shame in asking for a helping hand. There is no shame in talking to your kids about it, letting them know what you are going through. There is no shame in talking to your spouse or ex-spouse (again, only in cases of amiable separations) so they know you’re working on being better. There is no shame in looking for help in cases where you’re children are kept from you and used as a tool to hurt you. (This last case can be viewed even as child abuse, so get your ass in gear.)
Men, we need to understand that the best father any child can have is one that’s there. Sure, you might not see yourself as the father you wish you were, but know what? Fatherhood is about winging it the best you can, about being there when your son or daughter needs you. The only way you guarantee not being a good dad is by not being there as a dad.