I’ll admit, when my kids’ dad said he was leaving me and hitting the road, my first impulse was to hoard my children, shield them from their dad’s apparent mid-life crisis, and start a new life without him. I shoved that feeling down and never acted out or impeded his ability to see them. It just so happens he literally left the country for new career opportunities and adopted a nomadic lifestyle. It wasn’t long after his departure that I was on the phone begging him to please come home and help manage the emotional fall out that our separation was having on our kids.
As the months progressed, it became clearer and clearer that our kids needed their dad. By virtue of huge tantrums and wild outbursts from my six year old and quiet bed-time sobs from my nine year old, each day revealed more and more how much they missed having their dad in their daily lives.
The ex graciously continued to send money but I couldn’t help but express the negative impact his absence was having on the kids. They had been used to waking up every morning and sneaking into our room for warm hugs and kisses with him before heading off to school. It was his physical presence they missed and no amount of phone conversations or weak explanations would appease them. Of course, they never dared fully express the extent of their heartbreak to him. That was reserved for me. With him, they sought to entice him back by laughing at his jokes, feigning acceptance of his new lifestyle and holy shit, when he came to town it was like Jesus Christ and Santa Clause morphed together and graced them with his presence.
As for me, talk about getting all the grunt work and none of the glory!!! But, any present parent will attest, we’re not in it for the glory or we’d ship our kids off and find a different occupation all together.
I know there are scores of men out there struggling to obtain custody rights and access to their kids. And I know there are men like my ex who are absent because their work necessitates it. But there are also many who shirk their responsibilities, tire of their children, avoid the pain associated with their failed marriages or go on to start new families, leaving the prior ones behind. And, yes, women do this too. But as a left behind woman, with two kids who would give anything to have their dad back in their daily lives, I can only speak from my experience and what I’ve observed. This seems to be a predominantly male phenomenon.
My point is a good one regardless of why a dad is absent. Studies support, and life experience has illuminated, that children do better with fathers in their lives on a consistent basis. Anyone who impedes a man’s ability to have access to his children (barring obvious exceptions) is an asshole, whether it is the mom, the courts or the father himself. This has been the biggest issue by far in my children’s lives and I have many anecdotes to share here. For now, take my word, children need their fathers.
I appreciate what would be out of the box thinking by todays thinking. If the father is also of reasonable thinking, it’s a blessing if healthy contact can continue while adults do as they intend for their resolutions.
Thanks for your comment!
As for this remark:
“they never dared fully express the extent of their heartbreak to him. That was reserved for me.”
Nothing like being the vessel for all their sadness, anger, acting out, destruction, and watching their self-destruction and trying to be there as you help put the pieces back together again in the wake of a decision you never chose.
We don’t really know the full extent of the damage until years pass, and the children become adults. But those “left behind” pay dearly, in more ways than most realize.
Thank you for speaking so honestly. It isn’t what our “happiness” culture wishes to hear. It is, however, the truth of our lives – for so many of us.
“Nothing like being the vessel for all their sadness, anger, acting out, destruction, and watching their self-destruction and trying to be there as you help put the pieces back together again in the wake of a decision you never chose.”
Exactly! I am a few years into this and now have much more acceptance. But, it can be very disheartening to see my kids still suffering and acting out and recognizing my limitations.
And, re: the “happiness” culture…so true, it is hard to share the tough stuff with others which is part of why this has taken me so long and part of why I remain anonymous. Thankfully, some of it is funny and I am trying to figure out how to write about that without divulging others’ identities. It’ll be interesting. Maybe once the divorce is done, I’ll let it all hang out!!!
Yes, they need their fathers. They need an intact family AND no parent, mother or father should be left to clean up the mess abandonment causes. I can remember as a child finding HUGE comfort in knowing my Dad would never leave me. That knowledge took away all my fears.
When my children’s father left them I had to stand by and watch them deal with the loss of a security that I had treasured.Like you I eventually accepted the reality but that is the only heartbreak that remains from my divorce. As mothers I’m not sure we ever move past someone robbing our children of the very foundation their security is built upon.
Something I’ve learned about men from watching my boys grow up. They don’t express heartbreak to the one who breaks their heart. They do though eventually learn that loving that person is not safe. When they learn that, they let go and detach. That is when fathers who abandon children realize a child’s love for a parent can be conditional. When that happens it isn’t pretty for the father who left.
Oh my, chills and tears over here. “As mothers I’m not sure we ever move past someone robbing our children of the very foundation their security is built upon.” I was just telling my own dad (he’s a step-dad turned real dad), I don’t think I’ll ever get over the grief this separation has caused. But you nailed it, it’s beyond the sorrow of loss of the relationship for ourselves but the horror of being undermined as a parent and watching our kids suffer on a regular basis and being unable to fix it.
It is both comforting and distressing to know that so many others can relate to my experience. Thank you for posting your comment! It’s a real honor to have you here!
Many dads want more and after divorce are left wondering how they can be a big influence every other weekend, yes some dads just don’t care but honestly some dads get fed up with trying to fight their ex wives to see kids and eventually just give up. I totally get that feeling. Dads who are willing should be equally involved and any parent engaging in alienating behavior should have majority placement stripped from them. This would end alot of the bs in our system as well as having a presumption of shared placement when you have two willing and fit parents. Great post though and I agree.
I agree that dads who want to make the commitment to shared custody should be granted it.
Thank you for your comment!
Excellent post. Excellent point! It takes a lot of strength to change your mind, especially in a situation where you have justifiable anger toward your ex. You could easily cling to the idea that you meed to “protect” your children from him… But you see the bigger picture. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading and commenting! It’s been a strange evolution and I continue to struggle with how to handle the unpredictability.
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