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.