I recently read an article written by a woman that admittedly has Daddy issues. She was very open about her struggles with maintaining healthy relationships because of her deeply embedded fear of abandonment. Her lack of trust for her father had resonated throughout many of her interpersonal relationships. Like many people raised by a Single Mother, she hailed her mother a “strong woman that did the best that she could considering that daddy left them.” While her mother was placed on an empathetic pedestal, her father was admonished as a mere sperm donor that made occasional appearances.
I was awestruck at the sheer number of adult women in the comments section that have felt abandoned by their fathers. They were able to be extremely transparent with their disappointments and frustrations surrounding their broken paternal bonds. Daddy is the 1st man that you’ll ever love. Dad is your hero! He is the one that was supposed to playfully frighten your Prom Date with his unloaded shotgun. He is the one that you envision fighting back tears as he will inevitably give you away to your Groom. Many kids grow up knowing what a daddy is supposed to do for his children, but the gaping hole becomes so apparent as the years go by and they are not allowed to easily transition into their unique family structure.
Yes, there are fathers out there that are abusive, mentally ill or that lack simple human decency. In that case, children may be better off with supervised visitation or may best benefit if he forfeits his parental rights. But for the vast majority, there is a reason why dad was not with mom. There is a reason Dad became estranged from his children. There is a turn of events and a deep story of unraveling, irreparable love. This piece IS NOT about Dad’s however. It is about us women. We must hold one another accountable. And remember, if you can’t say Amen, just say OUCH!
I know many people cannot imagine their parents being in the same room, so the thought of them once being in love is outlandish! This is where Good Parenting gets blurred with working through your own pain and anger. This is where women begin implanting the seeds of trauma into their own daughters. Dealing with your own brokenness from a failed relationship can easily seep into your daily parenting. Your baby is a sponge. She is watching you. She will ultimately mirror you (whether she likes it or not).
You hate that your child still loves her father
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! I know this may be a tough pill to swallow, but your scorn will only be pitied for so long. Eventually, you’re going to have to get over it. You can fill your daughter with the same hate and rage that you encompass for her father, but she will hold on to it long after you’ve let it go….should you ever let it go.
You can turn her against him, you can convince her to skip weekend visits, you can train her to lash out at her father. BUT, you will see the behaviors again when she is of dating age, you will see those behaviors projected onto you as she enters adolescence. You are building an angry woman that may simply not have the tools to withstand a long-term marriage. The cycle only continues.
Stop talking to your daughters like they are your friends!
Many mothers, TELL THEIR DAUGHTERS everything that their dad did wrong under the guise of wanting to be honest with their kids about who their father really is. That’s a lie. Admit it, You’re pissed off! You are occasionally overwhelmed at the rigors of Single Motherhood. But, your daughter is not your homegirl that you vent your grown folk shenanigans to! If that’s the case why have you not told her Santa is, in fact, not real or about that time in college when you blacked out and….never mind. You see, you are selectively making your kid an emotional dumpster for the pain her father has caused you. Your child is not your repository!
Your daughter should NEVER call her father and ask him about child support, that’s tacky and it’s also a future prerequisite of a that one chic we all know that will gladly accept money from a man in lieu of his love. OUCH! Do not show your daughter pictures of her father with his wife and children in order to portray her exclusion. This is where you going beyond petty and being downright nasty. Are you trying to build resent? If so, it’s working. But dad learns to cope, mourns the loss of a living child and moves on if he must. Your daughter’s pain is just getting started.
That apology you’re waiting on may never come. Make yourself ok with it
He owes you right? Wrong. You owe yourself. Once you realize that broken vows and broken promises can leave you broken, it’s up to you to protect your daughter from the same feeling. We break our daughters in the midst of our own shattered pieces. She may have seen the fights, the tears and the split, but she can also bear witness to your resilience and the new family “set up”. She can be encouraged to love her father and not feel guilty about it. A man may feel vindicated in ending the relationship with you. He may have wronged you, he may never acknowledge you and your impact in his life, or he simply did not care about your feelings. You expected more, you thought you would always be able to atleast be friends. You were wrong. And it’s ok. Going forward, forgive yourself! You must forgive yourself.
This will be tough, but let that man love his children in the way he knows how
If he is not a major financial contributor, but he’s active in your daughter’s life, that’s GREAT! There are some dads that can’t hold a job to save their loves, but they would never miss your daughter’s school recital. Allow him that. Do not expect a breakup to entitle you to all of his money, money you knew he didn’t have before you laid with him. Do not tie him up in court in such a way that he has to work more in order to pay off exorbitant fees from frivolous cases. Truth be told, you like to see him work his fingers to the bone. That way you know he has less time to find happiness. You do realize this means he cannot afford to spend more time with his child? If he lives/works out of town and you were ultra supportive and acted as the father/daughter liaison while you two were in relationship, do not all of a sudden expect him to keep the schedule of a dad that is a few blocks away. You once allowed the kid to Facetime with unlimited access, you sent cute updates, you focused on making sure your daughter loved her father. But now that your relationship is over, his baby girl is all of a sudden unreachable. What exactly are you protecting your daughter from here?
He was an awful partner. That does not make him an awful father
This goes without saying. Some men cannot be monogamous. Some relationships WILL fail. He was a liar, a bum, a cheater. But your daughter does not see him in that light. You do. Why would you rob her of the vision that she has of this man? After all, these are her formidable years and her young mind is malleable. She is learning lessons that will stick with her for many years to come. You are systematically taking her protector away and replacing him with a creep. You’re letting her know she’s exposed without a shield. Little girls that are forced to emotionally fend for themselves early on, morph into that one chic that we all know that, “Don’t need a man!”.
He left YOU, not his kids
This is tough, because his emotional presence is gone from you, while his physical presence and emotional presence still live on through his daughter. He has to schedule a pick up/drop off with you, but you make yourself unavailable or you’re simply too argumentative to co-parent effectively at this time. At the risk of sounding harsh, the show must go on. You do not cease positive parenting because you’re mad at your baby daddy. In my favorite Shonda Rhimes one-liner, “You don’t get to do that!”
He’s gotten married and had more children so where does that leave (me)….I mean, our daughter?
I could not imagine the torture of watching the man who you thought you’d have it all with, actually doing “it” with another woman. He has built a family that does not include you. You must separate yourself and be willing to let his “new” family include all of his children. Many mother’s send kids to weekend’s with dad filled with their own resent. Your child becomes an ill-mannered puppet that regurgitates your sentiments about her father and his new wife. Your child will ultimately be torn between her allegiance to you and the love for her dad. You are important, however, you may not get exalted or acknowledged in his new household. Do not let a power struggle ensue and cause a rift that may destroy the paternal bond.
How does your daughter handle her 1st breakup
By the time your daughter reaches dating age, the effects of her relationship with her father, your maternal influence and her own individuality will be combined into a definitive foreshadowing of how she will handle love and loss within her own romantic relationships. This will be one of the tale-tell signs of the initial effects of the your daughter’s sensitivity to rejection. Does she lash out physically? Does she sink into a depression? Does she stalk or obsess over the object of her affection? Does she attack other girl’s? Does she seem to deflect her feelings and not show emotion? Has she found a boy exactly you’ve taught her to perceive her dad? The questions are endless, but it’s your job as a Mother to guide her, undo any damage, teach her to be gentle, kind and forgiving. You can bring up a hell-raiser that no man will be able to tolerate as a wife if you alienate your daughter from a doting father. We all want our daughters to pursue their dreams, have successful careers, find wonderful husbands and build a family of their own. Are you rearing your daughter in such a way that she will know how to avoid bad men? Will she know how to identify a good man? If you have been so absorbed in your own pain that you have jaded your daughters perception of her father (the 1st man she probably ever loved) then she may very well grow up to become a woman unable to decipher the good from the bad. YOUR unfair childhood, YOUR divorce, YOUR rape, YOUR parent’s tumultuous marriage, YOUR pain should STOP with YOU. Your child represents all that is good within you and all that is bright. Moms, don’t dim your daughter’s light, there is an entire world waiting on her to turn 18 and to expose her to the frailties of life.
If your child has suffered your breakup along with you, that’s completely unfair and simply too much for a young, impressionable mind to navigate. Your own bitterness will become evident and your child may ultimately suffer. Check out this article on Psychology Today. Adults that endured alienation as kids are able to recount and share their childhood experiences and speak on the dark effects of suffering emotional abuse at the hands of a parent.
Of course no relationship is perfect and despite our best efforts, they may fail BUT the side effects of a broken home, should not produce adults who have to recover from their childhood. Most of all, teach her that there are good men out there. Equip her with the building blocks in which she will sustain healthy romantic relationships. Most importantly, show your daughter the beauty of a loving, resilient WOMAN.