One of my clients is a single mother, she wrote to me and said “Allana, I am trying so hard to be strong for my child but every time my little boy asks me about his absent father (who isn’t in the picture), my heart breaks. What do I say to him? Why is he asking so much many questions about a person he has never met?”
Dealing with the pain of an absent father.
I can only imagine how she must feel. As a mother, one of the hardest things to witness is our child in pain. We want to shield them from every sorrow and give them everything we never had; yet, I invited her to consider that that’s unrealistic and even unhealthy.
Part of setting our children up to win in life is to support them in navigating intense emotions and teaching them how to stay present and loving to themselves whether they are happy or sad. So many of us have been taught to suppress our emotions or that being sad or mad is bad. And yet all emotions are beautiful experiences, that when embraced, will lead us to grow.
Feeling guilty about an absent father.
It seems she may feel a wee guilty. Possibly, punishing herself for leaving him, allowing him to leave her, or permitting him to not be in the picture? For being a single mother?
Does this hit home for you? Sound familiar? Stop abusing yourself for not providing your little boy with a father, you have given him an amazing mother. You’ve done your best. It is time to forgive yourself.
Life is about choice, we choose to be present or absent. We choose to be involved or disconnected. Unless you have set up a barrier between your child and his father due to your own personal issues or resentments (so more of retaliation, all or nothing ultimatum), you have done what you can to provide the possibilities of his father to be in his life. Your job is done.
For those of you who have created a barrier in order to force the dad to choose you, ask yourself “Why”. Why would you be willing to subject your child to pettiness that deprives him or her of a parent? As adults, we must truly be the “grown-ups”, putting our differences aside, co-existing, co-parenting, co-loving for the sake of the child – even if we are in resistance of each other. Doing what is best for his or her family, not our own needs.
Curiosity about an absent father.
There’s nothing wrong with his curiosity, and nothing wrong with wondering why if other people have a father, why doesn’t he? There’s no need to make up fantasy excuses, no need to make it any more complicated than it is, just provide a simple age appropriate answer about his father. This will show him that it’s OK to wonder, it’s OK to feel happy or sad, it’s OK for life to look different than others AND that there’s always a blessing in every situation if you look for it.
I invite you to train yourself and your son to look for what’s right about a situation, what’s the gift in a challenge, what’s the opportunity when things don’t go as planned, where’s the silver lining?
I get there are disadvantages and challenges to being a single mother, I am a single mother; however, there are also advantages, look for them – they are there. Yes, you are doing double duty, and no, you don’t get breaks or a chance to “hand-off” so you can enjoy an undisturbed bubble bath BUT you get 100% of the return for a job well done. Whether or not your son or daughter has said it, you are Super Woman in their eyes, a true hero to be admired. I applaud you.