Every year, about a month before Father’s Day and for at least a month after, I ponder the same question. Why do fathers abandon their children?
My sons still have a father, they just don’t have a father to celebrate on Father’s Day, spend time with at Christmas or receive gifts from on birthdays.
Their father and I have been divorced for over 16 years. In that time period, they’ve had a relationship with their father for a total of 4 years. That is 12 years, all together, with no contact with their father.
As their mother, someone who thinks they walk on water I can’t help but wonder why, how, what the hell happens to cause a father to abandon his children.
I’ve read studies and articles on the subject and heard from men who have their reasons, but I’m still unable to process it as anything more than excuses for bowing out on their parental obligation. Below is a list of reasons some men abandon children and, my thoughts on those reasons.
4 Reasons Some Fathers Abandon Their Children:
1. Some fathers feel inadequate when it comes to fathering. Those feelings of inadequacy cause them to rationalize and come to the conclusion that their children are better off without them.
If I had known feeling inadequate as a parent got me off the hook when it came to parenting, both of my children would have been handed over to social services years ago. I’m pretty savvy at most things I do but, when it came to parenting my young children I questioned myself often. There were days that I questioned my actions all day long.
What parent doesn’t feel inadequate, unprepared, unable and downright overwhelmed emotionally with the responsibility of raising children without turning them into babbling, barely functioning adults? Seriously, feeling inadequate is no reason to cut children off. It may be a reason to do a little navel gazing and come to grips with the fact that parenting isn’t about how you feel but about how you make your children feel. Leaving them doesn’t make them feel all warm and fuzzy!
2. Some fathers don’t remain motivated to parent because men don’t get the recognition from society that mothers receive.
For me, parenting was never been about getting a pat on the back or recognition from society at large for the parenting I was doing. Parenting is a thankless job whether you are a mother or, a father. If the only thing that keeps a person is in the parenting game is the possible return on the investment they make they are in the wrong game…should have never gone there in the first place.
Parenting isn’t about having achievements recognized. It takes a lot of work to parent, work that isn’t acknowledged in a typical fashion. You are not paid extra, promoted to a better position, you don’t get vacation time or sick leave. Parenting is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
Are some fathers abandoning children because they don’t get recognition for the role they play or, are they abandoning children because they are too immature to understand the role they play? Parenting isn’t about someone making sure your stroke supply is met, it is about showing up for your children.
3. Some fathers feel disenfranchised by the Family Court system during their divorce.
I feel intense compassion for fathers who are relegated, by a wife who wanted a divorce and a Family Court, as weekend visitors in their children’s lives. My heart would have shattered into a million pieces if I thought, when my children were young, I would only have access to them on weekends and, if I’m lucky, one night a week. For me though, that would be a motivating factor in remaining a strong parental force in their lives. Isn’t only seeing your children every other weekend reason to parent harder when you are with them and not a reason to check out altogether?
As a mother I would endure mountains of legal debt, suffer through severe character assassination, deal with a ragingly insane ex (I did all those things) if it meant staying in my children’s lives. For one week, two weeks or just a few minutes a month I would endure whatever. For me, parenting isn’t about how often I see my children or how disenfranchised I feel as a mother, it’s about the impact I have on my children’s’ lives as a parent. If I’m gone for good, I’m having no impact at all!
4. Some fathers leave abusive relationships, leaving their children behind.
I heard this excuse recently. A father had a child with his girlfriend who later, became abusive toward him. He cut contact with the abusive mother and child because seeing his child meant having to put up with the “mother’s toxic behavior.”
He left his child to fend for itself with a mother who is physically abusive. I’m sorry but, this man isn’t a father or, much of a man if using the proper measuring stick. I would be embarrassed to tell people I left my children with an abusive father to save myself. In situations like this father’s, someone who was able to check out of his child’s life to keep down turmoil in his own life, can we all agree he hasn’t and never will earn to right to be called a “father?”
As for my ex and why he bailed I have my theory. Only he knows for sure, though. He is caught up in his own immediate self which, for the last several years has meant, “I have to worry about my own pain” type of thinking. He can’t have a relationship with his sons because it would translate into more chaos for him to handle and he isn’t open to chaos. Knowing him as well as I do, he is only repeating a pattern of life decisions that are familiar to him and feel safe.
My ex’s baseline for what is normal parenting behavior is different from mine. And his ability to work through difficult relational issues with his children is low because he is a conflict avoider. I think it is just that simple. Painful for our children but, really, no big mystery.
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