Hey dads — why don’t you see your kids?


By far, the most popular post I wrote on WealthySingleMommy in 2015 was January’s The real reason your ex doesn’t see your kids.

The reaction to the post highlighted what a devastating issue of absentee fathers we face in the United States. I am ashamed to admit how eye-opening the comments and shares were. Living in progressive New York City where my own hyper-left social circle is, increasingly made up of untraditional families, nearly all of whom include very involved fathers, including my own ex.

A bubble I live in. And the stats support my naiveté: According to Pew Research, nearly half of fathers who live apart from their kids see their children “several times per year” or less. Just 22 percent visit their kids more than once per week. That, in my book, means that 78 percent of dads who do not live with their kids qualify as absentee fathers.

I hear often from mothers who parent children with uninvolved dads their explanation of the men’s absence. These include mental health and addiction issues, incarceration, being selfish jerks, remarrying controlling/jealous women, blame of the mother for keeping the kids away/ turning them against the dad, inability to deal with responsibilities, and so on.

But I want to hear from dads: If you are not regularly involved with their children’s lives: Why? I want to understand. I will not judge you. I just want to hear your side. Please share in the comments. 



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18 thoughts on “Hey dads — why don’t you see your kids?

  1. My boyfriend only sees his daughter a couple times a year, and although I wish it were more, I understand why. When he was 19, the girl he had been with throughout high school became pregnant shortly after he discovered she had been cheating on him. Although he did not want the child, she thought it was a sign they were meant to be together. Needless to say, it didn’t work out, and he was miserable. He tried to be involved in her life for her first two years, but he became extremely depressed and suicidal, knowing he was missing out on his own dreams and experiences (and trying to coparent was an painful reminder of the betrayal). As a woman who doesn’t want children anytime soon, I understand this and empathize. If it had happened to me, I would have had an abortion, because I have a choice. He didn’t. I know her cares for his daughter, but he cares for his freedom even more. Women simply can’t be forced into that situation, and sometimes men can and are. I would be miserable if someone forced me to have a child I wasn’t ready to have, especially as a teenager. Perhaps this falls under the “inability to be responsible,” but surely it’s understandable to a degree. So often we are quick to point out the gender stereotypes than women face, and inarguably they are more frequent and difficult to overcome. But isn’t the idea that he should just “man up” and “do what’s right” subjecting him to the same imprisonment of gender roles that women have been trying to break?

    1. You offer an interesting perspective on your boyfriend’s experience. Thank you for your insight

  2. My son’s father didn’t want to comment personally, but allowed me to comment for him. He states one reason only, and it has nothing to do with our son. His reason was: “It’s too hard to see you (being me, the mother) when we hand our son off. Even seeing him reminds me of you so I would just rather not do it.” I don’t think this is necessarily true of the majority, but may be true for a minority of dads where relationships did not end with a clean break. Just my 2 cents.

  3. Sorry, I’m not a dude, but I’ve heard their BS stories on this one. I just wrote a post about my top three warning signs to run from the relationship, and this is #1: If your guy has accepted that he just won’t see his child, ask yourself how much he’ll prioritize a child he has with you. And then run, don’t walk, the other way.

  4. For most of my daughter’s life I have been an active and involved father. But a couple of years ago her mother and I seperated and eventually filed for divorce. A process, unfortunately, that is still ongoing for almost 3 years now. Even though I managed to maintain an active relationship with my daughter through out the seperation and impending divorce she is now starting to distance herself from me and resists spending much time with me unless she has to. She just turned 13, so I suspect much of this is due to being just a teenager, but even though I have 50/50 custody my soon-to-be-ex regulary flaunts the court order and unless I want to make big scene or fight it in court there’s not much I can do about it. It doesn’t help that my daughter is more or less okay with staying with her mom and not me and isn’t really making much of an effort to spend time with me. So I’m left with trying fight the battle because legally I’m in right and just create more stress, more drama and more confrontation, or just letting it go for now with hopes that the situation changes in the future when my daughter is more open to spending time with me. So in answer to your question, contrary to common belief, sometimes the choice of being the ‘absantee father’ is not an intentional one.

    1. Interesting perspective. And I agree that a lot of these situations are simply about kids being kids, teens being teens, and people wanting simple lives uncomplicated by schlepping between homes and dealing with unreasonable people.

      1. And how interesting would your perspective be if it were the father being the ‘unreasonable’ person and flaunting court orders and not allowing his child to spend time with her mother. Would you still hold the same laissez faire, live and let live attitude?

  5. Life on the other side of the fence.
    Hey moms why can’t dad see his kid as much as you. I’m willing to go as far as moving in the same neighborhood so it’s easier for everyone. Mom won’t commit to staying in a neighborhood. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Frustrated Dad:(

  6. I don’t see my two kids very often because when we separated, she moved the kids out of state and even commented that she would probably take a job overseas. She’s gone out of her way to make it difficult for me to see them. And has influenced them against me and badmouthed me for years. The kids will now rarely speak to me. It’s because they feel if they talk to me then they are betraying her. I’m still being punished for divorcing her. The kids and I have suffered greatly as she relishes in victory. Her selfishness is part of the reason I left. She didn’t learn anything. All cases are not deadbeat Dad/cut and dry. Plenty of times I called to talk to the kids and she wouldn’t answer. One time I came for a visit, the kids told me to park on the street as she didn’t want to see me. Kids pick up on stuff like that. The ex-wife’s have a huge influence and can play nasty games. Readers here speculate all you want…but that’s how it is for some fathers. My experience/two-cents.

  7. I will comment on this. From my own experiences, I believe that it is quite widespread for women to use children as a weapon to exact revenge against the ex during, and after, divorce proceedings.

    It is very easy for the custodial parent, usually the mother, to subtly alienate the children against the father over time. She may choose to make thing difficult, by arranging to be ‘out’ or ‘delayed’ when he picks up, by not answering the phone, by cutting off phone calls or playing the TV very loud, or by deliberately ensuring that a vital piece of clothing or equipment is forgotten on a visit so that the father has to go and buy another one, for example. I’ve had to go to court on several occasions. I’ve had all sorts of nasty games played by my ex. There is the assumption that the man will just sit there and take the abuse because he does not want to lose the child.

    If the mother sticks by the letter of the law, then she doesn’t have to share information with the father and contact with the child is severely limited. She may indeed have chosen to maintain to the courts that he was a ‘danger’ and tried to get orders of protection for herself in order to try and control the situation and control access to the child still more tightly. Of the divorced, professional men that I know, all of them had orders of protection against them by their wives. It seems strange that this brace of respectable businessmen should all suddenly be abusive husbands doesn’t it? However, this is even a problem that is recognised by the courts. Some attorneys go so far as to admit that the ‘afraid for my safety’ issue is part of the ‘gamesmanship of divorce’.

    When I was involved in exchanges with my ex, we would not approach each other closer than 50 feet and the child would walk between us. Even then she would still later claim that I had threatened her, or that she was afraid for her safety. I was often worried what would happen if she started to make untrue claims that I had (for example) abused the child. It doesn’t lead to a healthy mindset. When he fell over and scraped his arm when he was with me, I was advised by my attorney to go to all the trouble of going to the doctor, having the scrape bandaged and so on, having the doctor inspect it, just to legally cover myself in case she would claim that it had in fact been intentionally caused. It wasted hours of my limited time with him and to be honest that’s the main thing I remember of that visit. Which is not what I wanted. And then you have to lie to the child about why you’re going to all this trouble when they just want to ignore the graze and go and play.

    The father has to go from the mindset of being a father to the child, to being reduced to the status of a ‘visiting uncle’ or a ‘disneyland dad’ allied with thinking all the time like an attorney. On the lookout for anything that could be used against you. This is exhausting and hard to deal with, especially when he is constantly told that he is a bad person, a bad father, and has had all his involvement with the child systematically stripped away. The whole process becomes a painful sham.

    It is very easy for such men to become extremely angry and bitter. From being in that position myself, I believe that you eventually reach a crossroads with four paths. Some men commit suicide because they can’t handle the anguish. Others resort to violence and anger against the ex-wife. The thirds set take the difficult road, and sacrifice years of their happiness, battling on a hopeless battle with the ex, just to maintain some sort of contact with the kids. The fourth way, is to simply give up, and decide that the cost, to the child through seeing the conflict, and to oneself, is too high. The greatest good of the greatest number.

    I considered all the above paths for a long time and was tempted by more than a few of them. In the end, I walked away from all contact with my child more than 2 years ago. People who don’t know the situation raise their hands in horror, or pass judgement on me. ‘How could you do it?’ – ‘I could never leave my child’ – ‘I would do anything for my child’. I’ve heard it all. They assume that this is a choice that is taken lightly and easily. It is not.

    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. Sometimes I see children in shops that look like my child and find it hard not to break down. Sometimes I can’t take my eyes away. Even the shoes are the same. I don’t like to watch movies with children of that age in them. I had to remove all the photographs that I had of my child and every other item and put them in a box. And that’s where all those emotions are now. In a box, held tightly under control, so that I can try and enjoy some semblance of a normal life. It usually works.

    I spoke to my ex recently. She claims that the child is just fine. She doesn’t seem to think that I’m needed and believes that my seeing the child is a bad thing. She told me that the gifts I had been sending postally were in a box and he never got them. What is the point to trying? Who am I to argue? She lives with the kid and does the real parenting. All that I could do, once a month or less (she lives a long way from me) would be to visit for a shallow shared visit, a museum trip perhaps – that’s not parenting – that’s just being a disneyland dad.

    I am in despair that many people and the courts expect the impossible. They expect the man to be totally interested, committed, involved with his child’s life – and yet – they make it impossible for that involvement to happen. How can you remain interested and involved when you are given no information about the child’s everyday life, when even the most basic contact is made difficult or impossible, when you are limited to 4 days a month contact time if you are lucky?

    It seems to me that the family court system has swung too far in the direction of placating women at the expense of fathers. In far too many cases, the father is merely viewed as a source of income. The mother is viewed as the ‘real parent’ who almost always gets physical custody of the child. And once she has the child, she is then free to set about exacting emotional revenge on the father, almost entirely free of the threat of any consequences.

    It seems clear to me that the legal system, and the strange and twisted attitude of many women, have lead to this situation. A great shame for the children involved who will probably be involved in divorces of their own or be afraid of marriage because they have seen the consequences when they fail. I shouldn’t be surprised if more and more men eschew marriage and traditional family values over the next century.

  8. Wow John G. Very sad and true for many men. I only wish that my ex cared as much as you. I cut him out, but only because he blatantly disrespects me every time we speak and he causes me great stress and emotional damage. He does not want to see the child more than once a month or be involved in her daily life after many many invitations, so the situation is entirely different. Hopefully things will change over time and your ex will want you to see the child once they get older and want to see you too.

  9. John G. Your comment is exactly true I want to see my son very badly but I see no hope. I don’t want to give up but I have no other options I don’t want cause any problems.

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