One of the most common and heartbreaking topics I’m asked about is dealing with fathers who don’t see their kids regularly. A recent caller to The Emma Johnson Show had a typically devastating situation: Her 11 year-old-daughter’s father would go months without seeing the girl, and instead spent all his time with his new girlfriend. When the mom asked him why he didn’t return the daughter’s phone calls, he replied: “I don’t have anything to say.”
I gave her some ideas about taking the issue to family court, and managing both the daughter’s and her own expectations (stop trying to control him – you can’t). But the advice the mom told me that was most surprising and helpful was this:
The reason that a parent does not fight to be intimately involved with their child is because their sense of self-worth is low.
When you recognize that your child needs you — and you are valuable to them — you show up. You take parenting as a responsibility — not an extracurricular activity.
I’m working on that attitude as both a divorced parent and a child of divorce. My own dad was not involved in most of my life — and that devastated me in ways I don’t yet fully understand, but I have harbored a lot of anger about it. My ex is an awesome father, but there was a time when he was not as reliable as I would have hoped, related to what I wrote about a little bit here. Over the past half year I have let go of a lot of the rage I harbored for my ex over all kinds of things. But I see now that when he is not there for the kids, it is because forces bigger and darker than him are at play. And those things prevent him from being the parent he wants desperately to be — and enjoy his children as much as he otherwise might. Recognizing that allows me to be kinder to him, spend less toxic mental energy managing the situation. I’m a happier person and better mom because of all of the above.
So when your heart breaks because he stood your son up again, are enraged at his disregard for your time at yet another last-minute cancelation, or your daughter knows her dad is on vacation with the new girlfriend but says he can’t afford to see her, you are 100% entitled to be livid. Because that is bullshit.
But it is also a sign of a broken person.
So practice forgiveness. And practice empathy.
And report in the comments how it’s going.
Listen to my Like a Mother episode ‘If he doesn’t see his kids, don’t fuck him’:
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