What to tell your kid when their dad is not involved

child misses father

 

Dear Emma,

When my daughter was six months old, her dad left and more or less never showed up again. There were a few visits for a few years, and a couple of visits to family court for child support, but since then we have not heard or seen from him. My daughter is now 8 years old.

We don’t talk about it much and I feel like it isn’t such a huge deal. She is a great kid — does well in school, has lots of friends and is polite. We are close with my parents and siblings, who live nearby. I am glad that I get her all to myself and don’t have to share custody like some of my divorced friends. Sometimes people say things to me like, “I feel so bad for her that she doesn’t know her father.” She never mentions her dad, and I feel like she doesn’t care. She doesn’t know any different. What should I tell all these rude people who judge our situation?

— Shannon

 

Dear Shannon,

I’m not worried about your rude neighbors. I am worried about you and your daughter.

When a parent is absent from a child’s life — no matter by choice, imprisonment or death — it is a loss. It is a loss for that child and a loss for those who love her.

We are all socially conditioned and predisposed with a deep need to know both our mother and our father. Socially, it is easy to understand that the majority of people grow up living with both a mother and a father — and nearly everyone else knows both parents. That is the norm. Your daughter is very aware that her family does not look like other families. She understands deeply that most of her friends have relationships with their dads and she does not.

We are biologically half our mothers and half our fathers. Humans have a intrinsic need for family. We yearn to know our relatives so that we can better know ourselves. When we are raised apart from our families, homelands and extended cultures, there is a sense of loss that transcends our daily experience. This explains why people who are adopted are compelled to find their birth parents — no matter how wonderful their adoptive families. This also explains why humans are driven to visit their ancestral homelands, even when they are removed from the place by generations.

Not every person will know both their parents. This is a fact. This does not mean that your daughter does not have a fantastic life, or that she is a wonderful child who will grow up to be a happy, productive and lovely adult.

Mourning when your child’s father is not in his or her life

But those things do not preclude loss and grief. Your daughter has experienced a great loss. She does not know her father. She is different from other kids. And she also has a mother who dismisses this loss. When grief is ignored or belittled, it creates shame. I don’t care what your daughter expresses outwardly, she is deeply affected by this situation.

Before you can help your child, you must address your own loss and grief. When your ex-husband left and abandoned your daughter, he also abandoned you — both as a husband but more to the point here, as a co-parent. You also suffered a loss in that you do not have someone to help raise your daughter — even if it means separately, as divorced parents. You do not have anyone to enjoy their sweet habits, or commiserate on the daily challenges of parenthood. You do not enjoy a co-parenting arrangement that gives you a break. Most of all, you suffer because deep down you know that your daughter is hurt. That, for any mother, is devastating.

This situation can be changed. But you must take action.

First, you must recognize the situation for what it is: A huge, giant, grave loss. It is not your fault. It is life. But it is your responsibility as a parent to address it. First, acknowledge how this has affected you personally. Lean into that pain. Right now you are avoiding that pain, which is why you are dismissing it in your daughter. Just sit with it. Cry, scream, punch the refrigerator or write him an angry letter you never send. Whatever is your way, go there.

Then, recognize that he is human. When a parent abandons a child, that parent is deeply wounded. There is a reason they cannot fulfill their responsibility. They do not recognize they are worthy of being needed, or can bring value to another person’s life. Your ex misses out — in a very major way — of the joy of raising and loving his child. He also suffers knowing that he deeply hurts her. Every day.

Recognizing this is part of the process of forgiveness. It involves empathy and grace. It will take time. But you must get there — for your sake, and that of your daughter.

While you work through that, you must now face your daughter.

Talk with her. Say: “I’ve been thinking a lot about your dad. I imagine you do, too. How do you feel about the fact you don’t know him?”

Ask her how she feels when she visits friends who live with their dads — or have visitation schedules with both their divorced parents. Tell her about her father, how you met him, what you liked and loved about him. Tell her stories about your time with him, and stories he told you about his life. Tell her about his family and jokes he told. Ask her what she’d like to know about him. Answer honestly — including about the part where he left. And why he doesn’t call. If you don’t know how to answer some questions, say so. “I wish I knew, but I don’t.”

That is just the first conversation.

Have another the next week.

And the next.

You may not have weekly conversations about your daughter’s father for the rest of your lives. But get into a habit of talking about him. About her father. Give her permission to ask, and to feel. Do not sugar coat the information, or your own feelings. Especially as she gets older, tell her what really went down, and how absolutely infuriated you were — and maybe still are. By recognizing your feelings and sharing them honestly with her, you give her permission to recognize and honor her own, complex and human feelings.

Only then can both of you move forward with a full, wonderful — and complex — life you were meant to have.


Related:

A dad explains: “Why I don’t see my son.”

My kid’s dad isn’t involved and I don’t know what to say

The real reason your ex doesn’t see the kids

How to get dads involved in divorced and separated families

Close the pay gap? Get dads involved? 50-50 visitation and no child support

Should you date a guy who doesn’t see his kids?

 


Absentee fatherhood is a huge, complicated problem in this country. Incarceration, a culture and family court system that presumes fathers are incompetent, and other lack of support for shared parenting are among the causes for the fact that just 22 percent of fathers who don’t live with their kids see them once per week or more, according to Pew Research, and nearly a third never see their kids.

This, of course, is heart-breaking for your child, and stressful for you as a single mom.  If your child’s dad is not, or marginally involved, there are a few guiding principles for addressing your child’s concerns and questions.

What to say to your child when his dad is not involved:

  • Be honest. Don’t say he died if he didn’t. Never say “He’s working far away.” Your child deserves the truth, even if it is painful for both of you to address.
  • Be kind, and keep your feelings out of it. “Being a parent is really hard for some people, and your dad wasn’t ready to be a parent yet.”
  • As you will do in your relationship with your child’s father, as well as in your own heart, you will keep the door open to future, improved relationships. At the same time, be very careful not to nurture false hope in your child. It’s a tough balance, but an important one. Note in the “yet” in the sample script above.
  • Answer all their questions. “I’ll tell you when you’re older,” or “We don’t talk about that in our family.” These create the notion of secrets, and secrets foster shame, self-hatred, and lack of trust.
  • Highlight the fact that there are all kinds of families, and every family is whole. Even if it feels silly, as you go through your day, or are watching movies or TV, point out gay families, interracial families, kids being raised by grandparents, multigenerational households, friends who live together, foster and adoptive families, how some groups of friends create families, and on and on. Then, name the people in your family — blood relatives, friends, your neighborhood network. Do this enough and nuclear, married, straight families start to seem like the weirdoes!
  • That said, do not dismiss or minimize pain that a child experiences by his father being absent from his life. It might be really, really hard to hear, but listen. It sucks to feel like you’re the only kid at school whose dad isn’t around. It hurts like hell when your birthday comes around and your father doesn’t call. You worry you did something wrong, or you’re unlovable, or deeply flawed — no matter how great your mom and life are. My father was mostly not part of my life after age 8, and there was no space for me to talk about it. Growing up with my mom, I heard no positive stories about my father, and no space for any of us to ask questions, or to share hurt feelings about the matter. The few times I remember asking about my dad, I was just reminded of how good our life was, which only made me feel stupid and selfish for feeling so horrible for not having an involved father. I think my mom felt really bad about the situation, and didn’t know how to deal with her own feelings, much less her kids’. Fast-forward to today, after plenty of therapy and other ways of processing my daddy issues, I now find myself answering my children’s questions about why they don’t know their paternal grandfather. While your son or daughter is not your bartender, talking with your child openly can be a wonderful way to heal your own heart, too.
  • Do not always wait for your child to ask. For many reasons, your child may not bring up the fact that her father isn’t part of her life. It is up to you to talk about it very early, even earlier than you may think reasonable. One day, when my daughter came home from school and said, “Today Sofia talked about how both our parents are divorced.” She was 3! Even as a toddler your child sees her friends with two parents. Movies and TV shows and books are powerful messages, consisting almost always of a mother and father. It is your responsibility to address this, even if she doesn’t initiate the discussion.
  • Remember: Life is long. The questions will continue throughout your life, and each conversation at each age will lend new perspective and healing for both you, your child, as well as your relationship with each other.

 

Is your child’s father not as involved as he should be? How do you deal with it? What mistakes have you made? What advice can you share with other parents? Share in the comments…

 

Single mom parenting after divorce. My kid's dad is not involved and I don't know what to say to her. First, you must recognize the situation for what it is: A huge, giant, grave loss. It is not your fault. It is life. But it is your responsibility as a parent to address it.
emma johnson family
Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list. Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

45 Comments

  1. Jennifer Fink on December 21, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Great post, Emma! Off to share.

    • Emma on December 23, 2016 at 6:46 am

      muah!

      • b on October 17, 2017 at 5:44 pm

        I feel this type of article only serves to further the concept that one parent families aren’t “whole.” Using your logic, a child from a two parent family who is an only child must be spoken to about the pain and loss they feel because they see that other kids have siblings, while they do not. This line of argument does not hold water and only serves to hold old outdated stereotypes in place. What about kids of single moms by choice? Or adopted kids? Should these kids be forced to mourn for absent family members? Also this again places the blame and onus on the mother who was not the one to do the abandoning. Surprised and saddened to see something like this on this type of site.

        • Lezlie on February 28, 2018 at 8:54 pm

          Just except it for what it is.
          Kids need both a mother and father in a household.
          “Out dated” stereotypes is the fundamental reason our youth is so troubled. Except it.
          Numbers and statistics don’t lie.
          I’m a single mom I get. That it’s hard to admit it. We are suppose to be strong and be both parents I have far exceeeded that but my children without a doubt needed and man of the house, father figure that they see everyday.
          My son needed a role model to aspire to be.

          • Mark on May 12, 2018 at 3:16 pm

            “Kids need both a mother and father in a household”.

            Wrong: kids need stability which has nothing to do with the parents’ sexual orientation.

            Just let you know: the parents’ sexual orientation does NOT determine the quality of the kids’ education or of his future life.

            I had a father and a mother (=white, heterosexual couple) who failed 10000% in their job and role. They both failed me as a child, but not as a human or a man.

            I’ll stress it again: kids need stability regardless of your skin colour or sexual orientation/preference.

          • Melanie on August 1, 2018 at 6:00 pm

            Educate yourself (maybe you can start by learning the difference between “accept” and “except”) and enter the 21st century already. If single, WEALTHY women have enough time and finances to adopt or have a child with a sperm donor and then parent that child, then they should be all means do whatever they feel comfortable with. Or are you one of those super conservative Christians who think orphans are better off alone and starving unless they can be adopted by straight, married people? Plenty of married couples who are neither financially responsible or emotionally capable of parenting choose to have children to “save the marriage” and it never works out. My mom’s dad was killed before she was born and she and her siblings went on to become successful, emotionally stable individuals, and never felt like they “missed out”. She became a nurse, bought her own house, and her brother became a neurosurgeon. Meanwhile, school shooters are frequently the product of married couples. So much for creating stability in the home…

        • Oscar the rouch on March 29, 2018 at 9:16 pm

          to “b”:

          Sorry, but all the research indicates that children who’ve had a parent abandon them do have more problems developing relationships in their future, and develop trust problems. Many have lifelong attachment disorders.

          I’ve seen it and experienced it – the kids frequently blame themselves for their missing parent not being part of their lives. This may seem nonsensical to an adult, but that’s how a child frequently takes it.

          Divorced parents have a lifelong obligation to their children, and should stay involved, even if they are not living under the same roof.

          Emma is telling us how best to mitigate the situation if one parent simply stays away from the child.

          – From a singe father whose wife abandoned their two surviving children after our youngest child died.

          • Candy on June 9, 2018 at 2:29 am

            I’m so sorry to hear that. It breaks my heart. Good for you for being strong

          • Melanie on August 1, 2018 at 6:10 pm

            The person who wrote to Emma said her child’s father abandoned them when her daughter was only 6 months old and has hardly ever returned to visit since. I can’t remember anything that happened to me at 6 months old, and if I see someone once a year or once every three years or even less frequently, then I definitely don’t get close enough to them to miss them or even care if I see them ever again. They might as well be a sixth cousin, twelve times removed. This is the father’s loss, not the daughter’s. People seem to WANT this child to be sad; that’s pretty sick. You can’t miss someone you can’t remember; I don’t care what the right-wing Christian propaganda says. If your child’s mother WAS a constant at some point in their lives (when they were old enough to REMEMBER her) and suddenly that changed, then you are comparing apples to oranges here.

        • Natasha on May 17, 2018 at 11:28 pm

          I agree with you. This was disturbing to reach and very much biased to Father’s and how the mother somehow failed bc the father chose not be around. Sounds like your daughter is a happy kid and I wouldn’t talk about a man who chose to leave. I wouldn’t have the conversation until she asked.

        • John on July 25, 2018 at 2:53 pm

          Do you advocate that a child who shows no emotional loss for a parent that passed away that nothing should be done? Just go about daily life as if nothing happened?

          A child without one or more biological parent in their life is dealing with a loss. As a parent to that child, you must allow the child to freely express their feelings about why someone is not in their life and as a parent be able to deal with those questions or bring them out yourself.

          A family is whole to a child as long as the child feels love. If a child feels some rejection, the family to that child is not whole even if you want to see it as being whole.

          People hide emotions all the time and only those that are very loving will see that emotions exist.

          Unfortunately, too many single parents only see their hate for their ex-partner and do not see the pain a child is going through and the child cannot express their feelings because the parent brings out that hate when the subject comes up.

          Also, a child with no siblings does deal with emotional loss. They want to do something and if the parent is not available, they will feel the parent is never there for them. They will wish they can have a sibling they can talk to or play with. A child with other siblings also feels a loss if they feel they are competing for love from their parents with other siblings. Good parents understand that children do not always perceive things the same way as adults do and learn to deal with it before the issue becomes out of hand.

          I am surprised and saddened that I can only find an article like this on a blog and not on mainstream media that has a wider reach. It’s clear that too many parents out there do not understand how kids feel.

        • Nyx on July 30, 2018 at 5:17 pm

          You’re the stupidest ‘b’ I’ve ever had the misfortune to read.

        • Babemi on August 22, 2018 at 10:34 pm

          I bet you are female right? I am willing to bet that. Sometimes many women feel that they can raise a child without a father but research shows that this children are not happy. It is a fact of life.

        • Nicole on September 12, 2018 at 4:43 pm

          I agree. It seemed very biased.

    • peter on May 10, 2018 at 1:41 pm

      The article is very good, but it keeps mentioning the father who abandoned the child. Many men have not abandoned their kids, but are locked out of their kids’ lives by the mother. In my case, the mother is hiding a child from me that she never told me she had. Some women get pregnant, leave their partners, and years later the man is in for a surprise. We are denied the chance to love our xhildren while they are young, all because of the selfish desire of a woman to have a child as though it were a little subject to worship her. Btw, since someone will no doubt comment, let me just say now that i am employed, have nevee done drugs, don’t drink, and am not abusive. Sometimes it is just the woman who uses a man to get pregnant and then separates the father from the child. She gets what she needs (a child all to herself) to the devastation of both father and child.

      • Nyx on July 30, 2018 at 5:19 pm

        That would be a different article.

    • Kristina on June 19, 2018 at 7:14 am

      The person who wrote the Answer is such an Idiot that I have not seen ever in my life. Who gave you permission to judge single moms and tell this load of rubishes. That this child suffers and is ashamed because some asshole abandoned her. Award for the most stupid answer on internet. Some people should not have access to internet. Especially not to “help”.

      • Kristina on June 19, 2018 at 7:45 am

        I am unhappy to ever reach such stupid Article. So, it turns out that child cannot happily enjoy in his or hers childhood because they have emotionally disturbed father. So better that child be abused by father who doesn’t love her or him then to live happily in peace with mother only. Why Internet exists my God!!??? So it would give us more crap into our homes.

  2. Esme on December 26, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Damn it’s hard. I have two children, 17 and 6 who saw their dad no matter what until 7 months ago when he had a girl with a 24 year old round the corner. For the 9 months he said he didn’t want a baby wouldn’t be there etc et. She befriended me for 2 years saying he was a loser etc and then the weekend before she gives birth tells us he takes ketamine, cocaine and will not be in her childs life and shouldn’t let him see my kids. Fast forward 7 months he has not bothered with my children apart from 1 card saying he loves and misses them so much!!!! But lives one road away and all his family are flaunting everything on Facebook even though they said they didn’t like the woman. Oh there was some contact, in October he threw a brick through my window
    At 1.30am, which also hit my car. He pleaded guilty went to court and is paying £50 a month compensation (£300
    In total) when the window and dent is costing me over £600. The day he went to court he broadcasted ‘ha ha what a result’. I am so hurt that I have to write this instead of keep reading everyone else’s comments. He lives round the corner earning £500 cash a week and the CSA can’t get anything off him, whilst the woman gets housing benefit ….
    Sad thing is this woman has a 6 year old son which he is bringing up. I tried to be honest with my kids and talk about it but it hurts. It hurts that he doesn’t care, love or fight for them but lives one road away. What do I say, ‘yeah he don’t care’ I put my house up for sale to move but cannot afford stamp duty etc and why should I move- to be happy? It hurts so much that for 20 years although not always together he cared and looked after and always saw the children. People says it’s the drugs but he doesn’t take drugs all the time. He said to me once she buys his drugs etc, but that is no excuse. How do I get over this?

    • Mark on May 12, 2018 at 3:20 pm

      Esme, take my advice: take your kids and run away!

      The man will ruin your kids’ life. They owe him nothing! Nothing!

  3. Sue on February 23, 2017 at 9:35 am

    I had a child with a FWB years ago, I lied about being on the pill even though I knew he didn’t want kids but thought because he was a decent guy, he would stand by me. He didn’t, so I had to bring up my son up alone until I met my husband (the father always paid child maintenance but never had any contact with my son). It was my husband that made me realised what I had done to my sons father was very wrong. I didn’t see it at the time as I felt the father had let me and my son down but as my husband said, it’s wrong to force someone to do something they don’t want to do just to keep someone else happy (especially as we were not in a relationship). I look back and realise how selfish I was by trying to force this man into fatherhood and taking money from him for child maintenance… I no longer accept child maintenance from my sons Dad as my husband pays for him as he does with our own children. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, although it seems wrong for a father not want to be in a childs life, it’s not always as black and white as ‘it takes two to make a baby so those two people should be in the childs life’… I regret what I did to my sons father but I don’t regret my son being here…. I’m just glad I finally met an amazing man who is an amazing father

    • Frank Lee on March 6, 2017 at 7:35 am

      You probably have no concept of the hell you brought to that man’s life.

      You need to beg that poor man for forgiveness.

      • Lezlie on February 28, 2018 at 8:57 pm

        I agree that was wrong but what a gift. A child.
        Maybe that’s the chance someone takes when they have sexual relations outside of marriage.

    • jb on June 2, 2017 at 3:03 am

      I agree that is a terrible terrible thing to do

  4. Emmy on October 29, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    This is an interesting response. I wonder what you would say when it comes to gay families with two mothers and no father or two fathers and no mother? Or a single mother by choice (perhaps she used a sperm donor). Will all these children be suffering grave losses as well since they don’t have both a mom and dad?

  5. AWealthySingleMommy on October 31, 2017 at 2:07 am

    That response is crap! Dear Shannon I am in the same boat as you unlike the person who responded, who has no clue because they haven’t lived it. I have. I am successful, a homeowner, never been on state assistance and I’m the only one listed on the birth certificate of my child. No child support and no stress. You do not need a man to save you or provide for you. The social norm is 6 O’clock news if you can manage to stay off of that show then yoy are going to make it in thos world. For me, Since I was never married my personal life is just that.. Personal!!! If some rude people out there ask you about your situation it’s because they are not strong enough to endure it, tell them your personal life is none of their business before they drag you down with their pitty. I have judges ask me who I’ve had sex with in court to try and get me to name “John Doe” if you are like me it’s no bodies business, not the judge, not the school, not your friends or family. There are a lot of religious people especially lawyers who will see you as a prostitute based on their religion that you have a child out of wedlock. You need to flip those people the bird! Mariage is part of religion and you can have a happy relationship with children and without ever getting married. There are plenty of little girls who don’t have a father and that doesn’t make you a bad person. I tell my kid that every ones family is different. Some people have 2 mommys, or only 2 daddys, some people only have grandma, some people only have grandpa, some people don’t have any grandparents and that it’s okay if you’re family is different from someone elses. Now if we could only change the religious views of the Marine Corps and the way they view single mom’s that have full custody. It used to be a man’s world but the world is changing men like other men and straight women need to be able to become the masculine role on society. Don’t let anyone bring you down with a pity party or some psychology that they read in a book without actually experiencing it for themselves.

  6. Haley on October 31, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    I was hoping to find some advice on what I should do here, without commenting but I guess it’s the only way I will get any feedback (besides family & friends who honestly, don’t know what to tell me anyway!) So my daughter will be 10 weeks old tomorrow, her dad has not been in the picture what so ever, but his parents are who I am concerned about. They are good people and are very active in their grandkids lives (I have never met them but I know this) –I know he hasn’t told them about his daughter, do I send his mom a friend request on fb and message her? Ask for her number? And even THEN, what do I say to her?? We don’t live in the same town, they actually live about an hour away from us. I have NO IDEA what to do, so you guys please help me out!!

    • TK on January 27, 2018 at 5:24 am

      Your situation is very similar to mine. My son’s father abandoned me while I was pregnant and did not tell his parents or any family. I knew their names, so I looked them up and I sent them a letter telling them I was pregnant by their son, he had left and I also reassured them I was not seeking any money. I just wanted my son to have the chance to know his dad’s side of the family. His parents contacted me and they were kind, but they also said they had called their son and he denied it was his child (be prepared for that ok). I told them I understand their concerns and that I would get a DNA test so they could comfortably be involved. We stayed in touch. I sent them pics of the baby at birth. His mom called and said he was identical to her son. They lived an hour and a half away from us and didn’t come meet him until he was one years old. His dad evaded getting a DNA test for 2 years. I even offered to pay for it and told him that if he thinks it’s not his child, then he should take the DNA test to get rid of us. He didn’t do it until the court system forced him. Results came back that it was his child. His parents were very happy to have the confirmation. He still didn’t come around for years after that, but his parents remained involved. My son is now a teenager and his dad calls him once a year, twice if he’s lucky. But my son has spent Christmas, etc with has grandparents. His dad blamed me for him not seeing or talking to his son. None of which is true. I always let him come or call whenever he wanted to, he just has always been uninterested in seeing him. I used to try and involve him in decision making for our son, but he would always say, just do whatever you think is right. My point is this… contact his parents, but be as gentle as you can about the approach. Keep in mind that he his their child, they love him and you are a random chick they know nothing about. Expect backlash from your child’s father after you make contact. He will more than likely try and tarnish your reputation as a woman and be willing to accept the fact that his parents may side with their son. Also, let them know you are willing to get a DNA test. Don’t expect your word to be enough. If you know he is the father, then you have nothing to worry about. And just know that telling his parents and getting their involvement in your child’s life, does not mean that the father is going to want to be apart of the child’s life. Good luck to you. I hope it works in your favor with his parents as it did for me.

  7. C on November 2, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    I’m sorry, but I have an almost 4 year old that doesn’t see her father. We split when she was 2 because he was mentally and verbally abusive. Not to mention a sociopath and very manipulative. It got to the point where he was going to be physically anusive, and she witnessed this. Up until 9 months ago, I gave him chances to have her every other weekend, which he did until he decided he didn’t want to deal with it anymore. I’d go over there and bang on the door, my boyfriend too, because she wanted to see him. In 9 months since that happened, he’s asked to see her 3 tomes, and never follows through. At first it was rough because she wanted to see him. That lasted maybe a month or 2 and now she doesn’t ask to see him. Shell casually mention him, but never in regards to seeing him. For her being 4 she is very well aware of the situation. We’ve talked to her about it. Even asked her how she has felt. I’m 33 weeks pregnant with mine and my boyfriends baby. She knows she won’t have the same last name. She’s OK with this because my boyfriend in her mind is her dad. He might not have that “official” title, but he’s hers and she is his. I don’t think she’s hurting, she’s happy and healthy and in a good stable place with two people that love her. Even if I didn’t have my boyfriend, she’d still be ok. She’ll always know her situation is different but who cares? This is a very old she cool approach and not an OK to me. There’s so many different types of families and situations and as long as the children are happy that’s approach that matters. I would never stay with someone or be with someone who didn’t treat me and my daughter like we’re suppose to be treated. Be it her father or my boyfriend or whatever. It’s ridiculous people try to make others feel bad because there’s no dad or mom around. Shannon you’re making you daughter happy and that’s great I applaud you. Some people stay in crap situations or feel they need someone else to help “make things whole” and whatever. Don’t listen to negativity and take of you and that sweet girl. Clearly she doesn’t care, and neither should you.

  8. Brian Mahoney on December 26, 2017 at 3:10 am

    Nonsense. Married, nuclear families are the weirdos? Something is wrong with you.

  9. Nichole on January 5, 2018 at 11:45 am

    From my experience, Id give very different advice. Try hard to get the other parent to be a parent but after giving it a go (in my case for 7 years) let it go. You can’t control others. Children are smart and can set their own boundaries. Why would you want to make them emotional sitting ducks? By all means, validate their feelings (this is standard psychology) but don’t be a Pollyanna and pretend their father is a good guy or is visiting them.

    My son complained a lot from age 2-5 and rightfully so. That’s when we were married no less! As the father became a worse and worse person- my son and even I are ok w his absence. He’s not good or safe to be around. He’s not healthy.

    Be honest. Supportive. Validate. But if your kid is healing, why put a snag in that? There are some people out there that are very unhealthy and can’t or won’t parent.

  10. Stacey on January 19, 2018 at 2:44 am

    Her father is a sociopath that trapped me, he doesn’t feel bad everyday that he hurt or ruined my daughter’s life and mine.

  11. January Cap: Some things worth sharing – Miss Understood on February 4, 2018 at 8:02 am

    […] Single Mommy and this particular post actually made me realized a […]

  12. Winnie on March 20, 2018 at 2:59 am

    My daughter’s dad while we were having a FWB situation made it clear that he did not want kids at all. We are the same age in our mid 40s, both stable and all. I got pregnant and my FWB wanted me to have an abortion. I refused as I saw the pregnancy as a blessing and as a validation of my womanhood. I had severe fibroids too so never thought I’d conceive.
    When he abandoned me while pregnant, I must have said I’d do it on my own. He works next to my house and never ever saw me pregnant. He didn’t return my texts throughout the pregnancy and even on the day of the scheduled Caesarean section, I informed him which hospital I was in and pleaded with him to come see us and also give me moral support. He never showed up.
    Anyway, I went ahead and had my beautiful baby girl who is a carbon copy of him. I named her after my own mum and she took up my surname since I figured what was the point of naming her after my ex FWB??
    Anyway, the fact that his work place is next to my house kills me every day that he can’t even show up to my house to support his daughter. His friends have told him that what he’s done is wrong.
    6months ago, I ran into him while out of town and he had a girlfriend. I text him asking him if he was not interested in seeing his child. That was a wake up call coz the following week he text back stating that why was he being forced into something he was against all along bla bla bla. He told me to let him be and that time would tell. I’ve steered away from texting him though it hurts as hell when I look up to his office from my house. The psychological damage it has on me now and in the future his daughter, will be irreparable. Oh , he’s also never ever supported his daughter even with diapers or clothing etc. Myaughter turns 1 next week Wednesday, should I inform him? What do I do?

    • Bianca on April 5, 2018 at 10:17 am

      My situation was very similar. Picture this: the father of my child came to the hospital, but left for a job interview when it was time for me to start pushing. Then avoided coming back to avoid signing the birth certificate so he would not be held responsible. He’s seen her once since then and it was because I took her to see him as an infant. Holding her didn’t do the trick. He cancelled any plans we made to meet up and now she is 2. He makes no contact whatsoever. (Frankly I’m not sad about it, as she is far better off without him).

      I was able to let go of that ache when I learned to stop chasing him. My mother kept telling me to stop setting him to such a high standard. He was never a dad and he wasn’t suddenly going to morph into one. She was right. If he was not committed from the start, chances are he will not change his mind. He won’t send gifts or lend a helping hand because in his mind he is not responsible for this (ridiculous, I know). It is not your job to be angry (although you will be because you’re human) and it is not your job to teach him a lesson.

      My advice? Set yourself free of him. He will have to live with this on his conscience the rest of his life. In my experience, it is better to have no father figure at all than some flaky guy with one foot in the door and one foot out. That is setting up you and your daughter for future pain and such disappointment. I would just start to look at life as being just the two of you and being proud of it. And like me, follow the advice of this article when the time is right. Have the conversation and heal.

  13. IdontlikeIdentification on April 26, 2018 at 6:03 am

    My mother told me that my father was dead when I was 7 years old. She didn’t tell me he suicidet at that point but she told me kinda early.

    I think that I asked too often if I could visit him and why my stepbrother was able to visit his dad but I couldn’t.
    So when she told me I was angry at her, but I never understood why.
    Maybe I thought she lied to me because I didn’t want to believe it or it was my only way of dealing with the situation but today after reading this I think it is because of me having to ask and not getting quite a clear answer.

    I love my mother and she did the greatest job imaginable, teaching me Morales and to be a good guy. Im so thankfull for everything she does for me and I feel guilty for having those bad feelings at that point.

    Tell your kids, always be honest with them. It might not seem like it at first but they will thank you with everything they have later.

    I don’t even want my dad back and don’t feel sad for what happened because I love my mother so much, I need only her to raise me.

  14. KidsNeedDad on May 6, 2018 at 11:50 am

    Wealthy Emma – In most cases of fatherless children, this is the truth which YOU wrote in your March 2017 blog – “Women are conniving, malicious, entitled nut-jobs who alienate fathers from their children while taking all said fathers’ money — all of which is supported by the family court system.” Blog title – A dad explains: Why I don’t see my child.
    In most of the fatherless cases, this is the truth that children need to know. “Judges, Lawyers, Police and many women are conniving, malicious, .. (as you wrote).”

  15. WhatToDoNext on May 7, 2018 at 5:36 am

    Children not seeing there Fathers is a complicated situation; individual to each and every family.
    I broke up with my son’s Father about two months ago. He is a functioning alcoholic with a whole other string of problems. I tried and tried time and time again to make things work but in the end I worried that staying with him would bring more sorrow to our son then having a broken family. Since things are newly uncertain, I keep going round and round in my head how I am going raise my son so that he feels love and doesn’t feel the loss. My son is 3 years old. His Dad wrote me a text telling me that he doesn’t want to see him anymore. He immediately moved in with the woman that I felt he was having a relationship on the side with. I have fears of my son just going with his Dad on weekends because when we were together he would drink and Not come home. Sometimes he would leave his other son with me as well. I don’t know if that son’s mother knew how many times I took care of her son while he was drunk. I didn’t mind, but I don’t want my son to ever be in the same position. This is just one example of why I worry about my son being with his Dad when I am not around. Now I have this new worry – what if his Dad never does come again to visit. I tell my son that his Dad loves him and I don’t talk bad about him. No child wants to hear from one parent that the other is terrible. My son and I both deserved better than what his Dad offered when we were together. I feel I left one problem, only to have mess with our emotions from afar. I try to keep calm and read as much information on the topic. It allows me to understand both sides (Mom and Dad) and cope with the situation as best as I can. I wish he did the same, but that won’t happen because he is very reactionary. I just want to get off this rollercoaster and sit on a beach with my son and our dogs. I hope I made the right decision and continue to down the road. My son is my priority and always will be. I would like his Dad to be in his life but I can’t beg him nor can I control his behaviors. I tried that and it never worked for both of us. The situation is sad for all involved. Eventually I have to get over it so that my son doesn’t have a depressed Mother and instead has one that made the right choice.

    • Kt on September 27, 2018 at 8:31 am

      I would speak to the other childs mum. She needs to know as to safeguard her son.. You also need to safeguard your son, if he s at risk it s up to you to make sure he is safe.. Make sure contact takes place with someone else present.. It must be very difficult but just keep your son safe :)

  16. peter on May 10, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Mothers who hide children from their dads should realize that with dna websites, we will find each other one day. The devastation is that we miss out on raising them, holding them and playing with them when they are young. Some women can be heartless.

  17. John Roberts on May 14, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    TBH, this country has made men the way they are. The media, the government, other men and especially women! If everyone wants them to be the responsible, strong, and confident men then it’s going to take all of us! every man, women, and child. We have taken from men and boys the only thing they were ever good at, “Purpose”. I recommend the book ” The Boy Crisis” by Warren Farell. Only then will you see.

  18. Poet on June 12, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Ugh! I will not be explaining to my 4 year old why her father (my ex husband) is absent! He is in prison and will be a registered sex offender once he is out. She accepts that he lives very far away but wishes he could be here. I want my little girl to live a happy untainted life for as long as possible. When she is old enough to understand I WILL TELL HER! She will be able to draw her own conclusions about her absent father. My 13 year old knows why her biological father is absent and her ex step father. She’s lost her father figure twice and believe me it has hurt her more knowing the why than if I shielded her from it for a while longer.

  19. Kristen on July 25, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    While this advice is great for some families in some situations, you come across as very judgy. Who are you to think you know this mother’s child better than she does? My biological father walked out and terminated his parental rights when I was 6. I have memories of him. I never felt a loss. At 14 I started to ask questions and talk about meeting him but really I just wanted to meet my half siblings born after he abandoned me. My mother explained that she would help and support me in that, but that they might not know I even exist and it could destroy their lives. I opted not to reach out and never regretted it. My mom remarried, he adopted me, and that’s my dad. Simple as that. No psycholoical scars. No grief. No loss. Of course, he was horrifically abusive so there wasn’t much to miss. I understand my experience isn’t universal, and many kids will grieve, but not so many you automatically assume there’s a big gaping hole in their life. My daughter’s biological father also was abusive. We ran from him and he terminated all contact I allowed him two months later. That was 3 years ago and my daughter has never grieved. We talk about him. I tell her that the truth was that he was very, very mentally ill and knew the best thing he could do for her was let her have a peaceful life with a mommy who would take good care of her and keep her safe. We’ve even explored her feelings in therapy and her therapist reports she doesn’t think he made any real lasting impact on her. One day that might change, but right now she’s not feeling any loss and bonded strongly to my new husband who has unofficially (for now) adopted her as his own. Beyond that, I have experience working in child protective services and in various treatment programs for behaviorally challenged children. I find most of the kids are pretty well adjusted and don’t miss the absent parent of they’ve got a good remaining one. Kids aren’t morons. They know when someone isn’t good for them. Some kids are devastatingly impacted but for you to tell this concerned mom she’s invalidating her child’s feelings… Get out of here with that bs. It’s untrue and unnecessarily mean. If Mom thinks everything is good and her kid is acting normal and they have an open line of communication, let the problem actually happen before you imagine one into existence. Every therapist I’ve ever seen (for post partum ptsd) had wanted to pin my issues on my biological father and it’s annoying when the reason I’m actually there is because i had a traumatic premature birth and then was treated like a piece of meat while they continuously made dangerous mistakes with my child. Was it really all my bio father’s fault? Or maybe, just maybe, could I be upset because they almost killed my baby and tried to discharge me 10 minutes before I started bleeding out? Just saying…

  20. Shannon on August 7, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    I’m also a single mom- also a Shannon- of a(n almost) 9 month old who is AMAZING! I’m amazed at all the family situations. And honestly, amazed in a good way. Collectively we are REALLY exploring and interested in knowing EVERY possible situation both romantically and as family. I love that at this point in time we have a huge freedom to choose how to navigate that path. I love that all of our kids can look to us and say “Wow my mom(s) and/or dad(s) were not only living their lives with us- they also actively and consciously engaged with others even (especially?) with those they disagree with!” Think about it. Just a generation ago, instead of having these open discussions or consulting a wide network of people the option was pretty much therapy and deal. Now- look at all of us connecting! I love that we get to pick a little bit of what works here and there and put it all together for what works for us individually. I love that because when we all get to do what works individually, it doesn’t take long- maybe a generation- before it hits the collective. Oh. And I love my baby’s father too. I love that when she’s old enough she can ask about him to any degree she’d like- and I love that she has some really magical and important roles in our relationship story. I love that no matter what goes on physically that there’s a greater connection there- it’s not only he and I but it’s enough to call forward and inspire another life, and I know that spiritual place of connection isn’t just about us 3. I know that because certain things aren’t simply coincidences. I love that her father is creating his own place in her life even though there has been no contact in months because that symptom of “no contact” could- and VERY likely does- mean he’s getting health, happiness, and other answers he needs in his life! I love that our paths crossed even for the brief time that they did if that’s the only time they ever will- call it being young and dumb OR call it being inspired and passionate- because I love my life more now than ever before. I love that I am now in a place where I wonder a LOT abot future relationships. Because I never pictured myself married or inspired or worthy of having an uplifting relationship but after ALL this past 2 years- I not only picture it I know it’s coming, and in fact it’s already here because I just feel amazing. I feel amazing as a mama, I feel happier every day, I am so in tune with my baby girl and open to her. I love that she is free to have HER experiences and relationships and that my role is to set a stage of trust in that knowledge and feeling of innate wholeness that we all come here with. I love that she gets mad at me (specifically in the car lol she hates the car seat and I don’t often drive with her) she expresses herself! I love that she wakes up smiling every morning and after each nap because she gets to start fresh and I love the evidence of that fresh satisfaction.

    I could go on forever in infinite directions about what I love in relation to this topic- both topical to the article and personal- and in fact I think in my life I am going on forever in that direction. Because if we look at the BIG picture, put things in the furthest zoomed-out way, I think we could sum everything up by saying “We love our kids.” Which is really- really- REALLY powerful and always worth coming back to!

  21. Sally Penmann on November 10, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Good understanding of the denial aspect! That is so important – to grieve the loss for yourself, helps you explain or support the sadness of your child. I’m very blessed that my son shares his feelings easily and could talk about stuff. If he missed his dad I empathised and gave him a hug. We pray for his dad. As he got older I was more open about the reason dad is not here, appropriate to his understanding. As time went on and he knew that dad made some unkind choices he would cry and talk about it and eventually the pain was less and less. I apologised for my part in not choosing the right person to be his dad.

    The only difference in my own situation is that the father is not missing his child. He doesn’t care about the child because of his own severe mental health issues. Your line is “He also suffers knowing that he deeply hurts her. Every day.” Sadly in our case that’s not true.

    I know he knows he hurt his child, because it was a goal of his. In part it was in order to escape responsibility and have an excuse not to look after him anymore. Also revenge, to hurt me. So there is an exception to the part about him thinking about the child’s well-being, some men (psychopathic ones) are only thinking about themselves. If taking care of a child is not rewarding in some way to him, he’s not fussed to be involved and not feeling guilt about it.

    It’s nice to know you’re not the only one who goes through these challenges!

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