Kelly Clarkson recently gave a rousing and emotional performance on American Idol in honor of the show’s final season. Clarkson was the winner of season one of the show. Clarkson’s song “Piece by Piece” is a tragic, yet hopeful, retelling of the pain she felt in the absence of her father and the joy in the presence of her husband, Brandon Blackstock.
One of the most painful experiences a person can have is to be abandoned. No matter the length of time, nor the reasoning, abandonment becomes one of those “issues” that dwells within a person’s psyche. To be abandoned by a parent leaves the indelible mark of unworthiness on a child.
Psychologists often speak of the damage caused by childhood abandonment from absentee fathers. Granted, it is not always the case that fathers willingly leave their children. As outlined in this article, there are times when mothers willfully block the relationship between fathers and their children. Those are not necessarily the scenarios that will be covered in this column today. This column is focused on the men who choose to walk away and digging to the core of their reasoning.
Over five years ago, when this column first appeared, a series of articles regarding absentee fathers brought feedback from a UK father who had been out of his child’s life for over a decade. In a letter, the father from across the pond, expressed the pain and agony he felt being in a new relationship and raising his stepchild while knowing he had a daughter he’d left behind.
His story of depression and regret, youth and heartbreak, as well as substance abuse, underscored his absence from his child’s life. The UK father wanted to know what he could do to redeem himself in the eyes of his child. For years, once he was sober, he had reached out to her only to be rebuffed again and again.
As with most actions, people often do not want to know the impetus behind why fathers walk away from their children. The mere act alone is enough to shift a man over into the “dead beat” pile and leave him there with no chance for redemption. Although many will claim they do not care why a father leaves, oftentimes children blame themselves. The child is left feeling burdened by his or her parent’s decision. It is time to remove that burden from the children and shine a light on the: “Top reasons fathers walk away from their children.”
He was too immature
Some men are unprepared, unmotivated, and unfit to be fathers. Many of those who choose to walk away know that about themselves.
An immature man, who still displays child-like qualities himself is ill-equipped to raise a child. When a man is not yet mature, he will refuse to take on the responsibility, sacrifices, and investment it takes to parent and provide for his offspring.
If a man is still self-absorbed and in need of guidance and rearing himself, he will struggle to actively parent a child. The immature guy will be inconsistent, irrational, and irresponsible when it comes to caring for a child. He will refuse to learn to put his needs second to the needs of his son or daughter. An immature man’s self-importance will outweigh the basic needs of a child.
In this case, the guy just needs to suck it up and grow up. Find the help that is necessary to grow into the kind of parent you would want your child to have. Realize that your decisions led to the creation of this innocent being and let the childish life go.
When you choose to participate in adult activities, you have to prepare yourself to deal with adult consequences. The child is as much your responsibility as it is the mother’s.
On the more sympathetic side, he may just be afraid and in need of reassurance. Raising a child is a heavy, heavy responsibility. It will create fear in the hearts of many of the strongest men and women. That fear is normal and can be assuaged with good counsel and mentoring.
There is nothing wrong with being afraid of the huge life change that comes with a child. Most people with any common sense would be one level below terrified. However, it just means you have the opportunity to conquer your fear and raise a fearless little individual who will create a generational cycle of less-fearful parenting.
He feels he can make up for it later
Men who feel that they are better suited for parenting in the latter years of a child’s life, can feel justified in walking away during a child’s formative years. As illogical as it may seem, there are many people who believe that a child’s first years are best suited for maternal raising and maternal raising alone.
As a matter of fact, many courts felt that way for quite a while. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was even a presumption called the “Tender Years Doctrine” that swayed custody decisions in favor of mothers when children were very young, presuming that the mother would be the better care taker. Thankfully, modern times have eviscerated this bias, though vestiges may linger in some forums.
Then you have those who go through issues with the mother early on, and decide that a child can make the decision to be in the father’s life when he or she is old enough to make up his or her own mind. This kind of father puts the onus on the child to formulate the relationship.
In instances where drama heavy co-parenting is at issue, some fathers feel that walking away is in the best interest of the child, so that the child will have stability and not be traumatized by the chaos. Instead of walking away, the father can seek judicial assistance and family and individual counseling. There is help to calm the chaos.
As the parent, it is the father’s responsibility to maintain a relationship with the child and to seek the most positive means to do so. It is also the mother’s responsibility to not stand in the way of that relationship.
He believes it is better for the child
There are men who feel completely inadequate as human beings and insecure about taking on the role of father. A deep-seeded feeling of worthlessness perverts his notion of the place he has in his child’s life. Whether he has substance abuse issues, unstable finances, or low self-esteem that cause him to feel more like a burden than a role model, a man who feels he has nothing to add to a child’s life will find walking away easy.
It is not that he does not love or care for the child, it is that he feels that he is not enough. He feels that he will be a curse and not a blessing to the child. It may actually be his love for the child that causes him to leave.
The best thing for this type of man to do is gather up the courage to seek out the help he needs to build himself up and become a stronger, healthier, and more reliable source of parenting for his child. Love should make him want to be better, not walk away.
He does not feel responsible
There are plenty of men who feel that if a woman decides to give birth to a child, when he has already expressed his desire to not have a child, she is fully and solely responsible for that child. Whether he has convinced himself or someone else has, he feels the child is not his responsibility.
This may occur in several different scenarios…
Where paternity is questionable:
His concerns about paternity may be legitimate, but can easily be resolved with a paternity test. The problem is, he may not want to know the results, so he will avoid it and the consequences of being a parent. Some men feel “trapped” by their child’s mother and never wanted to become a father at all, or to that particular woman’s child.
Where the child is born of a “situationship” or affair:
If we are honest, there are times when a child is born as a result of an affair, one night stand, or “side” relationship. If a man feels the woman knew the nature of their relationship, but decided to keep the child anyway, he may not feel responsible for the care, upkeep, and rearing of “her” child.
There are times when a man foregoes responsibility for an “outside child” in order to maintain the relationship he has with his wife or long term significant other. Giving up responsibility for the child is just a necessary sacrifice to maintain the relationship he stepped out on.
Where he just does not want children:
Many times men want the unprotected sex, but not the consequences thereof. He will feel that his desire to not have children and the expression of said desire, trump any actions he may take to the contrary. He may also feel that a woman’s right to choose, does not grant the woman the right to force him into fatherhood.
He is angry
Someone has pissed him off…typically the child’s mother. He will continue to be pissed off and relinquish his parental duties out of spite or sheer hostility. Whether he is mad over the breakup with the mother or vindictive over the back and forth over support and custody, his anger has taken over and he would rather withhold any support than to cave.
He may feel like he was duped into fatherhood or that the mother is using the child as a pawn. He does not want to feel controlled by the mother but feels she is manipulative, vindictive, and petty. This angers him. He no longer has the life he’d planned for and lays the blame squarely at the feet of the mother of his child(ren).
An angry man is a dangerous man. If his anger has consumed him, he may become irrational and a threat to mother and child. It happens that a pregnant woman’s number one cause of death is homicide.
This may seem extreme, but it is a harsh reality. Often these homicides occur as a result of domestic violence.
He never had a father
He started his life in the same position as his child…without a father, or with a father who was a poor example. Although he felt the same pain, he has repeated the cycle. His father’s absence taught him that absence is normal, no matter how dysfunctional.
Or his father’s absence left him with a gaping void and he feels that his presence in his child’s life will do more harm than good. Another reason is, without a father-figure, he does not know how to be a father and has no idea where to begin to learn. That makes walking away easier than staying.
Through his own father’s lack of parenting skills, he learned that a father’s role is inconsequential. He was groomed to dismiss the necessity of a father in a child’s life.
He knows he can start over
How often have you seen men leave one family and become a totally different person with his new family? It happens.
There are some men who treat their families merely as an extension of themselves, so if they mess up once, they can always try again. If their “starter family” did not work out well, it only means they have the opportunity to do better the second time around.
This narcissistic often leaves the first children in need of serious therapy and their hearts in need of mending. But it is also telling of a man who feels that he does not want to be reminded of his ineptness. A new set of kids will not know how he has failed at the parenting thing.
When you see a man leave his own children but jump right in as father of the year for the children of his new significant other, whether biologically his or not, this may be what is at play. These children are a fresh start and not a constant reminder of his shortcomings. He does not have to redeem himself to them, he can just begin with a clean slate.
What this type of man fails to understand is that chickens have a way of coming home to roost. No matter how great he is with a second set of children, if he fails the first set it will stay with him, and it is not something he can make up for through expressions of great parenting to someone other than the children he abandoned.