Life with an Absent Parent

parent

My earliest childhood memory is being four years old, asking my Mom if I had a Dad. My Mom explained to me that my Dad wasn’t around and he wasn’t going to be. My grandfather also had an absent father so I saw at an early age how much hatred and sadness could permeate and discolor a life.  I decided that I could not live a life with the same deep sorrow and hatred.

I was one of the lucky ones, my step father has been in my life since I was an infant.  We share more than just a last name, we are a family.  I may not have had both biological parents, however, I  hit the jackpot as far as parents go. I grew up loved by two parents and I never yearned for my absent parent, but to say it didn’t affect my life would be a lie.

I was told when I was seven that my biological father had three other children that he was raising. My first reaction was to hope that he learned how to be a Dad to them.  I already had a stepdad so I was never jealous of these other children. I’m content with my family as it is now but there is a curiosity there about that chapter of my life.  I am frightened that once I  open a Pandora’s Box of emotions,  I will not be able to handle these feelings once they have been experienced.

I started looking around at my friends’ lives and noticed my three best friends have dads who are absent or “revolving door dads,” fathers who cyclically come and go from their lives. While it is tragic that so many children share this experience, it is comforting to have an inner circle of friends who fully understand what it’s like to have a dead beat Dad. And common as it is, society hardly ever addresses this serious issue of parents abandoning their children. Where is the advice and support for the thousands of children who are growing up in single parent households? Where are the hotlines and support groups advertised for children with only one present parent? Where is the media representation of families that look differently than the traditional “Mom” and “Dad” scenario?

The worst issue that many children with one parent face is the shame.  I can’t tell you how many times I would dodge the conversation out of fear of coming across as that girl who didn’t have her “real” Dad around. I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I was a battered lunatic loaded with Daddy issues.

I decided I would share my personal story on this closeted issue and have other Bitchtopia writers and my peers share theirs. What better way of addressing an issue than getting feedback who have experienced the absence of a parent, too?

“What was the hardest part about growing up in a home with one parent?”

“The hardest part of growing up with a single parent was being told by society that my family was “missing” something. It was difficult for me to be surrounded by images and portrayals of families that did not resemble mine. It was almost as if society wanted me (and my single mother) to feel like we could not achieve a complete and happy life without a man living in our apartment. As I grew older, I saw how blessed I really was, that my small family offered me so much love, acceptance, and guidance, that I could not have had a better experience. But when I was young, and had to watch the judgement being passed upon my family by strangers who believed my mother was somehow doing my sister and I a disservice by raising us alone was a feeling I will never forget. My mother always used this negative to teach my sister and I about life, families and love. “Just because someone does something differently, doesn’t make them better or worse, just different. It is not our job to judge their journey, only support them on their way.”

-Noelle, Bitchtopia Managing Editor

“Why do you think not having a parent around is something often kept so hidden to the point people hardly mention it yet it hits so many homes?”

“People don’t want to relive and revisit all the emotions attached to not having a parent. They don’t want to be judged and they just want to feel like they fit in”

-Vinnie

” Do you think there is guilt that most parents who have abandoned their kids have?”

“Depending on the circumstances, moral values and emotional attachment some may never feel guilt. It’s situational and personal. But if there is any moral fiber to them, they should certainly feel guilty.”

-Vanessa

“Is there forgiveness for a parent that has chosen to not be in your life? How does one live without hatred?”

“When my mother moved out of the house my initial reaction was confusion. After I got into the motion of things I felt mainly two different things. I felt hurt because I felt as if my mother had abandoned me. I was starting to go through puberty and I didn’t really have the same support that someone who lived with their mom might have. In that sense I almost felt alone. The other main emotion I had was relief because I no longer had to hear my parents fighting all the time. After they had finished going to court everything settled down and I started to feel more at peace with everything. I guess the main thing that got me through the years not having my mom around like I wanted her to be around was realizing that my parents are human too. I can’t blame them for being themselves and not having the same feelings for one another that I wanted them to have. My mom was always going to do what she wanted to do and I’ve learned that even though I sometimes want her to make different decisions, at the end of the day it’s not up to me. I don’t have to like it, but I have learned to be ok with it. I figure it’s much better for my well being if I move on rather than dwelling on the way I would have liked my family to turn out. To answer the question of if there is forgiveness: I think it mainly depends on the person. But I will say that we either have a choice to forgive or not to forgive. We can’t change what happened, but we may have a chance to change how we view and grow from it”

-Nia, Bitchtopia Writer

Besides trying to open up a discussion forum I wanted to share some insights for readers without a parent:

  • First and foremost, an absent parent does not reflect your self-worth. Do not blame yourself for someone else’s choices.
  • Holding anger towards your siblings will isolate you further. It is not their fault (or yours.)
  • Find the good parental figure who is able to substitute the role of the absentee parent. It may be your grandparent, aunt, uncle, stepparent, or teacher.  Let that love into your life. Blood is not always thicker than water.
  • Understand you may have avoided a worse life. You may have been spared a hardship that you know nothing about. We all fantasize about a more understandable reason as to why our parent wasn’t there, such as  thinking that they were not present in our lives because they were off saving the world, but that isn’t the case.
  • Forgive.  Reflect on your life and recognize that they missed out on you. It is their loss. And you can’t hold on to anger.  A negative energy and outlook will poison all the good in your life.
  • Never abandon children because you know first hand what that pain feels like.
  • Appreciate the parent that was there and took you to those annoying dentist visits and cleaned your puke when you were sick.  Instead of dwelling on the parent that abandoned you, revert that energy into the one that had to work double duty. These great parents deserve all the praise and love you have for raising you alone.
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