The absent parent.
The person who created life – and then walked away from it.
The person who doesn’t check-in for birthdays, holidays, or even just to see how their child is doing.
The person who doesn’t even know their child; their favorite color, what they’re currently into interest wise, or even how tall they are.
They don’t know what scares them or what makes them happier than anything. They don’t wonder what to make for their dinner or what they can do to help them with their latest school project. They don’t even know what school they go to. They haven’t even been aware that their child was in the hospital for that one illness, had to face that terrifying surgery, or has been diagnosed with a learning disability.
Their absenteeism is thought of and felt every day, but it has become their child’s “normal” to not know them.
As the present parent, you are faced with a piece of parenting pain you didn’t know existed until you are raising a child whom you have no answers for. Who asks you, ”Where is my Daddy? (or Mommy)?” Or the first time the person you view as your greatest gift on Earth questions, “Why don’t they love me?”
Tears fill my eyes even writing this. However, I know it’s an important article to write about because I am far from the only person with a child who has an absent parent. I hope my story and insight can bring some kind of good, some kind of peace, or some kind of healing to other parents who have children with someone who is not in their life by choice.
I met my oldest son’s father when I was a sophomore in high school. We dated all through high school and very soon after I graduated I found out I was pregnant at the age of 19. He worked as a cook at a nursing home and I worked at Subway as a sandwich artist (are they still called that?).
Since we at least were intelligent enough to know that we couldn’t support a child in our current life situation he decided to enlist in the active-duty military to try and create a sustainable life for us. We had to be married for my son and I to be his dependents. So on a snowy day in January, we were married at 19 years old in a courthouse.
When my son was 6 months old my (ex)husband left for his military training where he was gone for 5 months. At the ending of his training my son and I moved to his duty location where I had believed that our fairytale life could finally start. A husband, a baby, and a great ability to provide? I felt like we had made it.
What I didn’t realize is that this was not what was meant to be. My marriage ended in an ugly way and I had to pack up and move back to my home state.
In my mind my ex and I could be cordial, we would arrange visitation, and once he served his military time he would move back home and we would co-parent our son.
None of that ever happened. Once I moved home he completely cut off communication with me and our son. My son is now almost 11 years old and has grown up having a biological father who has had no interest or communication with him.
What I want to share with you are some things to help you navigate these waters that are so choppy and overwhelming if you also have an absent parent.
At the beginning of realizing that my ex was not going to be involved in our son’s life, I was so full of hurt, rage, pain, and a complete lack of understanding. He went to pre-school for 2 hours and I would miss him and wonder how his day was. How could his own father never care about how he is? Didn’t he miss him? Think of him? Crave those chubby arms and slobbery kisses that showed you they missed you just as much as you missed them?
I want you to know that the fact that you can’t even wrap your brain around comprehending it is what shows that you are an amazing parent. Your child is lucky to have someone who thinks about them, loves them, and appreciates having them in their life every single day.
I had also thought so much to myself, “But, my son only has ME. He’s going to need a father figure. I’m only half the puzzle. I failed him by just giving him me.”
I want you to know you are more than enough. Your love is enough, your dedication is enough, and even on your hardest days of feeling like you can’t do it alone anymore – the fact that you still do it shows just how ENOUGH you are. Your child will never fault you for what you didn’t do and will forever see and be grateful for what you did do.
It’s hard when your child becomes the age of being able to ask questions about their absent parent because you want to protect them from ever thinking that it is your child’s fault.
I want you to know that bad-mouthing an absent parent to your child will not aid in their healing, it will only create more of a gap between you. You don’t have to tell them bad things about their absent parent. Their absence says everything it needs to about them.
I also want you to know that it’s okay if it hurts for all those big moments in life: kindergarten graduations, walking for the first time, and high school sports games. All those moments in life that you had always envisioned giving to your child with both of their parents there in happiness and support. Memories that were supposed to be shared and not experienced alone. It is okay if it hurts no matter how much time has passed.
It’s not easy. It’s a roller coaster.
I want you to take a second to look at your kiddo and take full credit. Them being healthy, happy, and well taken care of is solely because of you. You figured out the resources you needed to make it all happen. Them getting to play their favorite sport, them getting to be in a club, or participate in one of their interests was because of you. Any moment of kindness they exhibit, any accomplishment they had the bravery to try and achieve, and every moment of feeling good about themselves – that’s all because of you.
Know that your child is so fortunate to have you. Also that you’re so fortunate to have all of their love, all of their trust, all of their appreciation.
That absent parent didn’t leave an empty space – you have it filled.