Yesterday was Father’s Day. I am grateful for my dad, who is still around and plays an active role in my life, and that of my children. I was mindful of all who no longer have a father around. This Tumblr comic was encouraging. I thought mostly about the children whose fathers are not there by choice. Sadly, there are many. Father’s Day weekend is tricky for single moms who are doing it on their own. It’s a day that brings up questions, and can be downright painful for kids who see the activities going on around them, and they are still left without their dad. It’s complicated.
I tried my best to avoid thinking about the topic much last week. I kept to political and social issues; things I feel I can actively have a part in changing. I spoke to TK on Friday night about my feelings and the pain surrounding this holiday. He asked. It’s not something too many people ever want to discuss. I think some don’t realize it’s an issue, others want only to get angry about it, and the rest are uncomfortable about the topic. It was helpful expressing my sadness and frustration, without being judged or further angered. Getting it off my chest certainly made the weekend tolerable.
I’m still hesitant about how much I’ll open up and divulge about my personal experience. It’s something I deal with every day, it’s a struggle I’m still trying to figure out how to get through; it’s often hard to write about. I don’t want to have angry tirades or create bigger issues, plus I don’t have many answers as of yet. I do feel it’s important that other parents know they are not alone in this. So, I write.
I am a single mom. My children see their father less than 10% of the time. The visits are sporadic, often last-minute, and short. Beyond that, involvement is at a minimum. “Co-parenting” is a term I think of the way most of us feel about “happily ever afters,” it exists only in fairy tales. I am the sole carer of my kids, from doctor’s visits to broken hearts to conferences, and everything in between. They have only one parent in attendance at school performances and award ceremonies. I make them all, sometimes running around looking like who-knows-what as I get from appointment to event to game. I try my best to be what two parents would be for them.
I was on Twitter this morning and saw this post by Carolyn Edgar. I could relate to a lot of it. I retweeted the piece and moved on. Then I saw Ms. Edgar tweet about reactions she was receiving from her story, and that’s when I felt compelled to say something. It’s amazing how often us single moms are blamed for the choices our children’s fathers make. And how dare we speak up about it! What started out as a few tweets quickly grew into this post. I will make a note that I do understand there are moms who abandon their kids, and that is as despicable. There are also moms who do and say terrible things and make it difficult for fathers to have good relationships with their kids. I’m not talking about those men or situations. I can’t personally speak to either of those, I’m coming from my experiences and what I know. I am talking about the single mom who does all for her kids, and in their best interest, all while leaving the door wide open for the father to be an active participant.
When you’re a single parent and the other parent refuses to be actively involved, people will blame you for this. Men are able to walk away from their kids and face zero accountability. Most express little shame in it either. In my experience, I’ve yet to see any guilt or regret from these men. Maybe that time will come, but the absent fathers I know have yet to make amends. Chances are, by the time they do show up to build a relationship, the damage will have already been done.
The burden placed on “solo moms” is immense. Somehow, we are supposed to force the fathers of our children to be loving parents. I’ll start listening to these folks who say that’s my duty once they can actually tell me how I go about doing that. Friends and family, with good intentions, have asked, “can’t the court make him visit?” I have explained many times that the courts can only enforce child support (And thank goodness they can do that!). But a court cannot make someone care about and want to spend time with their child. It’s hard to understand that some men do not. For whatever reason, these men can go on with their lives with no consideration of the emotional well-being of their children. They don’t concern themselves with how their absence affects their own kids.
What leads these men to this point and what prevents them from doing the right thing is beyond me. Maybe one day we will find the answer and we can fix this growing problem. Our kids deserve better. I want life to be okay for the kid who comes home upset because someone at school was excited about an upcoming camping trip with their dad. I want something different for the kids who are understandably jealous when their friend talks about how their father taught them how to play baseball. I wish that no other kids would cry at night wondering why their dad didn’t see them for their birthday. No other kid should find themselves questioning why their daddy didn’t visit them at the hospital. I hope the kids who are angry and hurt because their father broke yet another promise can one day trust that man.
It’s sad when a man doesn’t ask about his children. I have found it even sadder when a child no longer asks about their father. I feel a lot of heartache for my kids, and I ask many questions in an attempt to fathom why this is how things are. My priority and my greatest desire is to raise, care for, and love my children. I hope at some point, this is the choice of all parents.