Doing the Best I Can – Why Fathers Leave Their Children

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You know there are three sides to every story – your side, his side, and the truth.

Yet, despite that knowledge and awareness, we  act like this is not true.

People with different agendas – at work, in love, in politics – are not just acting in their own interests, but they’re “wrong” for even having interests. Worse, men who act in their self-interests are  “selfish,” “mean,” and “narcissistic.”

Somehow, I think things are more complicated than that.

I have a close girl friend who is currently stringing along a really nice guy who wants to be her boyfriend. It’s been two months. She’s not bad. She’s not wrong. She’s confused. She knows she wastes time on bad men but is having trouble letting down her guard to receive this kind man’s love and affection. Of course, as a woman, she’s entitled to such ambivalence. She doesn’t want to make a mistake. She doesn’t want to settle. She doesn’t want to break things off. She just wants to keep things as they are.

You know there are three sides to every story – your side, his side, and the truth.

Same with Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame. She was dissatisfied in her bland marriage and picked up to go on a worldwide tour of self-exploration. She later left her husband for her best friend. It is well within her right to pursue happiness as she sees fit, even if it ended up hurting two different husbands. The difference is that if a man left two different wives for newer  options, I  believe women would be less sympathetic.

Which is a long lead-in to today’s article, by the New York Times’ David Brooks, about men who leave their children. On the surface, it’s black and white – men who leave their children are the ultimate in selfishness, deadbeat dads with no heart, spine or morals.

In reality, Brooks says, the picture is far more complex.  I thought this passage was particularly powerful and sad:

“The key weakness is not the father’s bond to the child; it’s the parents’ bond with each other. They usually went into this without much love or sense of commitment. The fathers often retain a traditional and idealistic “Leave It to Beaver” view of marriage. They dream of the perfect soul mate. They know this woman isn’t it, so they are still looking.

Buried in the rigors of motherhood, the women, meanwhile, take a very practical view of what they need in a man: Will this guy provide the financial stability I need, and if not, can I trade up to someone who will?

The father begins to perceive the mother as bossy, just another authority figure to be skirted. Run-ins

“The so-called deadbeat dads want to succeed as fathers. Their goals and values point them in the right direction, but they’re stuck in a formless romantic anarchy.”

By the time the child is 1, half these couples have split up, and many of the rest will part ways soon after. Suddenly there’s a new guy living in the house, a man who resents the old one. The father redefines his role. He no longer aims to be the provider and caregiver, just the occasional “best friend” who can drop by and provide a little love. This is a role he has a shot at fulfilling, but it destroys parental responsibility

No one is forgiving  fathers who turn to drugs and crime; merely pointing out that, as Brooks writes, “the so-called deadbeat dads want to succeed as fathers. Their goals and values point them in the right direction, but they’re stuck in a formless romantic anarchy.”

The  next time you hear about a man who is an absentee father, try to summon a little sympathy for his plight. He may not be entirely blameless, but he probably shouldn’t shoulder all the blame either.

Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Aly

    I have to agree with the person who applied this to single fathers and dating. I’ve been with my single dad boyfriend for awhile now. Dated a few single dads before that. If you meet a dad who rarely or never sees his kids… Run run run. I thought the article was interesting.   I don’t really understand why a man’s bond with his girlfriend or wife or ex would cause him to leave his child.

    1. 21.1
      dandy

      I’m watching my friend go through this with her 21-year son and it’s ridiculous.   Within a 1 1/2 year timeframe he got 2 women pregnant, babymama#2 was the lucky winner -he chose her, and they moved out of state.   He has a son that he never sees (bm#2 knew he had a kid before sleeping with him – why do women do this?), and my friend never gets to see her grandson anymore.

  2. 22
    Ross

    I totally agree that a father that is not present in their kids’ life is not necessarily a loser at all. I have dated many such men (in certain races they represent the overwhelming majority of the population above 25). I have also seen with my own eyes the rudeness and bossiness of their baby mamas and could totally understand why they wanted to minimize contact despite each guy stating they missed their kids a lot and they still provided in child support etc. I have no kids and don’t want any, ever, so I may not understand the full anger of those baby mamas. But I guess they get overwhelmed and frustrated and also many had kids when young, so they traded self development for motherhood responsibilities. Which makes them  not particularly good at dealing with issues maturely.
    Child support also strips down a lot of guys and often that money is not even used for the kids. So the fathers are frustrated and overwhelmed too.
    Whenever I see for instance my boyfriend dealing with his baby mamas dramas, it makes me so grateful I never wanted kids. One can say it will never happen to me to have fatherless kids but relationships often don’t work so whenever you have a kid there is always that risk…

    1. 22.1
      dandy

      Too many of these men think fatherhood is some cool, fun thing to do – until they knock someone up and then realize they don’t want to spend the rest of their lives with this woman, they then take off.   Yes some of these mothers are young and immature, but most of them are tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and need some practical help that the father is usually not providing  because “well mom is difficult I can’t deal with it.   I didn’t mean to get her pregnant it was an accident, blah blah blah”. Next time you date one of these “men” ask if they help out, do they see their kids every other weekend as they should? Are they using their court ordered visitation to be an actual father to their child (and mom can get a break in the meantime?). Or do they whine about how the mom is difficult so they don’t want to bother?   These aren’t men, they’re boys, and I hope they don’t leave you in the same position as these women that you’re criticizing.  Oh, and a lot of these dads have their wages garnished and CS taken straight from their paychecks, so yes, technically they are paying CS, but ask yourself why they can’t be trusted to pay directly?   The courts do this because they, at some point, stopped paying voluntarily.

  3. 23
    Ross

    Dandy, you made up this whole story based on SOME losers that we all know about. Of course some people are like that and some are not, which is the whole point of this article.
    And don’t worry I won’t be anyone’s baby mama because I don’t leave it up to fate to become a parent or not. If a woman does not want to have kids, there are plenty of ways not to have any. Calm down your bitterness as the article says. Nobody forces you to deal with these types of losers so no need to get bitter. By age 10 we all know the world is full of trashy people. Deal with it by simply avoiding those.

  4. 24
    Marissa Chaseau

    Interesting reads we never knew a father smile Jamaica

  5. 25
    Marissa Chaseau

    Women not growing up with a father something bad in Caribbean when fathers leave their children alone.

  6. 26
    Marissa Chaseau

    Fathers are important to people and daughters need fathers I never knew mine and I am living example of the pain not having one brings to people

  7. 27
    Alex

    I was and am labeled as a dead beat father.    The truth is I am not.    There are women out there who turn their personal issues out on the person they are divorcing –

    what happens ….. eventually it will   hurt the children and only the children.   Many fathers who are labeled as dead beats are in fact amazing fathers who have broken free from the psychological abuse they have endured for years.   You have to have experienced it to understand One love â¤ï¸

  8. 28
    Ella

    As a fatherless daughter I have one thing to say; there is no sympathy and no excuse. You left your child you value not as a parent. You’re not worthy of forgiveness. That’s it.

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