Real Dads Don’t Leave

When I was a young girl, I never would have imagined that so much of my adult existence would encompass working with survivors of divorce. Heck, I never would have imagined that I would be one. But as we age, the old saying, “it is what it is” becomes more and more relevant.

One of the aspects of divorce that I cannot comprehend is that for many men, it is an invitation to relinquish their parenting responsibilities and put their needs and desires ahead of those of their children.

More and more I see women being left to assume the primary care giving responsibilities of their children while the fathers go on to lead their own lives and in many cases, start a new family, leaving behind the old.

Dan Pearce writes a blog about being a single dad, Single Dad Laughing, and his piece, Real Dads Don’t Leave, hit the nail on the head in so many ways. He wrote about what he believes are the three kinds of dads who willingly “leave” their kids. He explained so eloquently what I often see that I am going to use his words.

The first, according to Pearce, simply leaves. He packs up, walks away, and wants nothing to do with his child or his child’s mother. This man cares nothing for those whom he has been enlisted to provide for and protect. He’ll never realize that his self-absorption caused him to leave behind every bedtime story, pancake breakfast, bike ride, and tuck-in. He’ll never realize that he left behind a person that would have looked at him as his hero. And he’ll never understand or take responsibility for the giant hole in his child’s heart that will never be patched, or the anger and tears that his child will experience as he tries to comprehend a father that would vanish. He’ll also never understand just how much harder his child’s life is going to be because of his absence.

Pearce’s second is the dad who leaves in disguise. Many of these dads hide behind phone calls and text messages to their kids. They believe that a quick check-in every so often is sufficient enough to brand themselves as “there”. They lie to themselves, they lie to others, and they lie to their kids. He works to make it appear that he’s not leaving at all. He cloaks himself in rationalization and reasoning. He shows up just often enough to pull off his ruse, and he goes to bed each night feeling good about himself as the dad that he thinks himself to be. This second type is OK spending minimal and limited time with his child. He’s OK letting his child’s mother do the vast majority of the parenting. He doesn’t fight to be a real dad to his child, though, he probably claims that he does. He probably spends a lot of wasteful hours telling the people in his life that he did and is doing everything he can for his child. He probably has painted a picture so pretty that even he has started to believe it.

And the third, according to Pearce, can be wrapped under the label of Disneyland Dads. They have their children so infrequently, that when they do, it’s nothing but fun and games. These dads really never parent at all. A dad like this convinces himself that as long as his kid is spoiled and happy when she leaves, he’s a good dad. He’s doing his duty. After all, his kid loves him.

Real divorced dads understand that it is important for them to be an active participant in their child’s life. They know that they must be there as often as they possibly can. They understand that they are a role model and that their children need their guidance and discipline. They understand that an unbalance occurs when their child is fatherless most of the time.

If you see yourself in any of these scenarios (women too – roles can be reversed), please fight for your children. Work to regain their trust. Do whatever it takes and give up whatever you must. It may not be easy but the reward will be worth every sacrifice, afterall, they are truly the love of your life.

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