When a dad walks away

He left us. It was one of those terrible, awful situations you hear about happening to someone you grew up with and just cringe. No one saw it coming, not our friends, family, certainly not me. Suffice to say I came home from work on Thursday, he told me he was going, and by Sunday I was telling the kids he was gone. It was very sudden and harsh.

Apparently, he decided that he couldn’t see the kids after that. It wouldn’t be good for them. Too hard. Too painful. For them, he says. So, now I have two little girls, five and seven who went from living with him for over two years to nothing. He has seen them only three times since he announced to me he wasn’t happy.

Was he their biological dad? No, and they didn’t call him daddy. But he is the one who taught them how to ride bikes, swim, and grow veggies in our garden. He was Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy. Every picture has him in it, every video, every memory includes his presence. He loved them, seemingly much more than their rather uninvolved father. More importantly, they loved and trusted him completely.

Now, almost four months later, it’s getting better. For the first couple of months, weeks, days, it was excruciating. More than my own pain (which was nothing to shake a stick at) was watching my girls grapple with abandonment. And anger. And frustration. I could go on, it was truly worse than getting divorced from their father and I really didn’t think that could be topped. As for me, it’s a broken heart, what can I do? I just work a lot and frankly, I didn’t need to make New Years resolution to lose weight…20lbs just peeled off.

In no way did I expect him to continue being their primary father figure, or contribute financially. I actually asked him if he could remain in their lives as a family friend. For them to know they could talk to him still, even if he didn’t see them all the time. He declined.

A couple of weeks ago my youngest lost her first tooth:

Her: “Mommy, can we tell Randall?”
Me: “I don’t know when I’ll talk to him again sweet pea.”
Her: “He’s not a real grown-up yet?”
Me: “Not quite.”

Good things did come from the situation although I’m not sure what they all are just yet. The girls have a closer relationship with their father than they ever have before. I’ve actually been impressed by how much he stepped up. Long term, it’s still best we’re apart. I’m not saying he didn’t have the right to go. It’s more the method that he chose.

When a woman trusts you with her children, she has handed you her soul…her core. There is nothing she holds closer to her chest than that relationship. If you take that role, whether you’re biologically the father or not, you have a responsibility to the children involved to remove yourself gently should the situation arise.

Single moms definitely have a lot to give. Most of what is written is true. We don’t have time to play games, but you can bet your ass we’re there when you need us. We’ve already learned to love unconditionally and with abandon. The moment a woman becomes a mother, whether by birth or adoption, she finds out there is a part of her soul unlocked that she didn’t even know existed. It’s pretty cool, really.

I am a far better woman for being a mother. I know this, without a doubt. My children make me a better person. But still, it’s a lot for a man to deal with, and I know that. Whether I should or not, for now I blame myself. I didn’t protect them and trusted someone I shouldn’t have.

That’s something I can’t ever walk away from.

Image: ribena_wrath
9 Responses to “When a dad walks away”
  1. My (biological) dad stayed away because it was “for the best”. To this day, I’m not sure whose “best” that is referring to. Yikes. (It sounds like you’re doing a great job with the kids, though!)

  2. Sylvan

    Although I myself (as a man) am convinced that one should feel responsible for those children as soon as you start playing the dad role, you have a responsibility to yourself first.

    The responsibility to be yourself. And if that means doing what this guy did, then that’s fine as far as I’m concerned, since you can’t train a dog to be a cat.

    Other than that, the majority of us will all look after your children one way or the other. Don’t worry.

  3. Lisa

    “The moment a woman becomes a mother, whether by birth or adoption, she finds out there is a part of her soul unlocked that she didn’t even know existed.”

    What a beautiful truth. My children have definitely made me a better person as well. Thank you for the honesty of this post. Your children are lucky to have the example and benefit of your strength. I wish you many blessings. Shanti~peace.

  4. I was moved by this story, but even more moved when I considered how often it is repeated for far too many families, and the terrible impact it has on far too many children.

    I have to say thought that I both agree and disagree very strongly with Sylvan’s comments. Yes, “one should feel responsible for those children as soon as you start playing the dad role.” Well said; absolutely true. But I completely disagree that, “you have a responsibility to yourself first.” Maybe when you’re on your own, yes. But once we become a parent or spouse, our first responsibility is to care for them, and not ourselves.

    The writer of this post is still with her children because she sees those little ones rather than herself as her first responsibility. If we all accepted our responsibilities so well, this world would be a much happier spot… and surprisingly even for those who stopped putting themselves first.

    • Your story moved me to tears. I stayed to look after a little girl I call my daughter after her father and I broke up. She has no other mother figure and we’d grown inseparable. I still wake up every day not knowing if this will be my last one here. But we make every day count in some little way. I’m grateful to still have my monkey. I wish you and your girls unlimited joy, healing, and laughter. All will come right in the end.

  5. This is so heartfelt and heartwrenching at the same time. I guess in these situations nobody really wins, but what else is there to do but move on? It sounds like you are already doing amazingly, considering the circumstances. Your strength is exactly what your girls need!

  6. Hi Contributor, it’s certainly worse than getting a divorce, makes me feel so sad. A quote for you though : “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (A. A. Milne) Be strong for your children and yourself~

  7. Thank you for posting this and being a wonderful role model for your daughters.

  8. You really mustn’t blame yourself for having the courage and strength of heart to be open and trusting in relationship. That is to your credit. If he did not have the maturity or enough ‘right-mindedness’ to end his relationship with you and your children with respect then that is his loss and will ultimately be weighing heavy on his conscience.
    My husband and father of 3 of my 4 children just disappeared one day…the police found his name on a flight list from Heathrow to south Korea…my kids at the time were 2,3,4 and 7…he smashed my car and emptied both joint bank accounts. My Father died 2 weeks later, I then discovered I was pregnant again but lost the baby…heavy year!!! That was 10 years ago and I have moved country, been through a whole range of challenges since, we have grown as a family through love, consideration and sensitivity.We do Home Ed. hand out on the mountain together, play music, cook, talk, share our dreams, go hiking…life is rich. I have a wonderful relationship with the Father of my eldest child who now lives with us and he is delighted to be Papa of the other kids too…it is difficult to see the whole picture when your dream has been smashed and life is shattered…but I believe those difficult darks passages in life are just leading you to an open door where you can step into a new bright landscape.
    I understand why people comment on your need for strength and how that is good for your daughters…but I believe it is also ok to show yourself in your full self…Mothers are not always strong, we have dark days and weak days, ultra sensitive days, cranky days, vibrantly jolly days…we need to show our children we are human and live through a multitudinous range of feeling and emotions and are still ourselves,NO FEAR associated with emotional expression and things not being ok because we are not being strong. We still love them, still kiss them goodnight etc etc the forever strong smiling Mum is a myth and puts pressure on women to ‘perform’.
    Life is not always easy and you can not always feel strong, be gentle with yourself…I think showing your daughters loving self-care and acceptance is way more interesting!
    Love and empathy to you and your family x

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