Father’s Day When Father is Gone


Father’s Day.

Stephanie Brigan 1- resized

In my nearly five years of being a single mom, Father’s Day has become a day I have learned to dread.

What is there to celebrate when my daughter’s father has decided not to father her, and when my own father hasn’t been involved in my life for over fifteen years? This day holds no joy for me, no celebration, and is fraught with constant reminders of what I can’t provide, and of the potential heartbreak my daughter may face. Will my cherished daughter notice that her friends are making cards for the dads who adore them? Will she wonder “why not me” and question her worth, just like her mother? How can I help her understand that having an absent father is no reflection on her value? Can I guide her through this experience, so that she emerges unscathed? Will she recognize and be satisfied by the love in our family, and the peace in our home, even if she won’t see a family like ours on TV or in her books? This burden is huge, and heavy, for me.

Know what else I think about? I wonder how men who have fathered children they don’t care for spend this day. Do they cry the same tears of frustration, exhaustion, and terror that will inevitably seep from my clenched eyelids on Father’s Day? Do they reflect on the poor choices they made, and wonder how their weakness impacts their children? Or do they spend the day in self-indulgent sorrow, bemoaning their lot in life, while doing nothing to make amends? Do they imagine the unwritten cards, the un-thrown baseballs, and the un-attended father/daughter dances?

If they do celebrate, with their other children, or alone, I hope they choke on their cake.

No matter how hard I try to normalize and explain, my daughter knows her father is missing her life. She asks about him, wonders when we can go find him, and excitedly talks about the day when he will come back. I tell her that she can always talk about her dad to me, and that I love her, but that he made a mistake and probably isn’t going to be coming back any time soon. For now, she laughs and smiles when she talks about him, but I already see the questions and doubt forming in her eyes. I would happily take her pain, multiplied by infinity, if I could spare my darling child a second of what this jackass’s absence could possibly cause her now, and in the future.

For myself, I want nothing. I’m a flawed human, and strong enough to accept the imperfect life I’ve constructed.

For my precious, tentative, loving, impetuous, stubborn, queen of a daughter, nothing is good enough. I want the world for her, and the fact that she begins life with a disadvantage, with one parent less than every other of her friends, tears me apart. I can’t be two people, and my love, no matter how profound, can’t equal the weight of the love of two parents.

I notice how my daughter monitors the men around us, how she asks her friends’ dads for piggyback rides, and how she watches for their responses to her silly antics. Does her father’s absence in her life condemn her to a life of seeking male attention? Is there truth in the stereotype of the stripper with the daddy issues? What can I do to inoculate my child against seeking the love she lacks? For now, our family of two is enough, but one day will she resent me for not being able to provide more? I have armed her with words to explain her father’s absence, but didn’t expect her four year-old best friend ask her where her father was, and expected even less to hear her explain that “he made bad choices, and he’s not here.” Will my carefully crafted words, constant love, and dedication form a kind of armor around her, protecting her from harm? I would do anything to make that a reality.

Father’s Day is no celebration, in my home, it’s true. It is important to me, however, to acknowledge the men I know, who are amazing fathers. Dads who love their children, and their partners. Men who, like two of my cousins, are single dads and devote themselves to their children. Men like my friends, who always warmly welcome my daughter and I to be the fifth and sixth wheels in their family barbecues, outings, dinners, and vacations. Men like my ex father-in-law, who never failed to express his love for me or for his first granddaughter, my precious baby. Men like my brother, who has enough love for all of his kids, and who thinks nothing of putting their wants and needs before his own. Men who wipe snotty tears, match impossibly tiny pairs of socks, and sing lullabies. Men who take the time to ask my sweet girl about her life.

This Father’s Day, I would like to sincerely wish these men, and the other fathers who I love and respect, a very happy Father’s Day.

I would also like to wish my fellow single moms, especially the ones who, like me, are raising children without a father present, peace. Solidarity, sisters. This day is ours too. Just like the hugs and kisses at bedtime, just like the pride and fears, the tears and the endless to-do lists. Celebrate yourselves today, and I will try to put my bitterness aside to celebrate with you. And all the love will be ours.

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  1. All I can tell you is that I cannot fathom the notion that any kid is left behind by a father. Blows my mind. To create a human and move on without responsibility…bizarre. But who am I to judge. I’m a flawed fella myself. Sorry that you and your doll (and all the rest of you that have posted) have to experience this. Makes me want to be a better dad. Easy for me to say, but life throws curve balls at us. I had a dad, but he wasn’t a master at it by any stretch of the imagination. I spent years trying to get away from him. But now that I have my own life I can appreciate just how important a role it is…and I’m determined to do it well — or at least open heartedly. While its not like the picture perfect post card family, your daughter has YOU. And I know that in you she has an amazing mother. Better than 1000 sh!tty men. So you go girl. Chin up. You rock – and your kid will know this and build on it when she grows up.

  2. Rachel,
    It’s hard to fathom leaving a child. There’s no logical way to understand it. But I’ve been focusing on the things my daughter (and your son) have. Like- one loving, present parent. And a home filled with peace and love. We are both so lucky for the special bond we have with our kids. They will grow and thrive. If they miss their fathers, it will help them understand at an early age how life can be difficult and unfair. They will have more strength and compassion because of it. Big hugs to you.

  3. I’m also a single mom and have always hated this day. I do have an amazing father who grandpas the hell out of my kiddo, but it’s not the same. My guy is 11 now and has never met his dad. He doesn’t ask too many questions but at his age, he knows the answers anyways.

    My heart breaks for him that he doesn’t have a dad, and I have all the same feelings and questions; what goes through his mind on Father’s Day, Christmas? Does he ever think about this amazing little boy he left in a cloud of dust?

    But we’re all doing the best we can. One day at a time.

  4. this is beautiful in so many ways. You are an incredible women, mother, and friend. That little girl is so lucky to have you!

  5. My prayer is that you do know or will one day know the Heavenly Father. He is always there with unconditional love for you and your daughter. He heals, protects, watches over, gives grace, and so much more. Spend Fathers Day at church and spend some time with the Father that true matters.

    Single mom of 3

  6. Prayers for peace Jemima. I couldn’t imagine what you are going through personally. As you know, I am a single mom with a different view on the day.

    To my knowledge, my son wouldn’t even recognize his father. He left when C was 10 months. He was gone for a yr, and left again three months later. C is turning 4 in September and has not yet asked me any questions.

    My dad has other plans on Father’s Day so we’ll do our thing another day.

    Even his daycare knows the situation and makes the Father’s Day gift for me. Last year one of his friends says “Why is he making a present when he doesn’t have a daddy?” I thank god that my son didn’t comprehend what the child said. His teacher said it responded. “He has a dad, he just doesn’t live with him.”

    Recently I left a position at a K-2 school. I had been asked to share some photos and about my home life. One first grade student asked, “is that your son?” The next “are you married?” The next “do you have a boyfriend (no)” followed by another asking “so wait, it takes a boy and a girl to have a baby. So is he adopted?” Truthfully, I didn’t know how to answer that one. Then a coworker explained that there are different types of families and even though it was only my son and I we were still a family.

    I hope to spend the day with C at a park, playing catch and having a picnic. Maybe take his training wheels off and start teaching him to ride a two wheeler.

    With all of that being said, this Father’s Day is for me. I am the one who has taken on the stereotypical roles like teaching my son to throw a baseball, hold a hammer, names of tools, names of trucks/cars/tractors etc. I built his toy box, put together his crib, then toddler bed and built him his own pallet bed. I am both parents.

    Yes, on Father’s Day I do say a little prayer to C’s father. Thanking him for the blessing that I get to know my son. Without him, I wouldn’t have this amazing, bright, fearless, adventurous, creative little man that brings so much joy into my life!!

    I give credit and congratulations to any woman that can do it all on her own. I am lucky to have family and friends that are there for me whenever I need a little help with daycare pickups, or a night to myself.

    To all single moms and single dads, happy Father’s Day. Embrace it. Celebrate it.

    • Michelle- it’s so great to hear another single mom’s perspective! You do an amazing job as both parents, and I hope you and C are able to celebrate this weekend. Lots of love to you.


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