I don’t have as many fathers in my life as I do mothers. For some reason, I have much stormier relationships with men than I do with women. Ironys of ironys, I sit here writing this Father’s Day morning as a storm brews up outside.
In order of importance, my fathers are:
My Pseudo-stepdad. Now not pseudo as in pretended, false, fake but as in almost. My mother and him have been a couple for over twenty-five years. They are each others business contacts and support. They do not share a house: she’s usually in town, he’s usually out at the farm. I didn’t start calling him my stepdad, not even in my head, until recently. The family crisis I wrote about at the end of March dealt with him. This crisis made me clarify my feelings about my pseudo-stepdad. He’s always treated us fairly; treated my brother’s kids, better than their own grandfather did. He saw them more for one. This year, I sent him a Father’s Day card even before I sent one to my own father.
Which brings me to my biological Father. Yes, I choose this term carefully. Nine times out of ten this is how I see him. He impregnated my mother with four children and then left when my younger brother was a few months old and I was barely a year and a half. I didn’t see him again until I was twelve or so. He contacted my mother because the Catholic Church needed her to sign off on her marriage to him before he could marry my stepmother in the church.
After that, we spent occasional summers with him and his new family. In my adulthood, after I graduated with my MLIS and was in my thirties, I lived with him, my stepmother, my youngest half-sister (who was also an adult) and her child. I got to know my father better, got to see him as human and flawed and myself the same way. I can understand why he had to leave my mother (they are very ill suited). I’m not sure I can ever understand why he gave up on being part of my childhood.
This concerns me because I see my brother and nephews repeating this pattern. At least one of them is only being a Baby Daddy. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, a Baby Daddy is “the father of the child, not currently involved with the mother.and more than likely not supporting, or involved, with the child.” Those last two points are the ones that upset me the most. I believe anyone, male or female, who participates in creating a child needs to be involved, financially, legally, absolutely, in that child’s life.
I will admit that I am confused on what the roles of a father should be. No, I believe, that after birth, the role of the father should not differ from what is expected of the mother. That both parents need to raise their child and both need to be involved financially, legally and absolutely in that child’s life.
There was no familial male authority figure involved in my childhood. My mother did not date until after all her children had finished high school. I saw my grandparents mainly on holidays even though one lived, on the farm, less than two miles from town. I don’t know why he wasn’t more involved. Okay, maybe I do – my father was not his favorite child (and maybe not even his if I choose to believe the rumours) and my father was his mother’s favorite. On the other side, I was named after my father so my mother’s mother had problems with that. Thus, no close male authority figure to observe and learn from.
My mother was the primary “Bread winner” during my childhood. The government provided the major support and my grandparents provided what they thought we needed. As did neighbours, it was a small town, this help usually centered around holidays and charity. I remember it being an issue when one of my older sister wore something to school and a classmate pointed out, to everyone, that it use to be hers. After that, my mother and a friend traded skills – she sewed for us so that we would have clothes that were unique to us. (And that’s a whole other story about me and my sister’s hand-me-downs ;-)).
When I did see my father, he was a strict disciplinarian. Mostly for all his children but he does have favorites and it’s easy to figure out who they are. Out of his first family, only my eldest sister and I contact him regularly (and will send him greetings today). This story would be greatly different told from her point of view; she was almost five when he left. I know she has a different view of him: we’ve talked.
Growing up my father had no legal responsibility for us. He was a deadbeat dad. When he did come back into our lives, to get a legal divorce and moral annulment from my mother, the courts ordered him to pay child support of $2.00 a month. Yes, that is correct; fifty cents per child per month. Which I think he paid maybe twice! The reasoning behind this was partly that my mother was on government support and partly the reality that he was not able to financially support both families. But still!
As you can tell, this annoys me. Where are my role models? Men confound me! My father didn’t care enough to be there. My grandfathers let emotion get in the way. My mother’s father I had to cajole and placate into loving me; my father’s father saw me as a quiet, loner who preferred to be off reading a book. Not wrong, but still, they could have tried to get to know me on a one to one basis. My father’s father took his favorites to Scotland with him. The plan, he told us, was always to take each of us eventually but he got sick before this happened (and then why did his favorite grandchild get to go twice before he died?).
This is why I am child-free. I am not strong enough, financially and emotionally, to put a child first. And I believe that this is what a good parent must do. A parent needs to be strong enough to work with their co-partner, whether in the same household or not, to raise a healthy, mostly well adjusted child that knows that both parents love them and will do their best to raise them to be happy productive adults. Who will be there, no matter what, to love them.
I chosen very consciously to not have children. I choose very consciously to love and support my nieces and nephews, as I can, both actually and financially. I know what I’ve chosen to lose and why. There are still too many knots in my upbringing for me to untangle so that I can raise both a healthy me and a healthy child. Perhaps, I’m being selfish by choosing me. Perhaps, I’m not.
No one is asking “How much do you love me? Do you love me?
No one is asking the questions I wish I had the courage to ask my parents.