I grew up without a father.
Statistics say one in three children is without a father in the American home. I have personally experienced the negative effects being fatherless has on children. Before my father left, I witnessed his substance abuse, incarcerations, crime, and physical abuse to those around him. I’ve seen poverty. I know what it’s like to struggle at a young age. There is an emotional impact on those of an absentee father that is known to have an impact on adulthood. There are the obvious obstacles adults have to overcome such as dealing with low self-esteem and emotional difficulties in adult relationships. But I never once thought having to learn the polarization of the mother and father roles once becoming a mother. The role of a father, that critical aspect of my development, was missing and now we had to create our own template on what a traditional family system looks like. This created problems for my husband and me. We didn’t see eye to eye because of my upbringing.
Men and women are different and parenting styles follow that pattern. Mothers and fathers parent in different ways. Typically, mothers are more sympathetic and nurturing while fathers are more stern and rule enforcers. Coming from a fatherless home, my mother was both the rule enforced and nurturing one. She played both parenting roles. When I became a mother myself, I had to learn that there are distinct roles a father and mother should play.
Through the years of watching other fathers, I had created the role of a father to be a perfect image I had wanted as a child. Knight in shining armor: father edition.
It was created with a fatherless figure in mind, so you can see where the issue came in for my husband’s role. There were days I thought my husband was doing it all wrong. Some days I wanted him to show up more, be more present, as the child version of myself had wanted. Other days I ran myself rugged playing both the father and mother role as this was the behavior I grew up with. My husband and I would get into arguments when I left no role for him to play.
Rather than allowing my father’s absence to act as an invisible anchor holding me back, I’ve learned from it. I’ve learned what a healthy father role should look like. I’ve healed and learned a lot. I’ve learned not all fathers are like mine. We both still have a ton to learn as we are only in our 5-year-old parenting but together we are establishing what we want our family roles to look like. I know more about my past will come up as we continue this parenting journey together, but it will be okay because we will figure it out. Together.