An Alienated Father’s Story

An Alienated Father’s Story

 

Hello,

 

I want to tell my story in effort for people to understand one of the reasons why we may have a problem with Fatherhood in America.  Are we sending mixed signals about how we value fathers?  If society doesn’t actually value fathers, why do we expect fathers should value themselves?

The day my son was born was the happiest day of my life.  I was married at the time.  I was as completely involved as a man can be in the pregnancy and was the first parent to hold our son.  My world changed completely.  I worked, changed diapers, got up in the middle of the night, held him when he was sick, and fed him just like mom did.  Four years later my amazing daughter was born.  I was no different with her.  As they got older I went to school events, parent teacher conferences, coached soccer, and went to other sporting events.  I was as involved in their life as a parent could be and never gave a thought that I didn’t want to be that parent.  It came natural to me.

As time went on, however, I started hearing little rumors about my wife.  Things I didn’t want to believe, and there were signs I was ignoring.  She was also getting very mean to me and the kids.  I don’t want to get into this too much, but let’s just say there is no married person who should ever stay in marriage like I was in.  It was horrible and it was abusive.  When I finally let myself look for the signs, the things my wife were doing were very bad.  My ex-wife has changed a lot over the years, she is a good mom now, but she was not at the time. 

When I told my now ex-wife I wanted a divorce, that really put her over the edge.  This isn’t something you do to her without payback.  She would make me suffer.  She wanted me broke, and alone without my kids.  Her goal was to make me suffer.

I had no criminal record, plus a history of being an equally involved dad.  I also had a secure job that I had been at for many years.   She had nothing on me that would suggest I shouldn’t be an equal parent.   Her tool box against me was empty.  My tool box, however, was full of things that could prove my wife was not being a very good parent.  I thought she had the ability to be a good parent, but she needed to change her ways.

I contacted a lawyer and told him about the things my then wife was doing, and that I wanted to file for divorce.  I told him it may be best for me to have full-placement of my kids.  He simply said, thing do seem bad, but you will go bankrupt.  The Family Courts will not give you full-placement unless there is major proof of child abuse.  Just being a crappy mom isn’t enough.  I had to drop it because all I could prove is she just wasn’t a very good mom at the moment.  But I still wanted my kids half the time because I always had been an equal parent.  My kids needed me, just as much as they need their mom. 
At the same time my then wife talked to a lawyer.  Things went very different for her.   For her, all she needed to be was a mother, and she deserved to have full-placement of our kids if she wanted. That was it.  It didn’t matter if she had been a crappy mom recently.  It didn’t matter if I was an equally involved dad, she was the mother, thus she deserves to have full-placement.  Period, end of story.
You know what, she was right.  If mom wants full-placement, dad better be ready for a real legal battle because she is mom.  I was a second-class parent. 
I went through pure hell and went bankrupt fighting just to be an equal parent. Every-time there was a court hearing or anything, I was under the spot light.  I was the one everyone was focused on.  It was never mom.  It was 100% about me as a dad.
It took a year and a half to finalize the divorce.  I was bankrupt and a broken man.  But I won.  I won the ability to continue being an equal parent. I won 50% placement of my own kids.  I will never forget how I felt that day.  I was broken, but happy.
Two years later she tried it again, and again I was beat up in court.  But again, there was no reason I shouldn’t be an equal parent, so I won again. 
 
If I had not been married to mom, wasn’t as involved in my kid’s life, if I didn’t have money for a lawyer, didn’t have a good job, worked too long of hours, if I had the slightest blemish on my record I would have lost.  I had to be perfect, or I would have seen my kids 4 days a month at best.  Mom didn’t need a good job, she could have problems galore, yet she was never worried should wouldn’t at least see her kids half the time.  She lost in her eyes, but she didn’t actually loose. 
Think of this now, a single mom can walk out of a hospital with full-placement, and full-custody of her child.  No questions, and no need for a lawyer.  If a dad wants to be part of his child’s a life he must prove he should be in the Family Courts even to have 4 days a month with his own child.  If he wants to be an equal parent, he needs $5,000 to give to a lawyer upfront just to start the legal battle.  How many young dads have that kind of money to just give away?  Plus, mom can just move away from dad, and that is the end of equal placement.  
Being a dad in the Family Courts feels like your time is unwanted, and unneeded.  Only your money matters to them.  Your time means little.  What message does this send to dad’s, and to their children?  What message does it send when this is rarely even talked about in society?    
After 50+ years of forcing dads to be part-time visitors at best to their kids, it seems some fathers sadly get the message we have sent to them.  They don’t think that they are needed either.  It’s very sad.
 
 
 

The Story Of How I Became a Fatherless Daughter

My story of being a fatherless daughter begins when I was just 3 years old. It pains me to think about that time, simply because I don’t remember any of it. It happened in April. My father was working the night shift at a local convenience store…just trying to make a living for his family. A young man wanders in, and shoots him. That was the night my sisters and I became fatherless. At the time I was too young to understand how this loss would affect my life. To be honest, I don’t even remember how it affected my life at that time; I only know how it affected me in the years to come. Years later, while going through boxes of my dad’s stuff like we did almost every year, my mom brought out a surveillance tape from that night. She said we would watch it once together, and then she would destroy it. I’m guessing she kept it until we were all old enough to understand what happened. The tape showed my dad sitting behind the counter doing a crossword, or doodling. It showed a teenage boy walk in. My dad gave him a nod, appeared to say “hello,” and stood up behind the register. The young man put a candy bar or something on the counter, and then held a gun to my dad. My dad instantly put his hands up, then opened the register and took all of the money out. He stood back as the young man continued to yell something at him. Then he shot him. I saw my dad grab at his chest, say something along the lines of “oh sh**,” and fall out of the camera’s view. The boy grabbed the money and candy bar and ran out of the store, leaving my father alone to die. I only know of what happened next because of a letter my mom wrote to the court, along with newspaper clippings she shared with my sisters and I that day we watched the video. The boy was 16 years old, with a baby on the way. He had a mother who was distraught about his actions and remorseful for our family. The boy who killed my father was sentenced to life in prison.

That is part one of my fatherless daughter story. Like I said, I don’t remember any of it. I don’t have any original memory from that time.

Part two of my story starts maybe a year after my father’s death. This is when my mom met my future step-dad. This man stepped in to be the father he didn’t have to be to four young girls who had become fatherless too soon. He loved us like his own, but he was not perfect. It wasn’t until I was about 10 years old that I realized he was not right for our family. He often drank too much which led to horrible arguments between him and my mother. He was verbally and emotionally abusive to her for a long time. When I was about twelve my mother uprooted us so that she and my step-dad could be married, this was after they dated on and off for about eight years. I was excited for a new start, but I hated leaving my home. The drinking and fighting started again, and within two years my mom made the decision to leave him and move us all back home. During those two years I went through severe depression, to the point of self-harm and thoughts of suicide. The main thing that kept me from actually committing suicide was memories of my uncle. But that’s part three of my story. Although I only bring up the bad times with my step-dad, I have many fond memories of him. He was the first real father I remember. I never called him dad, but he was the dad I had. I may hate the things he did in the end, especially how brutal he was during him and my mom’s divorce, but I will always remember him and the good times we shared.

Now I will talk about part three of my story of being a fatherless daughter. Part three takes place during the years my mom and step-dad were not together, before they got married and we were uprooted. My mom had moved my sisters and me to her home town to be closer to her family. She bought a house and we made a life. During this time my mom and my aunt decided to open an in-home daycare center. My aunt and uncle lived with us to help run the daycare, and my grandmother came by daily to help out as well. I loved having the daycare. I loved the children. I loved having my aunt and uncle in the home. My uncle was another man in my life that I think of like a dad. He helped take care of my sisters and I and the daycare children. He fixed things around the house, shoveled snow, and took out the trash. We even called him “trash man.” The nightmare began one night when my uncle was outside and he slipped on some ice. He dislocated his shoulder and was bedridden for weeks. I don’t remember much of what happened after he got hurt, but I very much remember the day I came home from school and my mom told me that he was missing. If my memory serves me right, my uncle had gone out late the night before to take a walk. Apparently he had been doing so often around that time. It was April so the weather was starting to clear. I was told that my uncle had gone for his walk and never returned. He was called in as a missing person, we made flyers, and my entire family took shifts searching for him around town. I remember the day, about a week later, more clearly than anything. I skipped home from school, excited to tell my mom that I gave my teacher one of the flyers and she was going to make copies for the other teachers. I felt good that I could help in some way as I was too young to go out and help with the actual searches. As I approached my house I saw cops parked outside, and my mom was standing in the driveway. She took my sister and me downstairs, but I saw my aunt upstairs talking to a police officer and crying. My mom sat us down and told us that they had found my uncle and that he was dead. My mind blurs at this point…I couldn’t understand what had happened. My other sisters got home, they rode the bus from the junior high, and I foggily remember her telling them what she had just told me. My uncle had committed suicide. The night he left he took the gun that he had hidden under his bed, and he had killed himself. He never left a note. We will never know why. Depression is a dark and lonely place, and to this day his suicide affects my life and the decisions I make.

So that is my story of how I became a fatherless daughter. I know the loss of all three of these men affected the choices I made growing up, including my choice to become a social worker. My dream and passion is to help others who have also suffered loss and trauma in their lives. I know I have made a lot of bad decision in my life because I am a fatherless daughter. But being a fatherless daughter has also led me to make good decisions. Being fatherless is what led me to know that I wanted to help people, which led to me completing graduate school and becoming a social worker. I currently work with troubled teenagers and their families, helping them cope with traumas in their life and become closer as a family. I know that deep down, being a fatherless daughter has truly impacted my life.

Sara Beth,

A Fatherless Daughter

I Have My Ring Back

I Got My Ring Back

Restoring

Today is an important day for me and I would like to share it with you.

Someone recommended me the book “Healing from hidden abuse” by Shannon Thomas and I bought the audible version of it. The author describes stages of recovery from psychological abuse and one of the steps is called “Restoring”. It’s about items that have been destroyed by the abuser and the power to restore them.

When I heard that part of the book my heart began to beat faster and I knew immediately which item I will restore.

My dad was an alcoholic, but not the type that drinks and stays calm or disconnected or gets funny. He was aggressive and violent and was getting worse and worse very fast. I remember a time when he was selling everything of value that we had or he could get his hands on. My grandma got a lock for her room and started to hide everything from him.

I must have been 4 or 5 years old. I had a ring with a beautiful, shiny red stone (=cheap glass). Rings were always my favorite jewelry. I’ve put it on a shelf before going to bed and the next day the ring was gone. I was heartbroken. I knew he took my ring but no one believed me. They said that I’ve probably lost it or that it’s still in the room and I should just look for it. The ring was gone.

I know that my mother and grandma had other more important worries than my ring but it was one of the most valuable things I possessed. Dad stole from me. Once more he took something that was mine and sold it.

Today I restored my ring with the red stone. It’s a ring from the 70ies with a red Agate stone. It’s old and some pieces are missing. It’s not perfect and that’s why I like it. I have my ring again. It meant a lot to me and now as a grown up woman, I gave it back to myself and my little girl.

I have my ring back.

 

 

The Other Man

The other man

My stepdad had a heart attack and I visited him in the hospital yesterday. I have been No Contact with him and my mother for 2 years. Understandably the hospital encounter brought up memories. Mostly about power struggles and ugly sides of humanity. A connection that was given to us, but never blossomed.

My stepdad came into my life when I was 9 years old. After two years my mom remarried and we moved from Poland to Germany. New husband, new country, new language to learn, new school. The fights started almost immediately after we arrived and after 6 months my mom told me that it has been a mistake and we will go back home. We were in the car together and her promise was the sweetest thing I heard in the last six months. She changed her mind and never mentioned it again. They never stopped fighting. Even now after 20 years their main activity is fighting with each other.

My stepdad doesn’t have his own children. Good for me. I don’t even want to think how he would have treated me if he had kids. He didn’t like the fact that he had to spend money on me. For school, for food and for clothing. I began to earn my own money when I turned 16 and have been supporting myself ever since. In Germany the state gives you a certain amount of money for your kids as long as they go to school (max. till they turn 26). He always kept that money for himself.

He was and is a coward. Coward doesn’t sound bad, but if you know one, you know how ugly things can get. He is the kind of person who attacks people who are weaker like the homeless and is very rude to waiters. He enjoyed being the stronger one and putting me down. Living with him and pretending that everything is fine was hell. I only had good moments with my mother when he worked late shifts and we were alone at home. The dynamic changed after he hit me and I came home with a document from the doctor that described the abuse. I told him that if he ever puts his hands on me again, he will go to jail. He feared me and bought me a car. I won, but I never wanted to be part of it.

I moved out as soon and as far as I could. Things got better, because we didn’t see each other much. When I was 25 my life stopped for a few months. A massage therapist turned out to be a stalker. He was dangerous and wanted me to commit suicide. In all those months my stepdad remained silent. He didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He didn’t protect me at all.

Things have changed drastically when he has lost his job. His German is bad and he needed my help with the papers. “How is my sweet girl today?” “You are all that I have” “Only you matter”. I didn’t work on me. It only made me sad. Sad that I never had a dad who really meant those words. I was never my dad’s princess or dad’s girl.

The hatred in their marriage grew larger and larger and one day I said STOP. When I saw him in that bed yesterday, I felt sorry for him. He was weak and scared.
I did not feel safe around him. He will say and do everything and then use it against you, twist it, lie, put you down.

I feel sorry for myself. For all the years he verbally attacked me at the table and for the PTSD I still have from it. For all the times I had to go out and walk around alone, because they were fighting. For my struggles in a new country without knowing the language and not having parents who knew how it actually is to be part of the German society. I feel sorry for the years I couldn’t build my identity, but pull up a false self that made me safe. I feel sorry for not having had any deep conversations with him, for never doing fun stuff together and feeling bonded and loved.
He has no idea who I am and I guess I don’t even want him to know.

Tracey’s Story

My story is one that started as a young girl. I did not lose my dad to illness, but choice — I still remember the day I knelt in my parents room, crying and praying to God for a new family. I was around 6 years old at the time. I am now 29 and my parents are still unhappily married.
My dad was always home, but was never involved with me or my younger sister. Read more

30. Single. Fatherless.

 

That’s the current stigma of my life. I’d love to tell you that these truths do not define me but they absolutely do. And at least one of them will stick with me forever.

I’ve been fatherless since I was 10 years old. Read more

Here is the Impact of Your Book…

Thank you so much for the Book “The Fatherless Daughter Project.” I am a Stand-In Father for Karina, age 21, whose mother used crystal meth amphetamines and alcohol during her pregnancy. Karina’s biological father has been completely non-existent in her life. Read more

A “Typical” Family

There is no such thing as a “typical” family, but as far as outward appearance goes, my family has always looked like the “typical” family. I live in a house, I have pets, I go to a good school, I have a mom, a dad and siblings. Even though everything may seem ordinary, the relationship between my father and I has always been far from the norm. He has always been in my life physically, but has not shown up for me, emotionally, in years. He does not spend time with me or my siblings outside of the household. I rarely see him since he gets up for work after I leave for school and comes home every night after I have already gone to bed, which means that I only see him on the weekends. For most of those weekends, we will exchange a sentence or two, or not talk to each other at all.

Ever since I was younger, my dad has never known the names of my teachers, never bought birthday presents, and to this day, has never come to my school to see a project that I have done or an accomplishment that I have made (other than elementary and middle school promotions). There are teachers and other students that know more about my life and what I have gone through than my dad. While most of the time he is absent emotionally, any other interactions with him typically turn out much worse than silence. From road rage to arguments over pointless topics, he usually only shows his emotions through anger.

I remember on my birthday one year, after going to breakfast with my mom and sister, we went home so that I could open my birthday presents. As we walked in the door, my mom mentioned something to my dad that turned my day completely upside down. While the topic brought up wasn’t a big deal, my dad reacted the way that he always does; through anger. He grabbed the television remote and threw it as hard as he could at the tv. I instantly felt this pit in my stomach as the remote broke into a ton of pieces and a crack spread like a spider’s web, across the corner of the tv screen.

While this wasn’t the first time that he had ever acted like this, it is certainly a time that I will never forget. Since then, I have always felt that pit in my stomach return at the sound of negativity in his voice. I stay silent in his presence, in my own home, in fear of how he may react to anything I say. But silence still isn’t good enough. In his eyes, someone is always doing something wrong. I clearly remember this one night that he came into my room. I thought that he was coming to see if I was still awake to say goodnight after not seeing me for the whole day. I had this warm feeling, because I thought that for once, he was going to ask me about my day like other fathers do. That warm feeling shattered the moment that his eyes turned dark and his face turned red. His voice grew loud and aggressive as he started to yell at me about something of his that was missing. He thought that someone must have misplaced it and that no one was going to sleep until it was found. I went downstairs to help him look for it and remembered that I had accidently bumped into it earlier in the day. I thought that I had picked it up, but a piece of it was missing. I explained to him what had happened and he coldly responded, “Well why didn’t you think to pick it up?” He talked down to me like I was stupid, like I was less than him. Even though it was an accident, I felt like I had disappointed him and it was my fault that he was angry.

Other than his anger, one of the hardest parts of the whole situation has been growing up without a good father-like figure. It hurts to see the relationship between other people and their fathers, as they listened to whatever music they wanted to in the car, could make jokes with their friends, and were completely open with their father because they didn’t have to worry about what would upset him. I wonder what it would have been like to have a dad that I don’t have to walk on eggshells around, who is there to take care of me, makes me feel safe and that I can go to, to ask for advice or even have a normal conversation with.

According to “The Father Code”, “It has been shown that the effects of emotionally unavailable fathers were almost identical to those where the father was physically absent” (The 9 Devastating Effects Of The Absent Father). This is not only an issue in my own household, but it also affects a lot of other families across the country. Other than the emotional burdens of lacking a physically or emotionally present father, there are many other ways that this issue can affect children who have dads similar to my own. “The Father Code” also states that individuals raised in a home with an “absent” father can have a greater chance of becoming depressed and/or anxious, abusing substances, dropping out of school, divorce or relationship issues in the future, and 5 times the average rate of suicide (The 9 Devastating Effects Of The Absent Father). There are many ways that I have been impacted by my father’s behavior. For example, I am a very quiet person around people that I am not comfortable with. I think that part of this may be due to the fact that I have never been able to confide in him and have always had to filter what I said around him in order to make sure that he wouldn’t get upset.

I think that the pressure that Society puts on men may be one of the reasons that so many families struggle with this issue. Scott Cunningham and Matt Dwyer from Montana State University wrote that, “Statements like ‘take it like a man,’ ‘boys don’t cry,’ and ‘No Fear’ communicate the idea that expressing emotion equals emotional weakness. This forces men to hide fear, anxiety, pain, sadness, and self-doubt behind a façade of confidence and competence” (Traditional Views of Masculinity Limit Men). Not saying that this is the case for everyone or even my own father, however the pressure that society puts on men to act tough and to conceal their emotions may contribute to the reason that they react in anger and have a hard time making emotional connections with their families.

This problem is an ongoing cycle that needs to be stopped in order to prevent the emotional and physical effects that it has on families lives. Deryl Goldenberg, a clinical psychologist, said, “I had promised myself that I wouldn’t repeat and recreate the hostile relationship I’d had with my own father, I felt almost compelled, unconsciously, to reenact my own childhood with my son.  Here it was happening to me, not as extreme, but still a strained relationship, and this broke my heart that I was still so psychologically immature. I ended up on quite a roller coaster of a ride as a father.  My son is now a grown man and we are currently sorting out our relationship.  Now I am the father open to dealing with the issues with my own son.  I am willing to acknowledge my shortcomings and listen to his childhood experiences, as painful as they are to hear. We are slowly making our way through our troubled history moving towards something of a relationship” (The Psychology Behind Strained Father Son Relationships). Goldenberg didn’t want to be anything like his father. Still, no matter how hard he tried, he ended up recreating his childhood for his own son. However, he made an effort to fix his relationship with his son, even if his timing was a little late.

Since this is an issue that affects my family and the lives of many families throughout the country, it is society’s job to change this mentality that it sets for men. This is a problem that will never be fixed if boys who grow up with dads like these, repeat these actions when they become a father themselves. If society started telling boys that it is acceptable to express their emotions and that they can be different than their father, more sons could have a greater chance at bringing an end to this cycle and more children could grow up with a father who supports them and is always there for them.

One Night

Something bad was in the air. Dad was on the phone with someone. He was angry. I overheard him saying “I will kill her tonight”. What followed was the worst night of my life and it ended with the police taking dad away.

Mom was sitting on a sofa. She looked so small and unapproachable. The silence was heavy. I was confused. 

After some time dad came to pick up his stuff. He was wearing a jeans shirt. That’s how I remember him. He tried to reach out to me, but I was too afraid. 

He left, but the terror stayed trapped in my body. I felt a little bit safer when we got a second door. It was made of steel and had a lock that was difficult to break. Every night before going to bed I checked if the door was closed. I then started to worry about the balcony. I once saw my dad climbing up the house and opening the balcony with one push. I didn’t know how to protect grandma and mom and kept a little deodorant next to my bed…

I was relieved that he was gone. I was proud of my mom for breaking the cycle. I knew it was right. But I missed dad too and I couldn’t share that with anyone. I felt that I am betraying my mom and grandma who fought so strongly to keep the monster away. 

Dad called me once and wanted to take me to an amusement park. My heart lighted up and was quickly crushed by mom’s rage when she heard that I answered the phone. She was afraid that he will kidnap me to get money. 

So from one day to the other there was no more dad, no more grandparents, no aunt, no cousin. No birthday cards. Nothing.

I was lucky to have many kids to play with. Good kids, friends till today. I loved school and was doing well. I bonded with nature and had two dogs I could talk to. The only thing that didn’t work was my health. It was the only way to have grandma care for me with love. I got sick a lot.

That one night haunts me. I know it changed me. It crushed my innocence. It crushed a feeling of safety in the world. It wired my nervous system to work in arousal most of the time. 

The trauma of the night is one thing, but I see that my brain is doing something else too: It’s holding on. There is so little I remember about dad. That night is burned into my brain. I am afraid that I will have nothing more left of him, if I let go of that memory. 

I was relieved that dad was gone. I am grateful to my mom for protecting me. 

Everything I have become is because of his absence and not his presence.

Daddy’s Girl

I unwillingly became fatherless at 27 years old. My Dad passed away peacefully, holding my hand from heart failure. I am thankfully and humbly the definition of a “Daddy’s girl.”

My Dad showed me how to love, and be loved from a very young age. He was nurturing, patient, expressive and always present in my life. He gave me confidence, endless laughter and so much comfort. We spoke every day, sometimes twice a day. He did anything and everything to encourage me and support me. We had a very unique relationship, one that I am forever fortunate to have known.

After losing my sweet Dad, I woke up each day with the intent to not “lose myself.” Easier said than done. A part of my heart is in heaven, and I was left here to figure out how to move forward. I’ve realized I do this every moment of every day, with tears some days and some days not. I started seeing a grief counselor soon after his death which helped me understand my rollercoaster emotions.

My strength is found in Christ, my husband, my friends and my family. I feel my Dad’s love living in me, it gives me great peace and motivation to love and live life to the fullest. God has never forsaken me, and he will not forsake you…