Uninvolved Fathers

In America, June is dedicated to honoring fathers. I personally have mixed feelings about Father’s Day. My dad passed on 20 years ago and it seems like yesterday. I have a soft spot for those who either grieve their father’s loss or for those with uninvolved dads, particularly girls and women.

My dad was the most loving and beautiful person I ever knew. Like in most traditional families, he was the provider of the family. He made my family feel safe. He had a great sense of humor, he was a social butterfly. However, he lacked the most important quality a girl needs ––– he was emotionally unavailable. Not that he didn’t want to be, he probably didn’t know how to. He had an antiquated way of showing affection. He wasn’t physically affectionate. He wasn’t the type to hug or sit his daughters on his lap. I couldn’t go to him and talk about my feelings. I couldn’t express thoughts about boy problems or ask for advice. I understood where he was coming from, but he was still emotionally absent. As a girl, I needed much more. My mom was similar, she was emotionally unavailable too.

Whether a father isn’t present, is emotionally unavailable like mine or walks away, his absence leaves a mark on the daughter’s psyche as she grows into adulthood. There is something about being “daddy’s little girl.” Girls without active fathers grow up building walls around themselves, finding it difficult opening to people, especially men. Those are self-protective measures, so they don’t experience rejection or get hurt. Even me, although I grew up with dad most of my adult life, I missed the emotional connection girls need.

Once a counselor reported that, “fathers provided their daughters with a masculine example. They teach their children about respect and boundaries and help out daughters at ease with other issues throughout their lives so if she didn’t grow up with a proper example, she will have less insight and she’ll be more likely to go for men that will replicate the abandonment of her father.”

Studies have shown that fatherlessness has an extremely negative impact on a daughter’s self-esteem. Her self confidence in her abilities and values as a human being can be greatly diminished if her father isn’t around –– academically, personally, professionally, physically, socially and romantically. A woman’s self esteem is diminished in every setting if she did not form a healthy relationship with her father.

On a positive note, one of the ways to cope with this uncomfortable reality is by recognizing that it’s not our fault, all kids deserve to be loved and protected. It doesn’t serve us to blame ourselves for what our fathers did or didn’t do. We can write about it, talk about it, and turn our experiences into art. By sharing our wounds, we open our hearts and healing happens. Lastly, let’s not allow our past to determine our future. We can practice radical acceptance, or we can just take what we like and leave the rest.