Are we promoting the idea that love comes without responsibility?

Raising a daughter, especially alone, I am very aware of the messages I am sending her by what I say and do, and what I don’t say and do. Co-parenting has its struggles, and one of them includes comforting your child when the co-parent isn’t around. Mommy, where is daddy? Why isn’t daddy around? Is Daddy working? Mommy, WHEN is Daddy coming? There is no worse feeling for me as a Mother to see my precious daughter sitting at the window, peeking through the blinds just waiting for her father’s car to pull up…but never does. My heart breaks, and as furious as it makes me, I clench my fists for a minute, then calmly soothe my daughter’s anxiety and tell her that her daddy loves her very much and is going to see her very soon.
But, something hasn’t been adding up for a while. I often wonder how she processes what I am saying and the actions (or lack thereof) of her father. He is clearly not around consistently, but I am assuring her that he loves her. But again…he is not around. I have begun feeling like I am promoting the idea that love comes without responsibility. I am afraid that these mixed messages are actually just confusing her more. I wonder how this will affect her in the future, and it makes me scared.
While our experiences have been different, I shared my concerns with the fabulous Natasha Vianna, a fellow blogger and friend. She is also raising a young daughter on her own, and I wanted her perspective on the idea of promoting love without responsibility.
Much like Alexandra, I feel overwhelmed with sadness and anger when my daughter’s tears are provoked by her father’s lack of presence. I also realize that I have played a major role in setting her up for a possible disaster. Whether she heard conversations over the phone I had with him or saw how frustrated I became when he didn’t show. She emulated a lot of how I felt. She saw my facial expression and my disappointment even though I tried to mask my anger. As a mother, the last thing I wanted was to have her little heart feel broken when I’d have to tell her that her dad wasn’t going to show up today.
A lot of that changed when I accepted that her father was never going to be my definition of an amazing dad. Instead of pushing for more, I realized that I would have to settle for what was 100% achievable now and work my way from there. So that meant only Sundays for them. Her father could guarantee his presence and I could guarantee her availability. And so it began. No tears. No sadness.
I also feel like a lot of what I want for my daughter is directly related to my experience as a child with my father. I grew up with a dad who only saw me once a week on Sundays. I’m sure there were times when he canceled, came late, or dropped us off early, but I really don’t remember. In my teen years I didn’t get along with him, then he became my best friend for a while. But what teenager always gets along with her dad? I told him how I truly felt about him sometimes and it hurt him. And my daughter will have that opportunity too. Her father can one day feel guilty for not being more involved, or maybe he won’t. He’s only being the father that he knows how to be. Do I support it? No. All I can do is support my daughter, how she’s feeling and tell her that it’s completely okay to feel the way she does. It’s not my job to mold a man.
Although I don’t want to promote love without responsibility, I also don’t want to promote love as a duty. I don’t want to define love for her. Love shouldn’t feel forced. If I force her dad to see her when he’s not mentally or emotionally capable, I’m only setting her up for more pain. She will sense the turmoil and feel like a burden in his life. I cannot expect her dad to make a huge flip overnight and decide to take her for more than one day a week, be completely consistent and reliable if he’s never been that before. He has to want that and he has to make that change on his own.
Until then, I give my child the best love a mother can, ensure she spends time with my dad who serves as a positive male, father-figure role and encourage her to be more vocal about her feelings when she’s with her dad. I empower her to understand that she deserves the best love in the world and she has so many different variations of it – close love from mom and distant love from dad. It’s tough but my sole responsibility is raising a happy child.

Visit Natasha’s blog HERE
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3 Responses to “Are we promoting the idea that love comes without responsibility?”

Cheri' says:

Interesting take on the situation. I’m a single mom as well, I personally do not see that I am promoting love without responsibility. I am doing MY responsibility to raise my daughter to the best of my advantage. My daughter’s father being a dead beat dad is no reflection on me. Although this is a controversial issue for many people, sometimes when there is a VERY inconsistent parent in the picture, it is better to just cut the tie and move on till the child is really old enough to fully understand the situation rather than have them being jerked around by the person in a constant emotional tug of war. By the way, I blog through Google Blogger, is there anyway I can link this page up to that? I can’t seem to find it…

Migdalia says:

I believe in the same philosophy as Cheri above. As Moms, we want to protect our children; however, we do them an injustice when we make excuses for the father’s bad behaviour. It also sets us up to fail as mothers. Your daughter may not be able to vocalize everything she is seeing right now but she will remember that Mom made excuses for him. I would rather my sons know the truth than believe Mom covered up and lied for him. Our first alliance is with our children – they live with us and they need to feel that Mom is not only truthful but safe. As a Mom, I refuse to jeopardize my standing with my sons – covering up and lying for their father does just that. Not only does it set up a level of expectancy but it holds your daughter (and YOU) hostage. Ultimately, a father who wants to be involved in their child’s life will move heaven and earth to do so. If you’re the one doing all the moving, he will never do more. Why should he? It’s already being handed to him on a silver platter.

Btw, my sons began to heal when I stopped trying to make it better. I didn’t have to lie or hide what was, I just made sure I talked to them in an age appropriate manner. I also made sure I was available if they had any questions. I don’t bash him but I do tell the truth. He is a part of them, just as I am. They wouldn’t be who they are without him and neither would I. My boys changed my life, just as your daughter has changed yours. It’s easier to be kind when we reflect on the gift that our children are to us instead of focusing on what the fathers have done, and will do, wrong.

I loved this article. My daughter is only 2 1/2 so although her father is extremely irresponsible she only knows to love him. He has been a nightmare to deal with and since I finally decided to take him to court to end the run around he was giving me, he’s become worse and has given up the schedule we had agreed to before going to court. He had our child two days during the week and every other weekend. He then choose to only take her every other weekend stating that since he “has to pay so much child support, he can no longer afford the gas to drive the 30 mins to and fro during the week. He even declined having her for the holidays that I offered him. He has also canceled one of his weekends because ” something came up” and doesn’t take advantage of his right to call her when she’s with me as per our court order. Our child doesn’t know any better but because she loves her daddy will excitedly ask me when he’s coming or tell me she wants to see him. I struggle with how to answer and have been saying ” you’ll see Daddy soon” as she’s only two and that seems to pacify her. I worry about what to say when she gets older as I agree with the post and the above two comments. I fear telling her the truth and being honest because I don’t want to look as if I’m turning her against him. What exactly do you say to something like that as they get older and understand more?

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