The Lasting Impact of Growing Up with An Absent Father

Since getting engaged, my partner and I have talked quite a bit about having children.

At 26, I definitely feel the maternal instinct to care for another being other than myself. Even though I don’t want to think about the pain of childbirth, I love the idea of having my own family if possible.

Yesterday, I clicked on a recommended Youtube video about babies, which caused me to binge on the How to Dad channel.

Jordan Watson is a content creator from New Zealand who makes videos about his “dad-ding” journey. While his how-to guides are mostly for fun, it’s clear that Jordan is a present and loving father. His three daughters appear happy, healthy, and wholesome.

I was supposed to laugh at his videos — they’re very funny, but I burst into tears instead.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. In the comment section, many people gushed about his “done-right” parenting. They either wanted to have a father like him, be a father like him, or find a partner like him.

A user said: “Coming from someone who grew up with no dad, I was sobbing at this video. These girls are going to grow up to be some of the nicest and funniest people ever, he is such a good dad. I feel like if I had a dad like him growing up, I would have turned out so differently.”

And I feel that.

If I had a present and loving father growing up, there’s no doubt that I would have gone through my early twenties very differently.

I could have avoided many painful experiences. I would be recalling my past fondly instead of having a hard time dealing with traumatising memories.

I wouldn’t have wasted so much time entertaining toxic people. I wouldn’t have sold myself so short that I lost myself completely.

I wouldn’t have had to go to therapy. I wouldn’t have had to grieve my past self, process my traumas in silence, and watch out for myself as though my life depended on it.

See, I grew up with an absent father, which affected my life in more ways than I could understand.

My childhood felt like a long, silent cry while my early twenties were spent desperately looking for security and love in all the wrong places.

I never knew what it was like to have a trustworthy male figure in my life, and so I filled it with what I knew best: anxiety and abandonment.

For a long time, I felt disappointed, frustrated, and helpless. I could see the best in me, but I wasn’t able to be my best because my emotional issues were holding me back.

They took control over my life and led me to create a reality that reinforced all my negative beliefs about myself. It was painful, but at least it was safe.

However, when it was no longer safe and my future looked bleak, I had to save myself.

Don’t get me wrong — my healing journey was incredibly rewarding. I’m proud that I was able to become securely attached and meet my own needs.

But, when I watched those “How to Dad” videos, I can’t deny that, for a second, I was hit by a wave of resentment for having had to “heal” in the first place, thinking it wasn’t my fault but I didn’t have any other choices.

I’m in a happy relationship now, and I have all the security and love I ever need. I’m exactly where I want to be at this stage of life — there’s not much for me to worry about.

But, in the background, I’m still working through the lasting impact of growing up with an absent father.

Nightmares are common. Once, I woke up in tears and felt a deep pain in my chest because of the thought that I’d always be missing half of me — my father (the other half would be my mother.)

I’d never know what it was like to be cared for and loved properly by a father. Nothing could replace that, and no one could give it to me now.

Yes, I love myself. I’m loved by my mother, my siblings, and especially my wonderful partner, but it’s not the same as the love of a father.

I needed that. I still need that. I have a right to that. But I don’t have it.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never have it and just have to accept it as a fact of my life at this point. And I’ll have to be okay about it.

If you also grew up without a father, obviously, I can’t give you a different childhood or a father now. But I want to offer you my empathy and insight.

I know there are many of us out there. I got involved with people like us when I was searching for my truths.

Those people wounded me deeply, and while their actions reflected their character and were their sole responsibilities, I appreciate that what led them there wasn’t all their fault. Likewise, what led me there wasn’t my fault.

I didn’t get to choose my parents. You didn’t get to choose yours either. You can just do the best with the hand you’ve been dealt.

Fortunately, I learned the importance of drawing internal boundaries, which I could apply to my issues with my father. I decided to stop letting them affect me so much — just like that.

In fact, I went on to give myself everything I thought I needed from my father. I used him as an example of the kind of man I would never want to be with. I separated my issues with him from my love life, and it worked.

I found the love of my life who is the opposite of my father and who I know would become an amazing father one day. And, let me tell you, security and love are magic in the ordinary.

If you’re a woman who grew up without a father and you are still looking for your father in the men you date to compensate for the love you never got from him, here’s an insight: It never works.

You won’t find him because there’s only one of him and that’s your father right there. Your issues with him have to be resolved with him, not with the men you meet romantically.

The love your partner can give you is different from the love you need from your father. The role your partner plays in your life is also different from your father’s role.

If you still want to look for your father in someone else other than himself, look into the mirror — it’s you. You carry his DNA; you have him in you. You’re totally capable of taking care of yourself all the ways your father didn’t. So stop wasting your time and torturing yourself.

There are men out there who grew up with loving parents and want to build a happy family with you.

There are men who, regardless of their upbringings, understand the importance of healthy relationships and embrace their role in the home.

There are men who are feminists in ideologies and actions, who are supportive partners and involved parents.

Don’t give up on these men. Find them and choose them.

I know we all wish we had a present and loving father growing up. But, guess what, life happens. Your parents aren’t perfect. And it’s okay.

You still have yourself. You have a future ahead of you. You have the resources to work through your issues and be the parent you want to be for your future children if you choose to have them.

They will benefit from your awareness and effort today to build a healthy and happy relationship with yourself and others. So will the world.

Please remember that you don’t have to be defined by your lack of a father figure growing up.

You have the power to change and create the reality you want for yourself.

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