Growing up without a dad

I wanted to write this blog as although this part of who I am isn’t so positive- it’s a battle that me and lots of others face and I wanted to be open and share my experience.

A year into motherhood, and with a new strength and perspective thanks to my beautiful boy, I finally feel like I am able to talk about the difficulties I face from growing up without a dad.

To give some context, I was raised by my mum. She never once gave up, despite the stresses, strains and pain my father caused; I am thankful everyday for the loving and happy childhood she gave me. Over the years we’ve had our ups and downs. Being two incredibly fiery and stubborn women living under the same roof, as I grew into my teens our relationship was intense and our mother and daughter relationship developed so many different dimensions. When one parent is absent, the other parent left to raise the child alone is forced to take on both parental roles and a whole heap more. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her to take on all these roles and bring me up alone. So many do it, and I can honestly say, you’re all heroes.

Since becoming a mum, I have only now just started to come to terms with the struggles I faced growing up without a dad. It is only now that I feel strong enough to recognise some of the issues I’ve now been left to deal with because of his absence.

My first memory of feeling bothered about not having a conventional family unit was when I was around 5 or 6 years old.  I was at one of my school friend’s houses and I remember seeing their dad come in from work, pick them up and play with them. Quite an ordinary scene for many, but on this day, for the first time ever, I remember feeling quite confused and upset about why I didn’t have a father waiting for me at home to play with.

Since then, I’d often question the meaning of family and wonder why it was just me and my mum. My mum was always very open about the choices my father made and why he wasn’t with us but the knowing still didn’t get rid of the frustration and anger. Same with other family members. Why had I only seen them a handful of times? The honesty from my mum just never erased the sadness and insecurity I felt- I just couldn’t help feeling that something was missing.

I’d tend to feel the most sad on Christmas Day when it would just be the two of us sat around the table or birthdays when there were no cards from him through the post. I remember feeling angry and even envious of people with their great big “perfect” families.

Looking back on my childhood, I do think some of this anger followed me into my teens and was the reason for a lot of the arguments me and my mum had. I do believe that his absence has lead to a lot of insecurities within myself about the meaning of family and feeling “different”. Why did my father choose drugs over me? Why didn’t he step up and be the man that his family needed? Why is he so selfish? Why have we been left behind?

There has been all sorts of research carried out about how growing up without a dad affects women, which you may or may not have looked into already. Personally, I don’t think it’s healthy to condition yourself based on the research of others. Every circumstance is completely unique.

I know that growing up without a father has caused me to have insecurities which have affected my behaviour and the dynamics of my past relationships and maybe even my current relationships. But that is something I am learning to deal with each day. However, growing up without a father has not caused me to have an eating disorder nor do I have depression like research suggests I might have, so I think it’s important to not get too wrapped up with the psychological stuff that gets put on the internet and treat your own insecurities individually with the care they deserve.

Now I have a family of my own, I write this with a whole new perspective. I feel so happy that I have been able to give myself a new meaning to the word ‘family.’

I’ve discovered that family doesn’t mean how many brothers, sisters, aunts and cousins you have, it’s about the person or people that are there for you. That support and guide you. That pick you up when you fall down. That love you unconditionally.

Seeing what an amazing dad my partner is to our Arlo makes me feel incredibly lucky. Watching their bond, it’s almost like the gaps from my father’s absence are now beginning to close and my bruises are beginning to heal. I am slowly starting to feel I am no longer “missing something”. I am slowly learning to let go of the fact that I didn’t have a conventional upbringing and beginning to accept that even though it was just me and my mum, it doesn’t make us less of a family, or less special.

And even though I feel like I’m recognising the reasons for my insecurities, some days I deal with it better than other days. And on those bad days, I no longer want to feel any guilt about feeling sad, angry or frustrated. We are all allowed those days, we all need time, we all need space. We all need to breath.

I would love to hear your experiencs, thoughts and feelings about this topic so feel free to share in the comments.

Amelia x

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