I grew up without a dad, or one that was a consistent, safe, or support space for me. I’ve spent my entire live aching for my dad, for who he could have been, but wasn’t.
I was married when I first became a mama. My kids had a dad. I celebrated that. I was grateful for it. He was good with them. Gone a lot, but they enjoyed their time with him, and most importantly, they had a dad.
A few years passed, and things changed. The man I knew and married became dangerous to me in many ways. I hung on because them having a dad was the most important thing to me. I didn’t want them growing up like I did. I didn’t want them ever crying the way I did over everything I never had.
I was miserable, as abuse became the norm, I continuously rationalized it because he didn’t hit them. He didn’t hurt them in ways I could see at the time. And most of all, they had a dad.
To be honest, I became more dangerous to me than he was trying to escape what my life had become. But, my kids had a dad around and that was all that mattered.
It was all that mattered when…
He left me with a broken orbital socket, hand, nose, ribs, and ankle.
When I had concussion after concussion
When excuses for bruises became as normal as rainy days
When I opened his phone to find messages from someone he was having an affair with
When I drove with our kids, for days at a time, to wherever he was, so he could leave our room and go to the one he was sharing with whatever person he was with at the time.
When I sat Sunday mornings humiliated as he played on the praise team with his latest affair.
When everything was always my fault, my spirit was broken, and everything I imagined my life to be lost.
I stayed. I literally almost died, more than once, so that my children could have a dad.
We eventually divorced, and I stupidly still continued to try to create a bridge between who their dad was and what a daddy is. I did this for years until they got older and figured it out on their own.
My kids had a dad. They also had repeated trauma seeing their mom abused. I thought I hid it well, but have heard from them that they knew more than I realized. My kids had a dad, but they also felt betrayed, and lied to, by me, because I tried to make things look better than they were to them. They had a dad, but they went on to recreate the same type of relationships, though I’m grateful they caught on and moved on faster. They had a dad, but the reality is having one caused far more damage than the loss of one would have created.
I say all that to say this, having a dad is not the most important thing. Safety, security, love, consistency are all far more important than an ideal. Hurting a child’s mother IS hurting that child. And most important of all, it’s not “Daddy” that matters, it’s HOME. It is being surrounded by people who fill in the pieces he chose to leave. It’s having a Mama who loves them enough to let go of what should be to create something better.