There was a spirited discussion on CocoaMamas about whether or not fathers should (be able to) walk away from their parental responsibilities. One reader contacted me and said she wanted to share her story, which includes her making a conscious decision to not allow her child to see the father. The names and certain elements of the story have been changed to protect those involved.
Linda knew her daughter’s father for at least 10 years or so and they had worked together at some point. She wasn’t particularly attracted to him in a romantic way and they’d been generally friendly with each other. He liked her, but she didn’t exactly return the feelings, as she found him to be quite opposite of her. She’d experienced the loss of someone close to her and sought the shoulder of someone who didn’t know this person as well, we she felt that was what she needed at the time. She would later realized he never asked her about the person or the loss. She learned early on that he was rather self-absorbed, which was a turn off. They began to spend more time together during this time of grief and one thing led to another and they became intimate. They stopped “seeing” each other when she became pregnant.
She had some health complications while pregnant with her daughter and his contact was sporadic at best. Though he made promises to be there, he did not hold up his end of that. She sought support from her friends and for some reason, he was threatened by that. He felt it threatened his manhood so in efforts to compromise, she asked her friends to give her some space and allow him to come in and fill the role they had agreed to take on. Shortly after, he left to go overseas for over a month. Back at home, she was living with friends, occasionally sleeping on couches, facing eviction… she really struggled, all with no assistance or emotional support from him. When she’d reached a low place, she decided it was best she return home to her family. She wanted him to “be there” but she realized it was primarily because she did not want to be a single parent; it wasn’t that she wanted to be with him. She wanted to devise a coparenting plan, but it became clear to her that he was more focused on living his life uninhibited by the responsibilities of being a parent.
When he returned from overseas, he moved in with her, having had a change of heart. He stayed all of three weeks. In that time, he helped her with cooking and cleaning. Later, he went to one doctor’s appointment, the one appointment where she learned that her daughter needed to be induced due to complications. It was by chance that he was there for the birth, as she feels he likely would not have been had things turned out differently.
After her daughter was born, he came by every day for two weeks, then the visits became less and less. Then he stopped coming altogether. Because her daughter was premature, she required special care. He once asked if he could take her and keep her at his mother’s house for a month and Linda declined, citing the baby’s health issues. She did, however, let him keep her overnight once. When she called to check on her daughter, he snapped her telling her to leave him alone, that he could handle it. As any mother would, she worried about her child. He became uncooperative, ignoring her requests and special instructions. It became difficult to establish consistency.
In their daughter’s first year, he saw her no more than 10 times. He gave her money while she was pregnant, but after, his sister bought clothing for their daughter a few times. At this point, she had no idea where he was even living. After promising to come and cancelling several times, she took matters into her own hands and requested that he give her advance notice when he planned to take their daughter or come visit. He didn’t agree to this so as their daughter got older, she decided she didn’t want him popping in and out of her life, making promises to come and not showing up, etc.
When she moved to another state, back home with her family, he claimed she moved to keep his daughter away from him. She faced eviction, had nowhere to turn, and did what she felt was best for her and her child. She then sought to set up formal visitation and while he agreed to the mediation, she became sick and was hospitalized. He would later claim that she bailed on the mediation in efforts to keep him from seeing his daughter. To rectify this, she filed papers to provide him with established visitation, even paid to have them delivered and he never responded. When she suggested he filed for visitation on his own, he said, “Over my dead body.”
What followed were a series of harassing, abusive emails and texts, questioning her capability as a mother, making her feel like she was responsible for his not seeing his daughter. Her responses became standard, “File for visitation.” He refused. He once randomly sent a box of clothes. Another time, he sent a picture of himself. In his emails, he rarely asked about his daughter. It was all about him, about the pregnancy, about all of the things she supposedly did to him. For her well-being, she made efforts to send her daughter to see him. She sent her through a friend or her sister. She insists that he make efforts to set up a formal schedule, but he refuses. He seems to want to see his daughter when its convenient for him, on his own time, which is almost never.
While Linda feels at this point he is of no use, she ideally wants him to be a part of his daughter’s life. She wants him to become more consistent with calling and visiting. She wants him to show that his daughter is more important than anything else going on in his life, but he has not done that. She is willing to compromise, meet him half way, but she feels finds that he is not willing to compromise. However, he would copy pictures from social media outlets and post them as if he was present at the events (like birthday parties). He makes it look like he is an involved father, when he is not.
She decided that it is in the best interest of her daughter to detach. It is also in her best interest because when he engages with her, he becomes abusive. She told him to focus on their daughter, but he rarely speaks of her. He uses his communication to berate her and she has had enough. She doesn’t think of him as an evil man, just immature, misguided, and unable to prioritize. When she feels that he finally understands the importance of having a solid relationship with his daughter, she will feel more comfortable letting him become a regular part of her life.