Friday, November 4, 2011

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