I grew up never knowing my biological dad and over the last few years, I’ve started to let myself feel the hurt and sadness that it caused me. I am now a single mom dating again and I want to be aware of the pitfalls that this absence might cause to make sure I make a healthy choice in a future partner/father for my child.
Dr. Zoe Answered:
The best gift we can give ourselves is to know our deficits well. The fact that you are aware of the effect that your absent father can have on your parenting puts you a step ahead.
Women who have grown up with absent fathers often make the mistake of being impressed by the attention a man gives to her own children. Honestly, sometimes it’s any attention a man gives to her as well. But attention doesn’t necessarily make a good dad. Parenting style and similar values are super important among other things.
Choose a Husband, not a Father
Sometimes moms who haven’t had the best childhood will feel that if their child doesn’t have the same experience they had, then they are doing a better job. They are comparing horrible parenting to theirs and feeling pretty good about it. If you are going to compare your parenting—actually don’t! But if you must, compare it to what you feel is the ideal situation and strive for that. Don’t just strive for better than what you had, because honestly, that bar is way too low.
After saying all of this, the last thing you want to do is swing the pendulum in the other direction so far that you are choosing a life mate on the basis of his parenting. This will come back to bite you. A life partner is forever. You two will only be actively parenting until your child is on their own. If you chose him because he makes a great dad, but compromise on the relationship front, you’re setting yourself up for a world of misery when the parenting season is over and it’s just the two of you.
That may sound counterintuitive, but loving fathers love their children’s mothers. A healthy relationship will go a long way towards providing security for your child and modeling health for them in their future relationships.
I have to talk about another concept called Daddy Lust. No one escapes an absent father childhood without some daddy lust. It’s manifested in many ways, but pretty universal. In this situation, it could show up as you picking a partner who you think has the qualities to give you what you felt you missed in your childhood from your father. Any time we are trying to use other people to repair our childhood, pain will ensue. And from a parenting perspective, it’s important to think of what your child needs in a father, not what you needed in a father.
As important as it is that you are aware of your possible issues and working on them to make a better life for yourself and your children, don’t get caught up in thinking that every problem or every deficit you have is about not having a father. I promise you it is not! You are not damaged goods or screwed up just because you didn’t have a father. Let’s be real. There are plenty of people who grew up with both parents and have many more issues than you have! Right?
Oh yeah, and once you have chosen the great guy, you have to let go and actually let him foster his own relationship with your child. This is doubly hard because you didn’t have a healthy man’s energy as a father modeled to you and you’ve been playing all the roles as a single mom. You are used to women running the family ship. So, don’t forget to actually let the relationship happen when it’s time.
You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace!
Check out these other articles about dating as strong women:
How to Avoid the Wrong Guy: A Checklist for Strong Women
How to Date as a Single Mom, from a Licensed Psychologist
5 Important Things to Discuss as a New Couple
How Self-Awareness Will Make You Successful
5 Ways Blended Families Can Be Happy and Healthy
He Brings Me Flowers, but Is That Enough?
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You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: What Makes a Great Dad? How Can You Encourage It? – 093!