Why Growing Up Without A Father Isn’t As Bad As People Make It To Be

Scour sources on the matter and you’ll discover legions of accounts detailing the sad, struggle-laden plight that is the fatherless child’s existence.

Since 1980, U.S. households categorized as “single-parent” have increased from 19 to 30% in America; more than Canada, Japan, Scandinavia, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands and France.

Studies also reflect the economic ramifications of a smaller family: single-parent households make up the majority of U.S. families that currently live in poverty, and the stats just keep rolling in.

More substance abuse among the kids of single mothers, increased levels of stress, elevated risk of [insert every problem under the sun here].

Stats on the kids of single fathers are far less prevalent, other than the fact that as of the 2000 census, lone dads were on the rise. Up from 1% in 1960 to 8% last year, to be exact.

As we tend to paint this particular familial dynamic with more heroism, i.e. “He’s a single dad taking care of his kid, what a good father. Look at the sacrifices he’s making,” and so on, this situation is not as often discussed, which is an indication that something is off in and of itself.

But, given the data that we do have, how could anyone properly argue against the fact that any child without a father simply isn’t as good as he or she would have been with one?

I present: me. I grew up without my father as a consistent presence in my life and I’m here to blow this stigma into tiny little bits.

Not only was I never aware of “missing out” on having a dad (I had a wonderful grandfather and who was more than I ever could have needed) but all things considered, I’m in a better place than most people I know raised in “traditional” nuclear families.

I was very lucky; my mother was an amazing parent with a decisive lack of any drug addiction, and we had no financial issues. But you just don’t hear about those stories.

Though this may shock those who believe in the infallibility of the “daddy issue” afflicting all parties concerned, I’m well-balanced, happy, and free.

If I chose to sleep around, it wouldn’t be because I “didn’t have a father.” If I scream at someone, it’s not because I’m so angry inside that dear old dad wasn’t around that I’m compelled to “act out.” Should I decide to jump from relationship to relationship, it’s not due to the “gaping hole that not having a dad has left.” If I’m ultra-organized and efficient, it’s probably my personality but instead onlookers decide I must be Type-A because my parents got divorced; I mean, that’s what psychology says, right?

These are just a few of the entirely unfounded statements floating around regarding people who grew up in families like mine, and this is the ideology we’re forced to hurdle like enormous white elephants, disproving flash judgments with every interaction. The sole problem with growing up fatherless is that so many have a deep preconceived notion of what this kind of family means and thus who it must mean I am.

Most importantly, what do all these assumptions have in common? They’re all things people say about women to bring them down; to attribute behavior someone doesn’t like about a woman to an “explanation” they hope will provide their statements legitimacy. Which brings me to my next point: when did having divorced or separated parents become a way to degrade women? To suggest that they are somehow less than because something happened that was out of their control?

Here’s what my adolescence was like: I picked daddy longlegs off the fence in front of our home with my best friend Loni. I played lava monster with my mom for hours after school in the playground, tackling structure after structure without touching the ground. I spent time with my neighbors when my mom was working.  I did a lot of homework; excelled in spelling and struggled in math. I traveled a lot to visit my grandparents, some to visit my father, and when we moved from Alaska to California when I was eight, I made a bunch of new friends. As a whole, it was the exact experience any other child would have had and it was a whole lot of obliviousness that I was in a different situation than any other kid, because I had everything that I needed.

What onlookers fail to consider is that the situation under which two human beings raise a child is perhaps the most fragile of all settings. Thus when they make the difficult and painful decision to separate, it is because they know it’s what’s best for the child in question. If nothing else, this requires strength and independence: two qualities all children should see in their most inherent role models.

As it stands, though fatherless kids have nothing to prove, the fight against the stigma is somewhat omnipresent. When people from two-parent families hear about a single parent “situation,” they often subconsciously assume you’ve been damaged by the fallout: that’s just not the reality. To judge someone for a situation that not only has no bearing on their personality but that that person had no part in deciding is akin to any other form of stereotype fueled by ignorance.

Like so many other instances, the worst part of that fallout is feeling that people pity you for a situation you’ve never considered yourself a victim of.

Few people have children with mates they intend to leave but if, for whatever reason, you found yourself in this position, you wouldn’t want your child to be seen any differently.

No child should be tinged by this, and women especially certainly shouldn’t be targeted as a result. TC mark

featured image – Lauren Rushing

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