Having a father is not a prerequisite to living a happy life
On Father’s Day 2022, it seemed appropriate to write about fathers in every shape and style.
My article below was originally published in ManDad magazine.
There are so many reasons why someone does not have a dad!
The father may have left the mother before or after the child was born or may have passed away. Maybe the mother decided she did not want the father in her baby’s life or possibly the mother is unmarried and got pregnant by mistake or even chose to be a single parent.
Even when the father is around, that father may not be the role model we would hope for or may be disinterested in parenthood or, worse still, violent, on drugs or a criminal.
Fathers come in all shapes and sizes! Good, bad, indifferent! Biological fathers, step-fathers, adopted fathers. Or there may be a family member or friend who can step up to the mark when a father is not around for whatever reason – an uncle, a grandfather, a cousin.
In my case, my mother had contracted tuberculosis as a nurse and was given just three months to live. She had been seeing my father for quite a while and they had planned to get married but, once she received her ‘death sentence’, she decided that there was no reason to remain a virgin until she married as she may not have that long to live! Please remember we are talking around 70 years ago when morality was stricter and family planning was rudimentary.
Due to her illness, she did not realise she was pregnant until she went into labour one cold, January night and gave birth to me! Obviously she was astounded, but delighted with the new life she had produced. Her first thought was that she and my father would get married and the beautiful baby girl they had created would cement their union.
Unfortunately, my father had other ideas. He came from quite a well-to-do family and his parents insisted that he give first priority to his RAF career and not get himself saddled with a dying woman and an illegitimate baby.
So, he took the coward’s way out and dumped my mother and me leaving my maternal grandparents to take up the caring, nurturing role that my dying mother and my run-away father could not carry out.
Throughout my childhood – until I was 16 years old and my grandfather died – I had a loving and supportive male role model in my life. The fact that he was my grandfather and not my father did not often occur to me. The only times that I queried the status quo was when other children at school asked me why I didn’t have a father – because everyone has a father, right? No, they don’t, but I didn’t at that time know the answer to the question of why I was different.
I have often wondered about my father and, on one occasion, knocked on the door of an address I had seen on a letter written by him to my mother. This was some 40 years after my birth and, of course, the residents at the house did not know my father nor was his name familiar to them.
A few years later, I even went to the expense of hiring a private investigator, but the trail had gone cold and the bloodhound that I had hired could not find any clues as to my father’s whereabouts.
I am now in my 70s and the probability is that my father is dead. I don’t know whether or not he came looking for me over the years or even if I have any half siblings. I do feel a sense of disappointment and curiosity that I have no complete knowledge of my DNA make-up.
I have on occasions missed having a father, but I don’t think the absence of a father in my life changed my life for either the better or worse. I just feel empty really and wished I’d made enquiries about my father’s whereabouts sooner.
However, that didn’t happen because I was too busy making a life for myself and having my own children with a committed father, who has been there unconditionally for both my son and daughter throughout their lives.
The only time I really had any concern about the lack of a father in a child’s life was last year when my daughter announced she was going to become ‘a single mother by choice’. At the age of 39, she had not met a man she wanted to spend her life with, but she was desperate to have a child of her own.
So she embarked on an IVF programme and chose a donor from a detailed list of potential father figures. She now has a beautiful seven month old baby boy, who will grow up with a mother, grandmother and grandfather in his life.
At the moment, it feels to me a little bit like déjà vu – history repeating itself. However, I have experience on my side and I’ll be there when my grandson gets a bit older and wants to know why he doesn’t have a father in his life and I’ll explain to him that he has a mother and grandparents that love him and that having a father is not a prerequisite to being able to live a happy and fulfilled life.