“If you don’t have a good father, you should get one.“
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
There is a popular notion-especially among fathers‘ groups and father’s rights activists-that fathers would not just disappear from the lives of their beloved children. If they did, it could only be the result of parental alienation or parent-child alienation, they like to imply. It speaks for the love of these fathers if they find such behavior unimaginable, but sometimes it is not quite that simple. Unfortunately, there are such fathers. Often, it is certainly a combination of maternal exclusion and quick paternal capitulation, but there are also men who strike out on their own and leave their children to their mother without even having tried to fight the battle. Perhaps it’s the prospect that it’s just a costly endeavor anyway, in which they have the worse cards from the start, because THEY – unlike the mother – have to prove that their presence in the child’s life is conducive to the child’s well-being, and honestly, how would they know that if, for example, they themselves have never had a present father in their lives?
I know that there are such fathers because my father is such a father. Of course, I would also like to tell myself that he just failed my mother because it would make me feel like he was important. But there are no binders of lawyer letters for him to prove his trouble to me. Many men I’ve talked to over the years keep a binder like that to document their effort to their children and show them that it wasn’t because of them. Main Father just didn’t do it. For those who think they will find a contradiction when I describe myself elsewhere as an estranged child, rest assured that a parent can misuse their child’s conflict of loyalties as a weapon in their war of the Roses even if the ex-partner has long since given up. Often it is then just a matter of justifying one’s half-baked decisions and making the other person responsible for the resulting suffering. I never hated my father for what he did to me (abandoning me and only letting me be part of his new life when he and his new wife needed a cheap babysitter for my half-sister), but for what made him hateful in my mother’s opinion. For what he supposedly did to her and my brothers. You usually trust your mother blindly. And I hated him. I kept him away from my high school graduation, my first artistic successes, which received attention in the local press in Hamburg, as well as from my wedding and from my children. And all the heartfelt photos I had with him in my photo albums from the time before the breakup, I completely blanked them out.
EXPERIENCE MAKES PERFECT
It was only when I was facing my own separation that I began to understand him, because I too suddenly had a disrespectful ex-wife who thought that all my professional successes had nothing to do with my abilities, but only with the fact that she „had my back“ and forced me to work more than 20 hours a week. I had to deal with a woman who was harassing me on the phone while the children were standing next to her and suspected that I was acting the same way on the phone. And that with children with whose paternity acknowledgment I got still from the youth welfare department employee said „rights have they none. They can make an adoption request if something happens to the mother.“ There wasn’t even the term „right of access“ in the law when my son was born. That’s when I understood my father’s reaction. That’s when I could understand why he preferred to do the Enno Park and find a new wife and leave all the hurt behind. Sometimes that can seem like the more sensible path,
When you as a father are still treated as a second-class parent in the family court and you know fathers who have partly spent five-figure sums to even have a chance to participate in the children’s lives. While many youth welfare offices still believe that it would somehow help the children if the mother is first allowed to rest and the contact blockade is thus legitimized.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
I suspected that my father did not have the courage and strength to deal with it. And what is even more serious: He also never experienced himself what his children would need a father for or how one can or should be as a father. When at some point we had our debate, which this time I did not start in the form of accusations, like the injured teenager 17 years before. I described how the absence of a role model had made my own path into fatherhood more difficult. At that, he just nodded in understanding and said:
„Yes, and if you don’t have a father yourself, you don’t know how to act as a father.“
It was an incredible feeling to just be understood. Suddenly I realized the repetition of history. His father just disappeared from his life after World War II, too. He was 8 years old then. A year younger than me when this blow of fate hit me. His father was not killed in action, but after the experiences of the war he simply did not feel like returning to an alcoholic in a working-class neighborhood of Hamburg. He started a new family in Grömitz on the Baltic Sea with a new wife and began again. And if you had asked him on his deathbed whether he regretted the decision, he probably would have answered in the negative.
My father did the same thing in the end. When my mother cheated and moved out of the shared apartment in a night-and-fog action. And he still says today:
That was the best thing that could have happened to me.
When my mother got into bed with the later father of my half-sister and disappeared from his life, he had the chance to restart his life after a short period of injury. Life with his second wife was better than anything he had ever had before. Even though his wife was far from truly respectful by my standards, she was a quantum leap by his standards. There’s just a difference between getting your 16-year-old dance partner pregnant and having to marry her in her late 50s, and a grown woman deciding „I want to have my children with this man“. And with you voluntarily tackles her family project in her 70s. He says himself that he was not a good husband in his marriage with my mother, but unfortunately it takes two to tango how a relationship develops. If my mother later complained that my stepmother had gotten the man she always wanted, then the assumption is already well-founded that it was no different with my parents. None of their subsequent partners even came close to this desired image. But at that time it was still a taboo to work on one’s childhood deficits, because as my mother very nicely said „Therapy is a flaw you’ll never get rid of again.“ Then you are usually condemned to repeat your history.
For me, this is also the biggest problem of children who grow up with single parents (typically without a father). It is a similar issue for girls and boys if they never had the chance to compare reality with a normal man in the form of their father and develop their own role or partner image. The only “advantage” boys have is that they are more likely to stand in their father’s shoes in the event of a breakup and are thus forced to deal with their deficits. While girls can simply pass the buck to their partner. The father is just not important in this worldview. “I can do it alone, just like my mother.” can be argued for a woman after separation without contradicting herself. If you want a nice example of this from the celebrity world, you only have to look at Angelina Jolie, who behaves towards the father of her children the same way her mother behaves towards her father Jon Voight. However, if I, as the one who loves his children, am suddenly pushed into the position of becoming unimportant or irrelevant, then there are two possibilities:
- Find someone else to carry on with until things work out someday.
- Saying to yourself, “I don’t want that for my children.”: Work through those problems and deficits, and then discover for yourself what it means to be a father.
From my own experience, I say that this is the harder path. But it is definitely more sustainable, and there is nothing more beautiful for me than to have witnessed the development of my children. To have stood by their side with help and advice when they had concerns and worries. And I am sure that they will not repeat my family history.