It was a beautiful Saturday at the beginning of June. The day was sunny, warm, but not hot. Everybody was in a great mood, and we had reason to be. The pre-school end-of-year play was about to begin, all our kids were on the stage, happy and excited because they were about to perform for their moms, dads and relatives, having rehearsed their lines for months. Their proud parents were waving, taking pictures and clapping as the sweetest creatures in the world showed up on stage before their loving audience: little ballerinas wearing tutus and hair bows; the angry, glaring pirates; Snow White and the seven dwarfs in a contemporary version of the tale…
All the people who mattered to the performers were in the audience: their teachers, parents, friends, relatives.
After the play, the ecstatic kids ran into the arms of their delighted parents. All dads were there except one. My daughter’s father had better things to do. My daughter came running to me and asked me how come her dad wasn’t there to watch her perform. I had no idea how to respond and make it sound ok. I couldn’t tell her that her dad’s interest in anything, including her, lasts only for as long as the object of his interest is standing right in front of him. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that to her dad, what comes first is himself, and then… himself, and then… well, again himself. In fact when I asked him to attend the play, he said I was bullying him and trying to make him feel guilty because he had other joys in life.
This introduction, however, is not the central theme of this post. Things are as they are, our lives are as they are and they are unlikely to change. I don’t want to spread gloom and write sad stories. I know some people live harder than us and I’ve learnt to be content with the fact that both my daughter and I are alive and well and cope as we know best.
A couple of days ago I told a friend about what happened at the play. It was the way she reacted that made me realize how hard it must be for the people who live in traditional families to understand what us single mothers and our children go through.
She told me that her husband, with whom she has two children, also occasionally indulges in the activities that do not include his family.
This grossly inadequate comparison left me speechless. This is what I wanted to tell her:
It’s not the same:
It’s not the same at all when the child has a father who always comes home.
It’s not the same when a child asks: “When will I see my dad” (and gets the answer: “When he calls; you know how busy he is”) and when that question is never asked at all that because dad lives in the same house and is around every day.
The fact is that there are no ideal fathers (my sincere apologies to those who are; in my defence, I don’t personally know any, so…). It’s also a fact that children who spend time with their dads only from time to time usually suffer. Those who live with their dads (even if dads are not ideal) normally don’t suffer as much even if their dads are not one hundred percent there for them all the time.
Do you really think that my child and your child are in the same position?
I remembered another friend who often complained about her husband: all he does in the evenings is look at his mobile phone, and he only lifts his head when she tells him that dinner is ready. I do understand her plight. Her kids, however, are probably not bothered by his behaviour and they never ask her what my daughter asks me: “Why does dad never come to our house in the evenings to play with me?”
Again, I’m not complaining. I just wish to pinpoint that it makes no sense to compare what it’s like for the kids in traditional families and those who grow up with single moms.