Virtues from Motherhood: Shaking guilt

For all of Ava’s life it’s just been her and me. Ava’s dad has never really been involved in her life consistently and it’s never seemed to bother him that he’s missed every single milestone in her life and has little to no bond with her. That alone baffled me, how could you not be apart of a life you created?!

Confusion aside I was hurt and felt guilty, mostly guilty, for bringing Ava into the world with only half her parents to raise her. I never wanted her to be that kid from a broken home and I had hope that he would wake up and realize despite our inability to be together that he should step up and be a father. Sadly, not surprisingly, he chose not to and was completely absent from her life for five years, seeing her once a year and calling her maybe half a dozen times at best. On father’s day or parent’s day at school I always felt such guilt under my proud mom smile. I couldn’t help but notice her looking around at other kids who had both parents there all the time and though she didn’t look too bothered I knew it had crossed her mind. I knew eventually she’d ask why he wasn’t there or why he never answered the phone and I secretly hoped it’d be when she was much older.

Unfortunately my luck ran out when she was 5 and she asked me why her daddy never celebrated her birthday with her (for the record he was present at her first birthday but she doesn’t remember that). I was overwhelmed with panic and sadness and told her that her daddy was busy working but she was too quick for me and asked why her friend Riley’s daddy could work and be at her party. I held back tears when I told her I really didn’t know and that I would always make sure she had the best birthdays in the world.

Now I wasn’t lying I really didn’t know why he couldn’t call or send a card, I was just as confused as she was and at every holiday, school event or special occasion tears would well up in my eyes as the guilt hit me once again. I felt so bad and I didn’t ever want to show her that so I made sure I was at every event, every holiday show, every class party cheering her on twice as hard.

For a while I didn’t share that guilt with anyone I just kept it tucked away and let it gnaw at me silently. I found however that when I did share it with my friends, my family that they were angry or shocked that I felt that way. I was told that what I was doing for Ava was extraordinary that getting my degree and working was all going to give her the best life possible and that I was setting a good example for her, she was being raised by a strong woman. As nice as those things were to hear I still wasn’t convinced until my own mother told me a man being there physically means nothing if he can’t be there emotionally or mentally. I realized she was right, he couldn’t pick up the phone or mail a card, what difference would him standing in front of her blankly do?

I still struggle with this, sometimes I’m sad that she’s got maybe a dozen pictures with her dad in her 7 years of life, other times I’m angry that he’s just going on with his life and doesn’t seem to wonder what she’ll think of him but lately more and more I’m proud, proud of my daughter for being so smart and bright, proud of her for always seeing the bright side and proud of myself for showing her that there is a bright side, you just have to keep looking up.

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