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Growing Up Without a Father...

Fathers are always the role models in our lives. I feel proud when I tell people about my father’s extreme hard work and how he climbed the stairs of success before he was even twenty. But that pride weakens quickly when I realise about how his life ended at a very young age of 37. The lack of my role model in my life always makes me down in some or the other way. It took almost sixteen years, but I can finally utter a huge truth that caused me tremendous sadness and that I always avoid speaking of. And that is, my father died in a road accident when I was just 9 years old. His death always festered inside of me. It revealed itself in many ways throughout my life as I struggled with a food obsession, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression.

Lacking my role model as a child, I obviously didn’t have those resources as a girl either. I used to struggle not just with being a child having a single parent but also with being a whole person. I was living a life of an extremely emotional suppression. Though I always tried to open up to my mother, who loved me deeply and always held my back. But being a single parent of two little girls, she had a conservative mindset. And so, I couldn’t open up to her completely. There was this inevitable communication gap between us.

I was a pampered child. My father loved me deeply and always fulfilled all my unreasonable stubbornness. He carried me on his shoulders, kissed me goodnight coming late from work, told me how proud he was when I stood first in my first grade and so on. Then this day came, when we heard that he got hit by a car while crossing the road, I was shattered. Nobody took me to the hospital either. Three days later, the only thing I heard about him was that he had passed away. And hence, I didn’t even get a chance to cry out my last goodbye.

Today, while I was writing this whole article, I was creating a mind map in my brain that how did my fatherless life affected me as a person. I won’t say everything is just adverse. It is actually both the bad and the good and I’ll be pondering upon the both.

According to a psychological research, compared to those with healthy paternal relationships, fatherless women report

  • feeling less happiness and lower levels of well-being,

  • higher levels of frustration, anger, and anger-related depression,

  • difficulty navigating the emotions of intimate relationships, and

  • overwhelming fears of abandonment.

I’ll agree to all of these. Ever since childhood, I've built walls covering myself. I didn't open up to people. In fact, still, I would say I am more of a listener. I kept my own life private, but always welcomed the people who wanted to talk. These were all self-protective measures so I wouldn't experience separation like I did with my father. Knowing this intellectually did nothing to help me change my behaviour because my fear of separation was always more powerful than my desire to make connections. But yes, the connections I made were lasting. I had fewer close friends in my bucket but I always counted them in for whole my further life. But I always had (I still have) this fear rooted deep within me, that one day people will leave me alone just like my father had to do, though unintentionally.

While I was researching about the topic on several psychological blogs, I came across countless studies that show that women who have unstable or absent paternal relationships are more likely to start engaging in love and romantic sexual behaviours earlier. I could partly relate to it as I seriously used to look for a partner from a very young age itself. Without a doubt, I was looking for the love and validation I couldn’t get from my father. It is now, that I understand that actually I was looking for an alternative man who says "I love you" or "you're pretty" and gives the unconditional acceptance one craves from a parent.

Even though I tried as hard as I could, I was never been able to get any calmness, always making a mess of this or that and never able to form healthy relationships. I developed anxiety over the period of time and engaged myself in self-harm behaviours to feel better. I was aggressive and rejected happiness because I never felt worthy of it. I did a lot to sabotage me and my life and make myself miserable. I was emotionally unstable. I struggled maintaining relationships. I feared abandonment and rejection and isolated myself socially. I still don’t feel deserving in a healthy relationship and often end up creating mess.

But, then there are certain things that I learnt over the past years and that helped me to grow as a person that I am today. For many years I kept asking myself — is it essential to have a father, is something wrong with me, will I be able to have a good family ever?. Maybe I grew up into an anxious woman because of my insecurities? Maybe the reason that I overthink things is because I didn’t get enough support when I needed it most? Even though I felt extreme distress when I compared myself to other kids who had fathers, I was growing as a normal, strong and self-reliant person. I was a bright student. I actually felt that something was wrong only when I was pointed at it by other people intentionally or unintentionally.

It’s quite simple to see why children without father are disadvantaged. Obviously, it is not easy to raise a kid all alone. Therefore, a single mother has the roles to play — a father’s and a mother’s. Plus, in the complete absence of the father, she has to earn as well to feed herself and her children. (Like my mother did) Therefore, it is obvious that she has much lesser resources. She could not spend adequate time with her girls for their proper development. Hence, it’s not just about a particular person in our life who has gone, but also about the lack of the time and resources that a single mother experiences. From my experience, my mother worked hard to earn a living for the family. Of course, I used to miss her while she was working in the office, but at the same time, I was very proud of her. She did every possible thing to raise me and my little sister as an independent and contented person.

Moreover, growing up without a father became my strength gradually. I learnt how to exist and sustain if I would ever end up single. It influenced many of my life choices and I learnt the quality of good decision making. I became more goal-oriented, mature, capable of making my life the way I want to. Also, I developed a very deep and healthy relationship with my sister. She confides in me for everything. I ensured not to have that communication gap between her and I that I faced in my childhood with my mom. I always try to support her in everything she wants to achieve.

Then also, I have become more available for the people around me. I listen to everybody’s problems and try to create a soothing healthy environment for them to talk and share. I don’t want anybody to suffer the way I did because I had nobody to talk to. I have become much stronger now.

Even though, sometimes, I still feel that I require that wise advice of a father, but then I always try to think that I have enough wisdom in my heart and soul, and I just keep going.

I must admit it that yes, there is a difference between those people who have fathers and those who have not, especially in early age. But we don’t have to see it something negative always. We came to this world to learn from the whatever experience life puts us into; we can absolutely live a satisfied, joyful life.

Thank you for sparing your worthy minutes reading it! I hope you found it useful; if you have similar experiences, and you are comfortable sharing them, please do so in the comments.

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1 Comment

priyanka maurya
priyanka maurya
May 04, 2021

You are one brave girl. While I couldn't fathom what you must have gone through in your life but I can say that your father will be very proud of the woman that you are today.

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