Father Abandoned Your Baby
You’ve had a baby. You were hoping to start a family together with the father of your baby. Unexpectedly, he left you and your baby shortly after the birth. You are feeling sad, angry, abandoned, and you are worried about being able to raise your baby alone. You need to make sense out of what happened as part of your emotional recovery.
I am offering this post to those of you undergoing this painful experience to aid you in your understanding. The more you understand why and how this happened, the easier it will be to get through this critical period and rescue your love-life. Consider this post one step in a series of steps to do just that.
There are different types of abandoning fathers who are emotionally challenged by the task of parenting their child. I am defining abandonment as a choice to leave a new born baby and mother emotionally and/or financially. One type is the father who cannot emotionally parent his offspring but is able to help financially support the mother and baby in a reliable and consistent fashion.
This individual may have another family, other children with other mothers, be in too much conflict with this baby’s mother, simply be too immature to handle the responsibility of parenting, or all or some of the above. In a way he is making emotional and physical ‘room’ for another ‘father-figure’ to substitute, whether it’s a stepfather, the mother’s new lover, or another family member.
His commitment to provide financially for the mother and baby at a distance establishes the financial support needed to raise the child monetarily. Of course there are instances when a father in this position ‘grows into the role’ of parent over time. For some fathers in this category, being involved when the mother and infant are so exclusively bonded is difficult to tolerate. Feelings of rejection are common for some fathers in this group.
They feel abruptly separated from their lovers (baby’s mother) and left out of the bonding experience. If this feeling of being excluded is overwhelming and needs for love are emerging uncomfortably into awareness, the baby’s father may leave to protect himself and his family from his own emotional over-reactions.
There are some abandoning fathers who are interested in assuming some parenting responsibilities while shunning any significant financial responsibility. It is a challenge to understand the motives of a father who tries the maintain regular contact with a baby without assuming financial responsibility for the baby. If the issue is poverty, that’s understandable and excusable. If it’s not the lack of money then what is it? Perhaps they don’t see it as their responsibility. It’s up to the mother and her family of origin to take over the lion’s share of support for the child.
There may even hold a belief that they are owed something and should not be ‘stressed’ by demands for money when such a beautiful baby was given as a ‘gift’ by the father to the mother and her family of origin. Fathers who I have treated in this category were often struggling with needs for love left over from their own disappointed childhoods and adolescence. Being present emotionally was a thinly disguised attempt to get their own needs for love met by their lover turned new mother.
In the last category are fathers who abandon their offspring emotionally, physically, and financially. They simply walk away. Their job is done. They see their role as siring the baby and nothing more. Having a baby has special meaning to these men. I think a lot of them have poor self-esteem and insecure feelings about themselves. Creating a baby establishes their worth through virility if only temporarily.
These men never had the intention of remaining with the mother or her baby. And there’s a good chance they’ve had and will have more than one baby with more than one woman. In my experience these fathers are still immature and unable to handle the responsibilities of committed love and nurture. Their inability to commit to the mother and child leaves a lot of room for another man with sincere interest and emotional availability to join this family.
As the single mother of an infant, your first responsibility is to secure financial support for your infant. Nothing can be allowed to interfere with that goal. How easy it will be to accomplish this goal in negotiations with the father of your baby is going to tell you whether you’ll have to pursue him in the legal system. It’s really not about you and him. It’s really just about your baby. Babies need money. Having a baby is a long-term financial commitment with the goal of turning this newly born person into an adult.
We have to protect the innocent and vulnerable. We have to take care of people who for a good reason can’t take care of themselves. Babies are definitely in that category. It’s common for a single mother to feel rejected and victimized by this kind of co-parent abandonment. They can easily lose their ‘nerve’ under these conditions. Taking your baby’s father to court feeling unsure about yourself can feel like an overwhelming proposition to say the least.
Single mothers at this stage of parenting are usually struggling to separate how they feel about their new born from how they feel about the baby’s father. Seeing the father in their baby’s face and features doesn’t help. They also have the task of establishing themselves as a competent capable parent without the emotional and physical presence of the father.
Most single mothers in this kind of situation realize how important it is to establish a support network (family & friends) for their baby and themselves. Once a single mother starts to establish this foundation she is in a better position to tolerate and endure whatever ‘grieving’ she will need to do to let go of her feeling of rejection and disappointment.
The eventual goal is to rekindle her love-life with someone else who can accept her and her baby as a ‘package deal’. There is also the matter of her emotional history and how it might get played out in her love-life. At some point, a review of just how she ended up with a man who could not make a family is an important inquiry for her. For example, our family histories often get repeated in who we take into our love-lives.
If you can recognize a ‘pattern,’ a match between what you experienced in your family of origin and what you ended up experiencing in your adult love-life, the next step is to challenge the pattern while trying to implement something different for your love-life. This is an emotional investment you’ll make in yourself as well as in your baby’s future.
Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan