By: Melinda Cochrane - Contributing Writer
“A study in Psychological Medicine found that girls whose fathers left when they were between the ages of 0 and 5 were more likely to develop depressive symptoms in adolescence than those whose fathers left when they were between the ages of 5-10, and more likely than boys in both age groups.” Huffington Post (2013)
My father left me when I was four, and then again when he died about 12 years later. The memory of him walking out the door is emblazoned on my soul and spirit for the rest of my life. I sat at the front door as he looked my way and got into a car. His head bowed slightly in the realization that he was leaving me behind. I don’t think I even remembered who he was until I was to see him again a few years later. He passed away from progressive Multiple Sclerosis and throughout the funeral, I was lost as to what I should be feeling for someone I barely knew.
Around the age of 16, I began to feel a deep grief that I was incapable of understanding at the time. The loss had taken a long time to emerge from me. When I read the statistic above, my adolescent depression at this time began to make sense. I began missing school, was failing subjects when I’d currently been an honor's student. Things in my life seemed empty- something was missing was the only thing I felt. When it came to dating- I never knew what to look for or what men seemed to want from me as a young woman and much later. I didn’t get them for a very long time, but good men came in my life later who solved some of this for me.
But, for a very long time avoiding intimacy became a must for me out of fear of losing someone again. I never really understood that it was me who didn’t want to get too close. I always thought it was the person I was dating at the time.
My first serious relationship in university, which eventually ended led me to a severe bout of anorexia. I could not deal with the loss. Psychologists never made the connection between an absent father and a daughter’s emotions with other relationships. The knee-jerk response was to point at the need for me to control my emotions. I recovered from anorexia but I had not truly realized how significant an absent father in my life was. Then through a divorce, I began to discover who I was and why. I dealt with my own emotions as a woman. As a mother, I also had to become less egotistical about parental roles as well- in other words like a lot of women I have come to terms with my own level of denial - sometimes we have to give fathers space to parent their daughters too.
Feminism may have lost me somewhere when it came to believing that fathers don't matter.
A father is important to a daughter’s connections with others. I missed my father's presence in my life and I want every feminist to know this who would claim women don’t need men to raise children- or at least deny their importance. I am a different type of feminist. I never stopped missing my time with him- call what I feel if you wish- Pro-daddy time.
As more and more couples divorce, I keep wondering how young women will maneuver their way through their relationships as well- it has taken me a long time to get here.
We cannot forget to raise a daughter in the dualism of parenting. I am not saying that young women who are raised without a father will not be a success story. We have many examples of women who have. However, some feminists have never really reconciled the fact that in its pursuit of liberating all women- some have suffered thinking they need to be single to be strong and independent- we forgot to say- it is fine to do it together- it doesn’t take away you- it is fine to say- I need help.
“Today single motherhood is becoming more and more a societal norm than it ever was with 1 in 4 children under the age of 18- a total of about 17.2 million - are being raised without a father.” Singlemotherguide.com
I hope as the trend continues we consider all factors when it comes to our daughters and we mentor them to understand their relationships with men.