Facebook dads are a new breed of father. They’re the fathers who post statuses about how much they love their little angels, but forget their birthdays. They’re the dads who complain about how much they miss their children, but don’t bother arranging to see them. They’re the dads who complain bitterly about their exes not letting them see their kids, but never lift a finger to help or offer a penny to support them.
“Public dadding” is easy. It’s all about image. It’s all about how their child makes them look to other people, not about who their child needs them to be.
I don’t usually write posts like this. I don’t want to bad mouth people and I don’t like to wash laundry in public. But today I am making an exception.
Foolishly I decided to have a look at The Ex-Husband’s Facebook profile today. I don’t usually do this, because I’m not particularly interested, but I got curious about whether he has had anymore children to add to Miss Rose and his son that he doesn’t have any contact with either. From what I can tell he hasn’t by the way. However, what I did see got me all upset and wound up and I immediately regretted being a snoop.
One of his pictures is a photograph I took of him with Rose around her second birthday. He saw her a handful of times between her second and third birthday, but no photographs were taken so this could be the last one he had with her. We had been broken up for nearly a year at this point, but he was making relatively regular contact and seeing her for an hour every few weeks, so she still knew who he was and enjoyed his visits. A friend of his has commented on this picture. “Beautiful and tragic.”
It is tragic he doesn’t see his daughter anymore. Unless I am very much mistaken, the implication is that it’s tragic that he isn’t ALLOWED to see his daughter anymore. The implication is that he is the heartbroken father who’s horrible ex wife has stopped him seeing his beloved baby girl. One of “those women” we hear about all the time that use their kids as a weapon to punish the father’s. Take away father’s rights out of selfishness, with no regard for what impact that has on their children.
I can imagine what he says about me. I can imagine his face as he talks in a heart broken way about how much he loves her and misses her. How he’d love to see her more but I stop him. How he doesn’t want to force himself into her life because it’ll cause problems and I’ll fight him on it which will make her life harder. How he gives every scrap of money he has to look after her but I pretend I get nothing. How he knows she’ll grow up missing him and when she’s old enough he can explain how much he loves her and wanted to be with her, but her mother stopped it happening.
I know this is what he’ll say because it’s what he said about his son. And I bought it. For the longest time I lapped it up and offered sympathy and assurances that I would support him in whatever he chose to do.
Now it’s me. And now I know it’s a lie.
And I’m painted as the cruel mother who’s putting her own desires to punish him for leaving above my daughter’s desires to have a daddy.
It breaks my heart. It could be the pregnancy hormones. I am pretty sure I’d have reacted either with a dismissive grunt of “be like that then” or angrily before. But today? Today I am sad. Today I hate it. Today I want to scream that her best interests have always been at the front of my mind. That doing what she needs has been my priority from the moment she was conceived.
I want to tell them I am the one who never vanished from her life, even when my mental health was suffering and I was falling to pieces, I stayed with her. I want to tell them that even though I was left financially barren, I put everything I had into making sure she was housed, fed and clothed. I want to remind them that I have barely had a day away from her, other than when hospitalised, that I haven’t spent time with her. I want them to know that I gritted my teeth and got through awkward meals with his family, that I welcomed him into my home, that I took her to play areas and parks to see him. I want to tell them that only times I “stopped” him seeing her were when he tried to arrange things for days I already had plans and I was always willing to find another date.
And you know what I want them to know? I want them to know that she forgot who he was. That she got upset when he tried to force her to call him Daddy and all the way home cried that “daddy works at Argos” because she was confused, because The Boy is her daddy. Because The Boy knows what a daddy does.
Her daddy sees her at her best, when she’s dancing with him to Bob Dylan, when she’s leaping into his arms to give him cuddles when he gets home from work, and when she’s helping him do jobs around the house with the biggest smile on her face because he’s proud of her. Her daddy sees her at her worst when she’s having a huge tantrum about going to bed and he has to sit with her for two hours to calm her down. He sees her when she’s throwing things across the room in rage then spitting at him because he’s told her off for it. He sees her when she’s over tired and lying on the floor screaming until she’s nearly sick because her little brain is too undeveloped to handle everything without going into meltdown.
Her daddy isn’t her daddy because it makes him look good. He isn’t her daddy because he’s donated sperm to her creation. He isn’t her daddy because he wants celebrating or cute photos to put on Facebook. Her daddy is her daddy because she loves him and he loves her, and he knows what she needs of him. Her daddy is her daddy because he’s with her every day, he’s supporting her, he’s raising her, he’s worrying about her and he’s loving her. He’s doing all the fun stuff we can put on Facebook, and he’s doing all the hard stuff that only parents have to deal with. He’s being cuddled and spat at, he’s being played with and tantrummed for.
No he isn’t her biological father and there will always be an awareness on both sides about that, but it’s not something that gets in the way and it’s not something that stops either from having the relationship she deserves to have with a father.
Do you want to know what’s tragic? It’s tragic that someone had a chance at a relationship like that with Miss Rose and passed up on it. But it’s not tragic for her, it’s tragic for him. Because he’ll never get the chance again and one day he’ll realise that.
It’s not tragic for her because she is happy, she is loved, and she has a daddy she adores. And a daddy who adores her back, even when it’s not on Facebook.