What It Really Means When A Father Abandons His Children

In 2012, my husband of nearly eight years told me that he was going to the store, and then he simply never returned. In the coming weeks, my panic turned to grief as I came to understand that his disappearance hadn’t been the result of a tragic accident but rather the execution of a carefully laid out plan to abandon his family in search of a carefree life.

After leaving his company vehicle in the parking lot of his job at a landscaping business (a job that he never returned to), emptying our joint bank account, and shutting off his phone, he became untraceable, leaving me as an only parent to my 7-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter.

As a stay-at-home mom, I wasn’t prepared for this. My days had been spent taking my daughter to music class and ballet, and my nights had been spent avoiding the injuries I sustained from my husband in domestic violence. After years of trying unsuccessfully to leave him, I truly hadn’t expected him to abandon us.

In the months following his disappearance, each day felt like I was waking up in a nightmare — not knowing how I would support our family and finally having to file for government assistance. But no matter how hard I worked to pull our lives together, the most complicated struggle was just beginning.

For the rest of my life, I will be raising two children who were abandoned by their father. I will be asked questions that I have no answers for — things that my children so desperately want to understand, but situations that as an adult I can’t comprehend. When one of the first things children learn is the love of their parents, I’m watching my children learn a lesson that I wish they didn’t have to: that sometimes people hurt us in ways that we never could have imagined. I’m walking the fine line of not telling them that their father doesn’t love them, but also not giving them a false sense of what love is. “Does daddy still love us?” is a constant question in our house, and the truth is I don’t know. I can’t imagine that if he really did love them, that he would make absolutely no effort to see them and, in fact, spend most of his time avoiding us. But the truth is that I can’t answer that question for them because it’s not my question to answer.

I’m fighting the stigma that society has placed on me as a single mother — that I must have done something wrong to be in the position of being an only parent. There are people who assume that I could foresee the future and suggest that I was just too “stupid to have kids with him in the first place” or that I “must have done something to drive him away.” Or yet other people who decide that there is no way he really doesn’t want to see his kids and that I must be keeping him from them. Or any of the other excuses that people choose to believe because it’s easier to blame the parent that stayed than to accept the horrific truth that some parents just don’t love their children like they should and sometimes those parents leave.

In my case, I don’t even know where my children’s father is living. For three and a half years, I’ve tried to find him and make him pay child support, but he has spent so much of his energy dodging the system, and I’ve spent so much money chasing him down, that I’m coming to the realization that I just need to let him go.

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