Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I am a single parent mother who is struggling to raise my three children, ages 3, 5 and 8. All of my children have the same father, but he does not act like a father to them. He stops by the house to see our children every other month. We argue and fight because I tell my children that they do not have a father. I know that this is not right, but I am tired of him disappointing my children by only showing up when he feels like being bothered.
No child should have to feel neglected and I am tired of listening to my children cry at night. Things did not workout between us, but my children should not suffer. During our last argument he called me a bitch in front of our children. I was so hurt and I told him that he could not come around our children until he figures out what it means to be a father. Am I wrong for denying him access to our children? He feels that he should be respected and honored as their father. I obviously disagree. My father was not in my life and it hurts me to the core to see my children go through the same thing. I am having baby daddy drama and the hard thing about my situation is that I really do not know what makes a man a father. He donated his sperm, but that is all he is donating.
Could you please explain what makes a man a father? I need to understand the difference so that I can express my thoughts without coming across as being an angry and bitter black woman.
Dear Disappointed Mother,
I can relate to your frustration. Unfortunately, I watched my mother go through the same thing with my sperm donor. As a young boy I never knew what it was like to have a father present. Like any other child, I longed for a man to be in my life. However, at the age of 10 my world was shattered when the man that I knew to be my father denied me because he was angry.
I agree that no child should have to feel neglected. Some people might disagree with you about denying your children’s father access to them. I personally do not disagree and would argue that he is probably doing more damage with his inconsistent visits. Nevertheless to answer your question, sperm donation does not make a man a father.
Here are 6 observations that I believe makes a Man a Father:
1. A man becomes a Father when he takes responsibility for raising his children.
Any man can create a child, but a Father will not forsake his child. A man becomes a Father when he not only clams his child, but also takes care of his child. Any man can donate sperm, but fathers nurture and raise their seed.
2. A man becomes a Father when he connects with his children.
Children, especially young boys need male role models with whom they can share their feelings with and learn from. Feeling connected is a basic human need. It is difficult to show affection when one does not feel connected. Fathers enjoy the time they spend with their children. They eat together, play together, and pray together.
3. A man becomes a Father when he learns to feed his children before he eats.
This fundamental lesson is critical to help young boys and girls understand the importance of engaging in selfless behavior. Young boys will also come to understand that they will be expected to provide as they journey into manhood. Young girls will come to understand the importance of giving their hearts to men who are family oriented.
4. A man becomes a Father when he leads by word and example.
A father understands that he must command wisely in order to be obeyed cheerfully. He realizes that he sets the tempo for his children. He strives to be optimistic, empathic, resilient and inspirational. A man will demand respect, but a Father will demonstrate respect. A man will tell you how to live, but a Father will show you. A man will tell you what to do, but a Father will guide you.
5. A man becomes a Father when he demonstrates affection toward his children.
A father looks for the good in his children and openly acknowledges it when it is found. He celebrates their successes and communicates in a positive and nurturing manner. Hugs and kisses are given in addition to words of encouragement.
6. A man becomes a Father when he respects the mother of his children.
A father is committed to helping the mother of his children succeed and there is an attitude of “one for all, and all for one.” In short there is allegiance to the children and family life is a priority.
I wish you the best with your situation. Please try to find positive role models for your children, especially if you have boys. Many churches have mentoring programs. Also, consider therapy or coaching for your children. Feelings of neglect can contribute to and/or lead to emotional and behavioral problems. Whatever you decide to do, hold your children’s father accountable. Remind him that a father is a man who raises his child/children. A father acknowledges his responsibility for his children and steps up to the plate on a daily or regular basis. He gives all that he can to ensure that his children are taken care of…emotionally, physically and spiritually.
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Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.