My mom is 73 years old. Even at that age, she still expresses guilt about certain things that happened when we were kids. It breaks my heart to hear because I don’t think anyone should hold on to guilt and pain for that long. And, of course, it is especially painful to hear because she is my mother.
I have told her time and time again that she did right by us. We were always fed, always had a roof over our heads, and we had the clothes we needed to go to school daily. She also showered us with love despite the difficulties she faced in life. And whenever my father came up short—which was almost always—she came through and made up for his shortcomings in a way that supermoms do every day.
Now that I’m older, I can see clearly how much she did for us and how much our dad didn’t. And this isn’t an attack on men. Not by a long shot because my husband is an incredible father and I can easily hand you a LONG list of black men I know who go above and beyond for their kids all the time.
But if I am going to be candid here, I have to admit that not all men are incredible dads—black or otherwise. Some men come up short. And what breaks my heart into pieces is watching a friend or a family member carry guilt about what the father of her child isn’t doing. The missed support payments, the no-show at the special events, the lack of interest in milestones and quality time. It’s a lot for any loving mom to witness.
I hate seeing women I love carry guilt that isn’t theirs to carry, feeling like they somehow failed their child by choosing a mate that just wasn’t worthy enough to be a parent. And I get it because we all want the best for our kids. We hate to see our children hurt, and when we feel like that hurt is something we possibly could have controlled, the pain that comes with it is immeasurable.
But women everywhere have to realize that all you can control is what you do as a parent. You can’t control what the other parent does. You can’t make someone do more for his own kid. You can’t make someone feign interest when it simply isn’t there.
All you can do is be your best. Love your child. Support your child. Give your child everything you can to help him or her have a better life than you did. When you do that, your kid grows up confident that you did your very best. And that’s what most kids want—a happy mom who did her best.
Of course, there will be some pain about the absent parent (or the one who is only semi-present). Your child may experience a range of emotions about why his father isn’t playing more of a significant role in his life. But your job as the mother is not to feel guilt about that. Your job as the mother is to guide and support your child through his pain. Your job is to make it clear that he has nothing to do with why his father isn’t doing more and neither do you.
Feeling guilty never did much for anyone. It’s a wasted emotion, really. All it does is weigh you down and diminish your capacity to be your best for your child. It doesn’t resolve any of your pain or change any of the decisions you made in life. Guilt eats away at your spirit, leaving you broken and hopeless.
So ladies, hold your heads up high. Do what’s best for yourself and your children. And let the other parent carry his own guilt. What he does or doesn’t do for his child is not between the two of you. It’s between him and God. And pray for him.
We all make mistakes in life and maybe one day he will see what he’s done wrong and change his ways. After all, this shouldn’t be about your anger. This should be about wanting your kids to have two involved, loving parents—even if all they have is one right now.
But if he doesn’t change, don’t spend your precious time and energy feeling guilty or angry about his shortcomings. Use that energy to build a better life for your children. Use that energy to be the best mom you can be because that will matter to your children far more than anything else.
BMWK family, what is your advice to mother’s who feel guilty about a father who doesn’t do enough?