Absentee dads and fatherless homes. It’s probably one of the most popular and tragic topics out there. It’s all over the media and on social media platforms. Best-selling books have been written about this topic. Celebrities have shared their stories. It’s discussed in Bible studies, small groups, and everywhere in between. It’s not hard to find studies and statistics on the subject, and we can fill large lecture halls based on this one topic.
We have zero problems talking about what it looks like when dad is not present in the home, but we rarely talk about what it looks like when mom isn’t there.
Why aren’t we talking about absentee moms?
I am not sure why absentee moms aren’t being discussed more because homes without a mom or moms that are inactive in their child’s life are more common than we realize. Do I have solid numbers and research to back this up? No, but what I do have are personal stories, personal experience, and countless situations that my wife and I have helped young people through.
I’ve been a teacher and a mentor to young people. My wife has been involved with ministries and we have even let dozens of young women in crisis situations live with us in our own home. We have walked the walk with countless young people struggling with having an absentee parent, and at one point I was one of those kids.
My biological father wasn’t there for me. For a while it was just my mom and I and eventually a wonderful adoptive father that more than filled in that gap for me. But not everyone is that blessed.
Not blaming moms
I’m not writing this to take the heat off of dads and place blame on moms. I’m not fading the heat as the young kids say on the streets. Not at all.
If anything, I have always believed that marriage, fertility, and parenting are all shared responsibilities. Yes, I believe all three of those things belong together under one roof, and it’s time to take full ownership of our failures as a society.
It’s time to talk about the roles of moms and dads separately and as a team. It’s time to talk about what happens to kids when mom isn’t present, the long term affects of that, and what the solutions look like while we work towards healing and rebuilding stronger families.
Moms are the heart and soul of the family
A woman on my social media page posted that if dads are the backbone of the family, moms are the heart and soul. Sure there is overlap between the genders, but I could not agree more.
Even though absentee dads might be more common or have more visibility in the public forum, I would venture to say it might actually be more damaging and devastating to young people that grow up without their moms. At least that’s my own personal observation. (Remember, observation is the first step of the scientific process.)
Kids without moms are suffering
I’ve seen and helped some people through some serious tragedy and heart ache surrounding relationships with mom. I have actually heard a mom tell her struggling teenage daughter “I am not putting my happiness on hold because you’re hurting.”
I’ve heard it, read it in a text, and I’ve seen it in action through repeated selfish decisions. I’ve helped students whose moms forced their sons to sell drugs, and I’ve let students sleep half a school day away because they slept on the street to avoid their abusive mom and her revolving door of abusive partners.
I’ve seen what it looks like when mom constantly cheats on dad, is in and out of rehab, and eventually disappears all together. I’ve seen confusion and pain when mom suddenly and tragically passes away and I’ve seen the hurt when step-mom commits suicide.
I’ve seen what it looks like when mom doesn’t protect her kids from the abusive father, family member, or family friend.
Sometimes absentee moms just aren’t “present”
And again, I understand that every situation is different. Sometimes these situations are tragically unavoidable. Sometimes it might be a matter of unaddressed mental health or a matter of purely selfish behavior.
And it doesn’t always have to be so extreme, right? How many parents are still in the home, yet forget to “clock out” from their work and put time in with the kiddos? That’s one we’re all guilty of, right? We do it all the time.
The hard part is not helping these kids, teens, young adults, and sometimes “grown” folks. My wife and I love that part. Putting in the face time, meeting them where they’re at, listening, and providing solutions and support is an honor. The hard part is watching so many of them suffer through all that only to make the continue the cycle started by their parents.
Girls may follow in their mom’s footsteps
All too often young girls and women repeat the mistakes of their mothers. They choose the same path, same road, same promiscuous behavior, same drugs, bouncing from place to place, and continuing the cycle. It’s as if they seek out instability like a heat seeking missile. If they find stability, they tend to blow it up. And why not? If my mom did it, why can’t I?
I believe all women have that instinctual desire to be nurturers, but do they all know what that looks like in action without mom as an example? What about those women that don’t have the heroic grandmother, aunt, or surrogate mom that steps in? Do they all know how to tap into that without mom? I know it’s a painful topic, but aren’t these fair questions?
Boys lack that role model when mom is missing also
What about boys and young men that grow up without mom?
When I was a teacher, most of my students were teen boys. And I can tell you that the ones without mom or with abusive moms had no idea how to cope with even the tiniest of challenges or difficult situations. They had no control over their anger and confusion. When mom is not there, many of these boys miss out on how to be compassionate and how to show healthy affection.
And just like the girls, they jumped right into that promiscuous lifestyle. If mom was abusive, these boys treated other females terribly. What reason did they have to respect women? Mom should be the first person young boys hold the door open for or pull out a chair for. Dad may be the model for how young men treat their wives, but Mom is the model for which these young men will pick their wives.
We need to be a voice for these kids
I know it seems I’m being very harsh and passing blame here. And maybe I am, but honestly there is a part of me that gets very angry and upset with these parents.
The most difficult part about helping these young people is that they don’t have the vocabulary to verbalize what they are feeling. They are so angry and hurt and they are left without a voice. It’s truly heart-breaking and that is a huge part of my motivation to talk about this.
Not so much to speak for them as advocate for them. So many parents out there need to get their act together, and our society overall needs to be shaken awake to this harsh reality.
It’s not too late to make amends
So what’s the solution to all of this? What’s the point of this gripe session? Ultimately, we can only really control what is happening in our own homes, right? We live out our values. We view marriage and parenting as a vocation and one of if not the most important obligation to God and society. To raise good people and get them into Heaven.
Be the example and do it with a smile, kindness, compassion, and truth hoping that all of that will radiate out into the world. But clearly we need more than this. Is it too late for wayward parents to settle down and make amends? No! It’s never too late.
Please return to your children. They are absolutely entitled to your love and attention. They are your priority. You don’t put your life or happiness on pause for your kids, because your kids are your life. We can build stronger families.