A reader recently sent a distressed request on the post A Manifesto on Absent Fathers concerning her absent ex who has suddenly expressed a desire, after six years, to be part of his daughter’s life. Below is her predicament and my response. I’d love the Chopper Nation to chime in with any perspective you can offer this mom.
I need help! Any advice for a mom? I have a 6-year-old girl her father has seen her twice in 6 years and that is because of his lack of trying. I have an amazing husband who has been here for her since she was 3 months old. The past few months my ex all the sudden has been emailing asking about her and wanting to talk to her and acting like he cares. My current husband is FURIOUS with this and I don’t know what the right thing to do is. My daughter knows about her ‘bio-father’ and asks lots of questions and this seems to hurt my husband. He is angry about him trying to all of a sudden come into her life and I myself don’t know why he is either. He lives in Hawaii and us in MN so it’s not like he can visit on any regular basis. Any suggestions? Do I allow him in not knowing if he is going to bail again and let my husband be hurt..Ugghh I don’t know what to do!
You certainly are in a difficult situation. You’re between the proverbial rock and a hard place of trying to do what is best for your daughter while remaining supportive of your husband.
Before I share my thoughts I want to encourage him to read a post I wrote for Father’s Day last year, in it I express many of the emotions he is likely going through right now and I go on to unpack how I deal with them.
From your comment it appears that you are, at least, considering the chance of giving bio-father the opportunity to connect with your daughter. After six years and only two visits you certainly have the right to react defiant in the face of his request. From a purely biological perspective he does have the legal right, regardless of his absence, but actions always speak louder than genetics or the law in my opinion. While I don’t know why he disappeared in the first place hopefully he has realized the err of his ways and now wants to be a permanent part of his child’s life.
I don’t think you want to, nor should you, prevent your daughter from establishing a connection with bio-father, especially since she is asking about him on a regular basis. That however doesn’t mean he just walks back in as if nothing ever happened. You have the right and obligation to establish strict boundaries around how he reintroduces himself to her. You should not shy away from demanding that he follow you and your husband’s strict guidelines. Whether that be you both supervising bio-father’s visit time or just limiting contact initially to phone calls until such time as you both are comfortable with taking it further. Personally, I think you should be cautiously optimistic but make him prove to both of you his dedication.
And you must do all of this while remaining conscious of your husband’s emotions, which may prove to be much more difficult. I can totally relate to how he is feeling. He has stepped up when bio-father choked and bailed and has been there for you and your daughter ever since. He may even be wondering “Why am I not enough?” Then suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere bio-father comes back and wants to be involved. His anger and frustration are legitimate and understandable but, and this is the tricky part, he can’t let his personal feelings take precedent over what is best for his stepdaughter. The most difficult thing he must over come, and it was the very same for me, is putting aside his pride for the betterment of your child. You and he may have already formed opinions about how this will ultimately turn out and you may very well be correct. But I don’t believe that is for you to decide. She deserves an opportunity to connect with bio-father if he has proven himself worthy and up for the task.
My immediate suggestion on a course of action is to sit down with your husband and talk to him about what is most beneficial for your daughter, specifically connecting with her birth father. Convince him that this doesn’t change anything about his current role nor is he being replaced. Then together you should structure how bio-father will be allowed to reconnect with her. I think that it’s imperative that you both be in complete agreement on how to proceed, communication that decision with bio-father, then slowly ease him back into her life.
I believe that being a part of the decision making process will limit any feelings of intimidation and hopefully not give him the sense that he’s just been cast aside. While bio-father may be just that, your husband is probably her ‘daddy’. And from personal experience children never, regardless of what men enter their lives, forget who their daddy is.
The opinions expressed here are personal and are not intended to replace professional or legal advice.