Why is it some men don’t want their own children but are willing to raise another woman’s kids? This was the question asked by a confused, frustrated, and justifiably angry mother. One can hear and appreciate her resentment. Why does this father love another’s, but abandons his own? It is a worthy question, and I will attempt an equal response.
Some years back I held a Fatherhood Wide Open conversation, ‘Does Fatherhood make us better men?’ with writer Adam Rust. We concluded that fatherhood, as this mother no doubt agrees, does not make better men. In fact, fatherhood does not make a man at all; if we define manhood with words such as responsible, sacrificial, duty, and honor-bound. We only need look at the countless other children whose fathers have chosen the shiny objects of vanity and cowardice as proof of the shortage of manhood surrounding us. While accepting that fatherhood does not make any of us better men, Adam and I did reflect that a woman, and more particularly a relationship or marriage, can motivate some men to try to be better, if only for a season.
A person’s character is hard to compartmentalize. What I mean is that it becomes nearly impossible for someone to be greedy in one aspect of his life while remaining generous and self-sacrificing in every other. By its very definition, ‘character’ is all or nothing. I am generous, or I am not. A man is honest, or he is not. There is no middle ground when it comes to one’s integrity.
This is not to say that a greedy man cannot become a generous man. Liars do turn honest. The vain can find humility. I am convinced that God has the power to do so. I have seen it happen with my own eyes and in my own life. I have witnessed the Spirit of Heaven convict a man so severely that he begins the long and difficult journey of reorganizing the way sees and lives in the world. He looks in the mirror at the type of man he is and knows that something, anything, must change. But such a man wants to change, to become his higher self through innate desires only he understands. A yearning that lies deep within him and that is not dependent on a shallow outside influence. He must want to change, realizing he cannot go on living as he has. Measuring the ideal against the reality, he is embarrassed at the abyss that lies between. This change is the only that truly lasts, it is the one thing that can make a man better than he was.
But when a father chooses to raise another man’s children at the expense of his own–because this is a choice–we are naturally inclined to ask why. Why would this father put forth such effort and sacrifice to be for another‘s what he will not be for his own? It seems at odds with our natural inclinations and what we rightly expect from any parent. It so contradicts our thinking that we may even be led to wonder if the mother, and the children, carry some responsibility for his abandonment. Perhaps the children want nothing to do with him. Maybe this mother has blocked all his efforts to be a father to his children and he has given up. This may be so, but such instances are inevitably rare and more often stretches of imagination to soothe a father’s guilt-stricken soul.
So, has this father changed? Has he suddenly become someone new, responsible, steady, and honorable? Of course not. Character cannot be cordoned off as we have already mentioned. He is no less irresponsible and selfish than he has proven himself to be. He has not changed, he is only pretending; playing a desired part. One that he will continue so long as doing so gives him what he wants. The mother of these children has something he needs, and the price to pay is playing daddy to her kids. It is a dark mask this father wears, one he can just as quickly take it off as he put on. And be assured he will, the moment he gets his fill or grows tired, or finds something or someone that better satisfies him, he will cast aside that mask and assume whatever new character is needed. Because a father that will walk out on his own children will walk out on anyone – for any reason or for no reason. A sad reality this other mom may soon discover.
But this brings another point that must be made. Years ago, I wrote a follow-up to what remains my most famous essay, ‘Manifesto on Absent Fathers’ where I take to task those fathers who have chosen convenience over character, selfishness instead of selflessness. In this follow-up essay, I speak directly to those I consider no less guilty for the plague of fatherlessness – women who knowingly love men who have abandoned their children.
In that essay I wrote:
Any woman who knowingly loves and cares for a man who has abandoned his children is no better than he is. In fact, she’s a huge part of the bigger problem. The woman who stays with a deadbeat dad is just as guilty of hurting those children as he is. Why? Her love allows him to hide his sin and shame. She is the ready and willing distraction he needs, the plan B soothing his tortured soul.
The answer to why does he not want his own children but will raise another’s comes down a fact of nature, human self-interest. This father has sacrificed his God-given responsibility on the altar of greed and convenience. Another woman who has allowed him to live with that guilt because she gets out of it what she wants. One is equally as responsible as the next.
To this frustrated mother, I would suggest no longer asking ‘why.’ Doing so is a one-way ticket to insanity or depression. Instead, be the best parent you can for your children. Take the high road by not bashing your children’s father, though you may be justified in doing so (they likely still see him as their dad). Instead, find ways, if possible, to place real men into their lives. Search for men who can redeem some of their father’s failures and show what real masculinity can and should be. Otherwise, your children risk carrying a distorted image of manhood inherited from their absent dad, and in the long run that may be an even worse tragedy.