Words by Emily Fuller
In 21st century Australian society, what does the dominant representation of the ‘ideal family’ look like? Does your mind immediately gravitate towards visualising a pair of heterosexual parents? Maybe a sibling or two, who test your patience at times?
The other week, I found myself in a social scenario with a friend who I was in the process of getting to know on a more personal level. We seamlessly flowed in and out of various conversational topics, until we reached the oh-so personal subject of family – in which we hit a big momentous roadblock. They asked me about what made up my family dynamic, to which I replied that I lived with my mother and two younger siblings. They proceeded with their line of questioning:
“So your parents aren’t together?”
“No, they’re not.”
“And so do you have a relationship with your father?”
“No, and I haven’t maintained a relationship with him for many years now.”
“Oh, I’m really sorry. That must be quite hard and damaging for you.”
I am no stranger to these kinds of responses when I discuss the fact that I have been raised by a single parent. They materialise in various forms – verbal apologies, pitying glances, even the awkward stuttering of someone who desperately grasps for the appropriate thing to respond with. The thing that people do not seem to understand is that it honestly does not have any emotional impact on me whatsoever. Time and time again over the course of my childhood and young adulthood, I have been labelled, moulded and boxed up into the neat little package of the emotionally scarred and deeply insecure girl that was bound to have ‘daddy issues’. However the irony is, that I was too busy being independent and self-assured (thanks to my mother’s influence) to even notice – or better yet, care.
As a disclaimer, I do want to acknowledge the women who have been severely affected both emotionally and mentally by the absence of a parent, I do understand that for some people it is a significant loss to experience and endure – especially from a young age where you refer to a stable parent as a model to help construct your moral values and worldview. My personal experience is vastly different to many other circumstances of women who are without a father, mainly because I continue to make a conscious decision to not welcome my father into my life as an adult. It is a decision that I have made peace with several years ago, and have felt empowered in making. So essentially, this piece is a dedication and reassurance to the women out there who feel as if they are misjudged due to the absence of a paternal figure – may we continue to fiercely challenge and reject these damaging clichés that are not necessarily true.
Upon writing this piece, I decided to delve into a deep dark realm of internet for some research on studies relating to fatherless daughters. What I stumbled across in terms of “scientific” and “statistical” studies was profoundly bemusing in ridiculousness. An article titled Five Ways Growing Up Without a Dad Effects Women by McKenna Meyers stood out to be a distinct favourite of mine. Here are just a few of the obviously accurate and authenticated evaluations that clearly shape our identity as women – I have selected a couple of front-runners, so feel free to join me in indulging in these laughable observations:
“Women who grow up without fathers often struggle with feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness.”
- Oh, on quite the contrary. True, we did not have men who constantly reassured us and insisted that we are beautiful inside and out – rather, we had to look in the mirror and believe it ourselves. If anything, the media plays more of a crucial role in controlling and depleting a woman’s self-worth – regardless of whether you’ve been raised by a father or not.
“Females who lose their fathers to divorce or abandonment seek much more attention from men and had more physical contact with boys their age than girls from intact homes.”
- I don’t know about you ladies, but growing up without a father certainly has not provoked me to find gratification from men elsewhere. Contrastingly, being raised by a headstrong and independent mother like mine has completely shattered this notion for me. Over the years I have seen that a mother’s love mirrors that of the depths of the deepest and darkest of oceans – you can never really comprehend or appreciate how far it stretches beyond the expanses of what we know. With thanks to my mum, I quickly learned that happiness and love can be sourced from a multiplicity of things or people, and is not necessarily secured in obtaining a man’s love and affection.
I could continue on with deconstructing these various tropes all day long, but alas I shall leave it here. All in all, I have learnt that being raised by a single parent or being fatherless is not something that defines your identity or dictates your sense of self-worth. So here is my final piece of wisdom to you ladies who feel like they relate in these circumstances or feel ostracised because of it – I urge you to shed that gigantic thick coat of shame from your shoulders, and walk forth boldly. After all, you have worked hard and shaped yourself into the incredible woman you are today, with absolutely no help from a man at all.
Art by Mel Padilla