Overcoming an Absentee Parent

How can you feel positively or even neutral about someone whose absence inspires feelings of unworthiness?

DJ Jeffries ✔️
May 8 · 4 min read

I try to imagine a world where my father chose to be in my life — a world where he talked to me about relationships, coached me through how to handle a bully, or pushed me not to quit baseball.

I try to imagine a world where he could look at me and say I’m proud of you. But I know deep down this world will never be.

It’s eerie going through life knowing that I have a father and that he has chosen not to be in my life. On one hand, it was clear that I wasn’t alone in experiencing this. I had friends with dads who were not in their lives.

But on the other, I would observe and secretly envy those whose fathers hadn’t chosen to leave. It was as if they had some secret power that made their dad want to stay: worthiness.

In some strange way, I feel guilt for feeling this way. I had a strong mother who gave me all that she could. She went out of her way to be more than enough for two parents. I can see how it may seem to obsess over the parent who chose to leave to the parent trying to give you everything.

Yet, somehow I couldn’t ignore the thought that it was my inadequacy that drove my dad away. Internally, I questioned what it was about me that pushed him to leave us.


When I became a teenager, he added me on Facebook. It was odd and I thought about declining his request. But a part of me couldn’t help but wish this would be our way of developing a meaningful father-son relationship.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I got no benefit from this situation and I actually felt upset. He got to watch my life, enjoy my accomplishments, and perhaps even feel pride, and I still didn’t have a dad — just weird glimpses into who he was through Candy Crush requests and likes on other people’s posts.

“Miss you son. You’re doing all the things I wanted to do but never did.”

Occasionally on some years, he’ll write me a few days after my birthday to send me well wishes. I thank him and move on with my life. Typically, that’s where the conversation ends. But one year he took it a little further, writing:

“Miss you son. You’re doing all the things I wanted to do but never did.”

I stared at the screen confused. How could he miss me? He doesn’t even know me.

What’s odd for me is that even though we’ve been connected on social media for years, I don’t feel as if I know him. We’ve never had a real conversation about life. I couldn’t describe in him in three words.

There is no substance in our relationships. All of this is true, yet we will forever be connected because of the part he played in creating me.


I should’ve done better by you
I was just a kid when you came into my world

Knew nothing of the world myself
And somehow I was expected to teach you

The innocence in your eyes scared me

Deep inside,
I figured out that the world wouldn’t look at me with favor.
If you got to know me
Neither would you

But I taught you something
In a world of shame, it’s something to be proud of
You know how important it is to be there
And stand up for those whose knees fail them

You won’t get any more excuses from me
I take responsibility for my actions
I’m sorry you had to grow up without me.
I pray you are too

Don’t forget I was just a child
I came into this world
Without my permission
Needing constant attention

That was too much for you
But I got what I needed
And you can see that now
I guess I didn’t need a dad to be raised right
But you can be that dad now


But I also wonder how can you be less than a perfect father knowing firsthand what the stakes are?

I have to admit that I am terrified to have to a child. I know exactly how important a parent is. I wonder how can you look into the eyes of a life that you’ve created and be content to walk away? But I also wonder how can you be less than a perfect father knowing firsthand what the stakes are?

It is a bittersweet thing realizing that I’m stronger because of his absence. It’s hard to accept that I’m more resilient now because of him leaving. I’ve learned not to rely on others in determining my self-worth.

If I were a better man, I’d thank him in part for who I’ve become. But truthfully, he didn’t really do anything. The credit goes to the people who stayed. My mom, grandparents, aunts and uncles, who saw a little boy at risk of being broken and helped him build armor. In some fundamental way, I’ve never seen this more clearly.

I know exactly what role my father has played in my life. Do I forgive him? I don’t think that’s the right question, but I do. I don’t hold resentment towards him. And after all of this years, I’ve finally realized that his choices reflect nothing about me. I must be defined by my choices, not anyone else’s.


Thanks for reading…

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DJ Jeffries ✔️

Written by

I help people identify their life’s work and improve their work life. HR Innovation Specialist. Career Coach. Founder of Led2Win.com.

Be unique

Be unique

The best collection of articles on life and living, politics, travel tips, poetry, entrepreneurship and so much more! Join us and be a part of this community…

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