Dear Family Angel,
I had my first child this year and I am feeling really sad because my Dad doesn’t seem to want a relationship with her. He is busy with work and often away a lot but when he is home he doesn’t come and visit us. My Mum tries to make excuses for him but I feel very upset about this. What can I do?
This is a problem I hear about more and more. I know you desperately want your Dad to be someone he is not being. Of course you want your daughter to have a relationship with her Grandfather but the harsh reality is that you cannot force someone to do something they don’t want to do. However there are ways of feeling better about the situation.
I can empathise with how you feel here. I left home at 16 because of my Step Mum and my Dad let me go. Throughout the years he has not sent a Birthday or Christmas card and I can count on one hand the number of times he has phoned me. However he is always pleased to hear from me and if I introduced him to you he would be charming in a lovely way.
A few years ago I got to talk to him about how I felt. He was defensive at first but once he realised I was just telling him how I felt he said ” I’m sorry K, I hope you know I love you” I didn’t doubt that he loved me but I guess I wanted him to demonstrate that love.
You may be wondering if things changed after that deep conversation. Well the answer is no, he continued to act the way he always had, but the conversation helped me in 2 ways. Firstly I heard the words I so desperately wanted to hear. And secondly I began to accept who he is. It was then my choice to decide if I wanted to contact him or not.
I think I was trying to make my relationship with my Dad into something I wanted it to be. I felt disappointed and angry that he was not the Dad I wanted him to be.When I accepted that, I forgave him for not living up to my expectations and I forgave me for trying to change him.
With a new baby, especially your first, your emotions are high and your expectations of how perfect life will be with your new born are also high. There is nothing wrong with that. Being a new parent is a time in your life when your hopes and dreams become intensely important.
Being a new Mum is often a time when you connect with your inner child who is desperate to hear your Dad say you have done a great job and he is so proud of you. When your own Dad steps back at this time your inner child is hurt.
To help you feel better here are a few steps you can take:-
(i) Talk to your Dad about how you feel. Don’t accuse him of letting you down but share your feelings and how you want your daughter to know and love him as you do. Please be warned though that this conversation may be difficult for your Dad and if he doesn’t want to talk you cannot force him. Also don’t start the conversation with “Can we talk?” In my experience men hate that question!!
(ii) Find a way to accept that he is not choosing to act the way you want him to. Acceptance is a huge part of lifting your own emotions about this situation.
(iii) Forgive him for not being the Dad you want him to be and forgive you for judging him
(iv) Remind you, and your inner child ,that no matter how your Dad acts he loves you very much and will love your daughter as best as he can but remember you cannot force that relationship.
(v) Know that as your child grows your Dad may find it easier to connect. She may win his heart over all by herself!
(vi) Enjoy the time when you are all together
I hope these tips will help you to feel better about how your Dad is reacting to the arrival of your beautiful daughter. Do let me know how you get on.
The Family Angel xx
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