For the last two years now, I have been battling with my ex wife on custody of our child. There was a point in the beginning of the divorce where I hit absolute rock bottom because the marriage ending was all my fault. I was wrought with guilt and sadness. I was drinking A LOT and at one point I was ready to take my own life because I felt like I couldn’t live with the guilt of what I had done anymore. A few months later I moved to Colorado for some much needed self healing. Living here has helped me recover but, getting back to see my daughter has been proving to be difficult. My ex wife has re married and he is a fantastic husband to her and to be honest, a better father than I could ever be. My ex has filed for a termination of my parental rights, and I don’t know if I should fight it or let my daughter go. Me and my ex don’t get a long and I think that my daughter is better off with them in the long run. I don’t know what to do and I feel lost. I love my daughter to pieces but, I don’t want to negatively affect her future just to stick it to my ex. This decision keeps me up at night, I can’t sleep, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to drink, I don’t want to do anything. I’m stuck.
Dude, this is a brutal situation. I can’t imagine feeling so hopeless about a situation that feels so critical to who you are – what’s being asked of you is to totally surrender an entire piece of your life…one piece has already been destroyed in the divorce, and another is being asked to be given too?? And to be battling these waves of self-doubt and self-hate and inadequacy, and feeling like you don’t have what it takes, like you aren’t as good as this other guy (brutal), and like you are better off just to ghost out…dude, that’s got to be a suffocating thought life to exist in…and all the while, there’s this piece inside of you that does not want to give up your daughter, and so you are stuck in this place of indecision, and it’s killing you! You’d rather forget all about the situation than have to face it like this…and I don’t blame you, dude, it’s a HUGE BOULDER on your shoulders, and you are getting crushed under the enormity of it…I think anyone would. You’re not crazy for feeling stuck here or for not knowing what to do.
So here’s a couple things to think about:
- no matter what you will ever do in your entire life, your daughter is still going to love you and want your love. That’s just the way it goes…we, as humans, are hardwired to want and long for the love of our father’s, and whether or not you want that title, you forever will be her father. No matter how terrible of a job you feel you are doing, she will always need your love from you or be suffering because she fears or feels you don’t.
- In that sense, this has a lot less to do with you than you think it might. It doesn’t really matter if you feel like you’re a bad dad. You’re her dad. Period. And she has a need from you, and your self-doubt and insecurities shouldn’t keep you from giving what you can. It’s going to be messy and imperfect and painful for you, but that shouldn’t mean that you stop from offering what you do have to her, because she needs it.
- If you fear you aren’t fathering well enough, it’s not because you’re bad, it’s probably a) mostly in your head, and b) totally improvable. You are in a unique spot where you not only have the opportunity to change but also the inspiration to do so! You could take the time you’re not spending in the day-to-day thick of parenting to go to counseling, to find mentors who will walk alongside you and teach you about fathering, to find mentors who will father you so you know what it’s like to be loved by a father, to find healing yourself so you have more to offer her, to take parenting classes or read up on parenting books…you are not who you are today forever. You can always take steps to improve, and you’re in a position now where you have the time to do so. Again, this isn’t even just about you getting to become a better human, it’s because this little girl needs your love, and you have the opportunity to give it to her!
If I were in your shoes and hear this, it might be easy for me to blast myself with guilt – I know it’s been a couple days since you posted this, and you might have already made a decision, and if it’s contrary to this advice…dude, total grace. You are loved either way. If a decision hasn’t been made and this feels like a lot, know this: it’s okay. You are allowed to be imperfect…there really is only one perfect parent in the entire world, and that’s God – whether or not you believe in him is totally cool with me. But as parents, our job isn’t to be perfect, it’s to show up and keep trying. You have this beautiful opportunity to keep fighting for her heart, so stay in the arena man!
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Stay with her. Stay in there for her. Keep fighting. You’re doing great. And you have inspiration to become day by day a bit more of the man you want to be. What a gift!