• Gisèle Schembri

The Ever-Absent Dad

We are living in a time where the woman works outside of the house just as the man does. We are also facing a reality where some women do put in forty-hour-weeks at the workplace, therefore unfortunately seeing less of their children (and more importantly, the children seeing them less) than used to be the norm.

However times change only slowly over a long period of time and still many women especially in my country, do take some years off work to focus on building their nuclear family. As a result, we are still in that ‘phase’ of commenting about, even dealing with and going to therapists in order to face, the idea of the absent DAD.

Not all dads are absent. I know fathers who fight to see more of their children when estranged from the mother and I also know of happy families. Now it usually takes a happy medium for a happy family, I find.

Which brings me to the point of what exactly is a ‘medium’, and what is ‘absence’ after all?

I am not a dad and for this I am sure to be getting hostile looks from readers who are dads and ready to disprove anything I say. However I hope they will find, if they read on, that I am never biased, and actually try to see every side to each story, however many female eyes look at me like daggers for this.

We mention the absent dad because most of the children with an absent mum are still children and so it has not yet reached the status of ‘phenomenon’. But the dad, the poor dad (or at times the rich dad), seems to have had a choice in this labelling and what he’s ‘done’ to the family. (What has he done anyways?)

Absence is the opposite of presence. Also unfortunately at times people think they can be absent to provide presents. However many sides there are to THIS particular story, it is never ok to be absent to work yourself long and hard if it is for superfluous reasons and that therefore don’t include necessities but rather what would be termed as luxuries.

Whether you are male or female, picture this: your new partner, your old partner, your forever partner, whichever of these may apply, has decided to work till 9pm at the office every day for two consecutive weeks, totally missing your birthday and then turning up the day after with a tiny square box. We all know what’s in there, but was it worth spending your birthday alone? Not even flights to the other side of the world justify that kind of behaviour in my opinion, unless it is agreed beforehand and makes both partners happy to be doing it.

On the other hand, mouths need to be fed, rents and mortgages have to be paid, and even those school uniforms must somehow be bought. So yeah, having a father who returns home late in the day because all the while he was thinking of how it will actually help his family is a keeper, as long as the extra part-time is not an addiction or excuse.

For two paragraphs I went on and on about the ‘man of the house’, so to say, being ‘away from the house’ for long periods of time, therefore maybe creating a void where his presence might have been. These scenarios do however discount the possibility of yet another type of absence.

Some dads are lucky. Oh yes they are! They work half days and make full pays, enough to feed and clothe their family and still refurbish the house. The house they DO spend a lot of time in, they would argue with me at this point. Yeah, where though? Do they spend it in the kitchen helping with the dishes and the homework, or on the phone to their mates? Do they lock themselves away pretending to be eccentric prodigies who should be allowed their privacy to work on yet another brilliant new idea or even who demand an extraordinary amount of time on their hobbies regardless of what their family actually needs? I don’t regard ‘being in the house’ as presence if they are also inaccessible.

Men can get away with it. Or well, depending on how long the woman can be patient for. Fewer women ‘get away’ from family for longer periods of time than absolutely necessary, though I am sure there are quite a few that do as well. And that is how we always look to the man. The ever absent man.

Absence is subjective, absence must be defined. Absence much also be regarded in a reasonable way by the other party and dissected before being judged. After all, even when it is neither justified nor without consequence, everyone is usually doing what they believe is for the best.

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