Some time back, I wrote a blog about how my father threw me aside like trash while raising his second daughter with every thing she needed and more. Despite having the same dad, our lives were extremely different. I became a statistic of divorce and she was raised by both of her parents. When my dad re-married, he simply stopped being my dad because his wife didn’t want me around. When they had a child together, (my younger half-sister,) my dad treated her extremely differently from the way he treated me. I was left to grow up with my abusive mom in near poverty, while they had a big house in the richest part of town. I struggled to survive–working long hours to support myself even when I was in high school, while she was given everything a spoiled child gets and never had to work.
At my dad’s funeral this past year, the priest talked about how much my dad loved his other daughter and her kids. He talked about how much my dad loved his wife’s son that he adopted as his own. He went on and on about my dad’s wonderful love for his family, and how my dad had told him happy stories about his family as he was dying.
The problem? There was not a word about me or my children. I was his oldest child…and the only child for the first nine years of my life. But even at his funeral, it became incredibly clear, despite all the cruel things he’d said to me throughout the years, that even in death, I was nothing to my “father.” After all I have been through, that was the most traumatic day of my life.
I’ve been feeling bad about it, but I’ve also been learning to accept it. I had no real father. I can’t change that, but I still feel very traumatized by the whole story. I struggle all the time. I struggle with no child care help, I struggle to pay my bills. I was fired from a great job because I missed too much time from work when my kids were sick and I had no one to watch them. I’m living in near poverty myself, struggling to pay for childcare which takes half my pay. When he was alive, my dad helped his other daughter with all of those things. So, while I was run ragged and not getting any rest or time to myself, his other daughter was always well-rested, had plenty of free time, and never had to worry about her job when her kids were sick. She had a dad. I didn’t. She lived at home and my dad and her mom raised her kids most of the time. At one time, my dad criticized me for not doing my hair and make up every day like his other daughter did. He told me that’s why I didn’t have a better job. He compared me to his other daughter who is high maintenance. I just remember thinking to myself, gee, it must be easy to have time to get pretty in the mornings when someone else is taking care of your kids all the time! I have to do it all. I have no time for me. I wasn’t living at home in his nice house getting free child care.
And through life, I can see how that lack of support for me has led to my having to work twice as hard to get half as far. I look ragged and tired, while she is all dressed up. Well, I’m doing it all alone and she has had help–from OUR father…who only cared about her. It’s hard not to feel like I was cheated.Same dad…totally different levels of support and caring. I struggled while everything was handed to her…and then our dad criticized me for not doing as well as his other daughter…who had a BIG leg up on me.
Recently, I read the Harry Potter series for the first time. I became really engrossed in the stories and read through them very quickly. But the first part that left me crying was this:
…Harry, whose attention had been focused entirely on the two beside the window, saw his father: slight, black-haired like Snape, but with that indefinable air of having been well-cared-for, even adored, that Snape so conspicuously lacked.
Rowling, J.K. (2015-12-08). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (p. 277). Arthur A. Levine Books. Kindle Edition.
Because it’s true. Two boys of the same age, and with similar skills, and yet one blossomed with love, while the other wilted from the lack of it. It reminded me of myself. Skinny. Tired. Dark circles under my eyes. I have always looked wimpy and mousy. No wonder a sociopath targeted me! It must have been so clear that I was not loved and that no one cared about me. People who are loved and know it have a huge advantage over those of us who were not loved or cared for, and abusers can see that. The world can see it.
And even though this is just a fictional story, Rowling described a very real problem. When our parents don’t love us, we carry that emptiness with us. It can drag us down in life. I never had confidence or self-esteem. I never stood up for myself. I never tried to deserve anything more than the scraps I got. My dad showed me that I was worthless to him, and I accepted that. Then I let boyfriends and husbands treat me just as badly. I didn’t walk out into the world with confidence, and I never expected others to treat me like I deserved more.
Having unloving parents is an emotional handicap as we learn to rely completely on ourselves while lucky people have a healthy family support system. We are the people who have to be stronger and fight harder than others. We start with a disadvantage, and have to work to figure out how normal people act while we build real support systems. BUT, don’t let your parents’ failure to love you make you feel like your aren’t worth as much. The problem is theirs, not yours. My dad did a lot of damage when he threw me away, but I will no longer take it personally. In fact, I will take it as a challenge…so I can rise above and do just as well on my own!