You are and remain a father even at a distance

Logo of www.papa-bleiben.de

In modern Western society, the image of family and fatherhood has changed dramatically over the past few years and decades. Compared to before, it has become much more colorful, diverse and multifaceted.

While in the past the father was primarily only the producer and breadwinner of his child, today he is still a carer, friend, playmate, or chauffeur.

In some countries, fathers now take parental leave, accompany their child to the playground, do their homework with them, or take them to preschool. Many fathers even take on the complete day-to-day management for their child, which used to be an undisputed task of the mother. The classic distribution of roles has been dissolved, which is positive for both the child and the father.

The old, dusty image of a father has long since faded, instead there is a multitude of different new, modern and lively father types.

In this diversity of fathers, however, there are those who do not really match the beautiful, colorful images of a father. They tend to exist as a fringe group and find it difficult in the circle of other fathers.

We are talking about the fathers who don't even see their child every other weekend, but only sporadically or not at all for a long time.

There can be many reasons for such long separations, but the end result is a father who unintentionally never or only rarely sees his child. This fact brings with it a whole host of challenges and burdens for everyone involved.

The permanent separation from the child and the uncertainty about when he will see his child again brings the separated father to the point where he asks himself full of doubt: Am I still a father at all?

To answer this question in advance: Yes, you are a father even from a distance, and you remain so. But the question arises as to how one should and can shape this unwanted and unpopular father role.

There are many more fathers faced with this question than one would think. Visiting regulations such as the residence model or the alternation model are classic after separation and divorce. Most fathers will probably find themselves in it after a separation from the child mother.

In addition, there are also those fathers who cannot enjoy the luxury of a functioning visit regulation or a well-rehearsed routine, but where every visit or every reunion with the child becomes a very special, because rare, event.

By the way, I am not writing on this topic on the basis of what I have read, but on the basis of my own experience. This has the unwanted advantage that I don't have to laboriously empathize with the topic: I've been in the thick of it for nearly 10 years. In the summer of 2011 my divorced wife and our two children (a daughter, then 14 years old, and a son, then 8 years old) moved from Munich to Hamburg. The move brought a distance of 850 kilometers between my children and me.

In order to shape his own father role individually, a young man mainly aligns himself with what he himself experienced as a child and learned in the course of his life. Male role models also play a major role in this. Since it is a question of a new and modern father image, one's own father is often not available as a good example. A young father is much more likely to orientate himself towards other fathers of roughly the same age whom he knows or whom he meets in the playground and from whose experiences he can benefit.

He can exchange ideas with these fathers, give each other advice and maybe even support one another in difficult situations. How is it going with the other? How does he do it? He is not alone, but one of many fathers.

On the other hand, what is the likelihood of knowing a separated father or of meeting one by chance in the playground? How do separated fathers even recognize each other when they are out and about without their child? The one over there with the sad look – this is one perhaps?

Separated fathers live almost incognito, are not recognized at first glance, have no meeting places or clear characteristics. As a separated dad, you're just a man most of the time. There's nothing wrong with that, but whom do you ask if you don't know what to do? Where do you go when you need advice or help? Who can help because he knows the situation from his own experience? Where do you find other separated fathers? The air is getting thin!

I started my website www.papa-bleiben.de because I noticed that separated fathers lack exactly this playground where they can meet. I have experienced that even good friends were ultimately completely overwhelmed with my difficulties because they could not put themselves in my situation with the best of will.

I would therefore like to design the website primarily as a meeting place for separated fathers. Experiences are exchanged, advice is given, worries shared and, from time to time, consoled. Everyone is welcome with his topics, can express himself, or simply listen or read along - just like in the playground.

Finally, I would like to change my perspective briefly: Every separated father also has at least one child separated from his father. Each of these children needs his father just like the mother. So the successful design of the unwanted role of the separated father does not only benefit the father. And that's what it's ultimately about, isn't it?

850 kilometers are no big deal if you go on vacation, but they surely are if you miss your children. Stories from a German father. (www.papa-bleiben.de)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store