I needed him to be my daddy, not his.

With daddy in another city, my brother and I got to fly as unaccompanied minors- I loved it, the tags around our necks, the air stewardesses making a fuss of us, and then turning up to his home and enjoying the lack of rules, the lack of healthy food and the unrestricted bedtime.

stepfather playing lego on the floor with his step son toddler
Stepfather playing Lego with his stepson

A child of divorce shares her pain of watching her step-brother grow up knowing her daddy.

My parents divorced when I was 4, even though I can tell you about the smells from the kitchen and my grandmother's soft hands, I cannot recall my parents arguing or any tension in the house. My older brother could, but this is my experience of my childhood.

They decided at some point that they no longer loved each other, and it was best to part. It happened so quickly that all I can remember is a quick conversation over the coffee table that Daddy was no longer living with us, and then we ate dinner.

My mother never bad-mouthed my father, and they appeared decent and respectful to one another. He was welcome at family events, dinners, and if he had to collect us early, breakfast. Where I come from, fathers were only required to see their children two weekends a month, and he was ok with that arrangement. I didn't know any different, and it was kind of fine, except years later I realised how I lost out on a relationship with him. The meaningful kind. Maybe it was easier when he lived nearby and would pop in to spend more time with us, but that didn't last when he moved city for work.

Daddy already had a new woman in his life, she was also a mother to a little boy. They moved with him whilst we stayed behind. The next time we saw him was with her and her kid, and they married soon after. 

My mother was a brilliant woman who worked in a bank before Daddy moved. She had to quit as it had become impossible for her to care for us on her own. She worked from home consulting on projects, allowing her to be there for us. When I was little this was great, but as a teenager, I craved to come home with friends to an empty house and much-needed space. She was always hovering, always caring, and very overbearing. It was infuriating. She is still overbearing and controlling. (she smiles).

With daddy in another city, my brother and I got to fly as unaccompanied minors- I loved it, the tags around our necks, the air stewardesses making a fuss of us, and then turning up to his home and enjoying the lack of rules, the lack of healthy food and the unrestricted bedtime. It was the only time we had any contact. On odd occasions, I would complain, but his response was to put the responsibility on me.

'Daddy, you know you can call me when I am not here?' he would reply 'You know you can call me when you are not here?'

It never dawned on him to call me. When I was out of sight, I was also out of his mind.

My stepmother was a good woman, kind to us, and friendly with our mother. She never interfered in the early years with how we ate or behaved in their home. She let us in the door and we ran free.

It feels weird hearing my entire story in this way, I know I am loved, cared for, and I sound happy, but I wasn't. I was jealous of my step-brother who was smart, funny, sporty, and never demanded attention when we were around, he didn't need to. He got all the attention I needed and wanted, he got my daddy all the time, and I got to witness that gaping void in my life. This void became a hole in my heart. The two of them hung out together, he helped with homework, ate dinner together, and enjoyed the mundane. I got my mother and my brother and that was great, but I didn't get him and it hurt, it still hurts. Why did this boy get to call him dad? Why didn't I get to be his daughter? The stark reality was I shared moments with him, and it wasn't enough. I loved him so much and I needed him to want to see me more.

No, I haven't discussed any of this with him, and I probably never will.

My mother took me everywhere with her while I was growing up. I was like a handbag. During the holidays when I wasn't with Daddy, I accompanied her from meeting to meeting and she never left me alone at home, even when she lunched with friends. Her friends are this amazing tribe of aunties that adore me and I loved those lunches. In response to her needing me by her side all the time, I rebelled. With my brother as a role model, I learnt to lie, drink, and sneak out to parties where I would get wasted with friends and zone out of my reality. Everything I wanted to do, she always said No, and I would pretend to agree and then do it behind her back anyway. Daddy never seemed to be involved in anything at this point. There was no intervention or calls. He never told me off or checked in on me. I was angry and lashed out at everyone. One angry day I decided to stop visiting him, and he didn't push for me to come back.

It confirmed that I wasn't worth the effort.

Sadly he lost his job when I was in my late teens. My mother went from always being polite and kind about him to full-on insulting him whenever possible. He couldn't afford to pay her any child support or any maintenance and she had to work double to keep us afloat.

He had become a let-down and a waste of space.

After a few years, I decided to try and have a relationship with him, which seemed to be going fine until one afternoon when I accidentally picked up his phone and saw messages from a woman wishing she was there, counting the seconds till they were together again. My heart dropped, the tears rolled, and I felt the betrayal. The man I loved was a cheater and cheating on my stepmother, a kind woman. I couldn't speak, I couldn't look him in the eye, I told my brother.

I started university after high school. I wasn't super bright, but I was hard-working and was accepted to a good course. What should have been an exciting, freeing time in my life was an extension of my mother's control over me. Instead of staying in halls with friends, I was to return home every day as we lived nearby. I don't know if she knows how controlling she is, and I wonder if Daddy had been more local, would he have been able to act as a buffer to help me? But he wasn't, and he never showed me he cared. People try to make excuses for him, saying it probably isn't true, but I witnessed his lack of presence in my life and neglect.

This isn't caring.

Now I am an adult, even though I don't feel like one, I not only left home, but I moved to another country. I miss home, my neighbourhood, my friends, and my family, but it is essential in the making of me. I visit as often as possible, always staying with my brother. I rarely have contact with Daddy.

I know that the lack of having him around was hard, but had he not raised another child I would never have witnessed what I missed out on. This is my deepest scar that refuses to heal. My trust issues were all caused by his cheating. I believe everyone cheats, and everyone has the ability and opportunity should they want to. It damaged relationships and I sometimes act out in ways that can appear irrational to someone who doesn't know the fears and anxieties I carry inside.

She smiles when she talks fondly of the people she has loved and loves and stops to breathe and think when I ask her questions that recall a childhood memory. Her tears spill out as she shares memories that hurt as though they happened yesterday. Generous and open with her experience, more parents need to read these stories to understand the lasting damage their choices have caused their children without intent. 

A child of divorce can feel the pain and trauma even when they are old and grey themselves. 

If you want to share your story or you are a professional who wants to share some insights, please email me at contact@angryexwife.com