Recently I was asked in a reader letter if the college essay I wrote that’s included in the back of You’ll Think of Me was available anywhere besides in the book. After some thought, I decided to post it to this blog (an abbreviated version was published on another blog for Father’s Day 2016).
This is what I wrote in my author note in You’ll Think of Me:
Although You’ll Think of Me is first and foremost a romance, it included some serious real-life issues. Most specifically the longing for Daddy that is a tragic common thread in today’s society. I am a “daddyless daughter” myself, losing my father when I was an infant, and I have come to understand how that absence deeply affected my life, both personal and spiritual.
Included after this note is an excerpt from a paper I wrote a few years ago about this crisis in our society. I used tidbits in the pages of this novel, but there is far more to share. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it. Perhaps if we all understand what the absence of fathers is doing to daughters, we can somehow turn the tide.
Missing Daddy. Missing Pieces.
by Robin Lee Hatcher
My childhood was wonderful in countless ways, filled with love and laughter. I was nourished, cherished, and to be completely honest, spoiled. However, there was a definite absence of testosterone in my family. My grandfathers died years before I was born. My father died when I was four months old, and my mother never remarried. One aunt was divorced. Another aunt was widowed. My four cousins were girls. The only males were an uncle with no children of his own and my brother, older than me by twenty-one months. While I regretted not having a dad, I didn’t understand how deeply that absence affected me—and especially the decisions I made as a young woman—until later in life.
My father didn’t leave by choice. His life was taken from him when the small plane he was in crashed and burned during a hunting trip. But the way that he left did not diminish the effect a fatherless home had on me. No matter the reason for a dad’s absence, it is felt, and it is felt as strongly in a daughter’s life as in a son’s. Perhaps, in some ways, more so.
Monique Robinson, author of Longing for Daddy: Healing from the Pain of an Absent or Emotionally Distant Father, called the absence of fathers an epidemic in our society: “It has hit homes from east to west, north to south, affecting the wealthiest and the poorest, male and female, as well as all races and ethnicities. Society has allowed it, and the church hasn’t been able to stop it. Children, teens, adults, even the elderly are all crying on the inside because of it.”1
Furthermore, Bravado Garrett-Akinsanya, PhD, LP, a clinical psychologist, stated, “Despite [a father’s] importance in the home, researchers have described the decline of fatherhood as one of the most basic, unexpected, and extraordinary trends of our time. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. By 2010, that share had risen to 27%.”2
From 11 percent to 27 percent is a drastic change, and it happened in my lifetime. As a child in 1960, I had only one friend who, like me, was fatherless. All of my other friends lived in two-parent homes. Today that is more of an oddity.
Garrett-Akinsanya went on to say:
More specifically, the researchers found that the quality of fathers’ involvement with daughters was the most important feature of the early family environment in relation to the timing of the daughters’ puberty so that girls growing up in father-present conditions reach puberty later than girls growing up without a father present.
The information is important because multiple studies show that when girls reach puberty younger, they become sexually active earlier and are more likely to get pregnant in their teens. Daughters of single mothers are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 111% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a premarital birth and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages.3
When I read those statistics, I was stunned by how closely they mirrored my personal journey. From a young age I felt the absence of a father in my home—and in my heart. I was determined to fill that empty place by marrying and having a family. I married young and had my first child while still a teenager, and sadly, that marriage ended in divorce when I was in my thirties.
Gabriella Kortsch, PhD, a psychotherapist, said “a little girl needs to see herself reflected in the love she sees for herself in her father’s eyes. This is how she develops self-confidence and self-esteem. This is how she develops a healthy familiarity with what a positive expression of love feels like.”4
My mother often told me that I was the apple of my daddy’s eye, but I never got to experience those positive expressions of love from him. I know I would have benefited from them.
In a paper published in the College Student Journal, Franklin B. Krohn and Zoe Bogan quoted statistics from Getting Men Involved: The Newsletter of the Bay Area Male Involvement Network (Spring 1997). The last statistic struck a nerve with me. It said that fatherless children were 20 percent less likely to attend college than those with fathers.5
At the age of sixteen, college should have been on my radar, but it wasn’t. True, I don’t recall my mother ever encouraging me to plan for college; maybe I simply wasn’t listening. Instead of college I got married. Years later, to my deep regret, I never encouraged my own daughters to dream of higher education. Had my father lived, however, I’m convinced I would have had very different aspirations—for myself and later for my daughters. (Note: Both of my daughters eventually went to college and have their bachelor’s degrees, and inspired by them—proving that it is better late than never—I am a part-time college student myself.)
In his book What a Difference a Daddy Makes, Dr. Kevin Leman wrote, “A woman’s relationship with her father, more than any other relationship, is going to affect her relationships with all other males in her life—her bosses, coworkers, subordinates, sons, husband, brothers, pastors, college professors, and even Hollywood movie stars.”6
In addition, Iyanla Vanzant, a lawyer and inspirational speaker, said in an episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass that “the role of father is to teach his daughter how to be in a nonsexual, intimate relationship with a man. In fact, it’s the first relationship a daughter has with a man and therefore teaches her how a woman should be treated.” Daddyless daughters, according to Vanzant, often fill the void in their lives by a willingness to “settle” when it comes to a partner.7
My own experience tells me that Leman and Vanzant are correct. In my early years I was ill prepared for romance or marriage because I had no real knowledge of what those relationships should look like.
When I was in my late thirties, the man who is now my husband took me home to meet his family. He is one of four boys, and during my first weekend with his brothers, I felt as if I’d fallen through a rabbit hole into another dimension. Their masculine behavior toward one another was foreign to me—funny and overwhelming at the same time.
Fortunately, guys do not overwhelm me anymore. Today I count many men among my friends, and as a writer I have learned to empathize with them.
But are there still missing pieces inside of me because I’m a “daddyless daughter”? Yes, I’m sure there are. Still, I am more than a girl who grew up without a dad. I am a woman of faith, and I believe that anything that happens in my life can work for my good—even the loss of a father—if I am open to the Lord’s healing power and direction.
That is my choice, so that is what I choose.
- Monique Robinson, Monique, Longing for Daddy: Healing from the Pain of an Absent or Emotionally Distant Father (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2004), Kindle edition.
- Bravado Garrett-Akinsanya, “Growing Up Without a Father: The Impact on Girls and Women,” InsightNews.com, November 3, 2011, accessed October 22, 2014, http://www.insightnews.com/2011/11/03/growing-up-without-a-father-the-impact-on-girls-and-women/.
- Bravado Garrett-Akinsanya, “Growing Up Without a Father.”
- Gabriella Kortsch, “Fatherless Women: What Happens to the Adult Woman Who Was Raised Without a Father,” Trans4mind.com, accessed October 22, 2014, http://www.trans4mind.com/counterpoint/index-happiness-wellbeing/kortsch4.shtml.
- Franklin B. Krohn and Zoe Bogan, “The Effects Absent Fathers Have on Female Development and College Attendance,” College Student Journal 35.4 (2001), accessed October 22, 2014, http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/College-Student-Journal/84017196.html.
- Kevin Leman, What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The Lasting Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter’s Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), Kindle edition.
- “Daddyless Daughters: How Growing Up Without a Father Affects a Woman’s Standards and Choices,” HuffingtonPost.com, July 13, 2013, accessed October 20, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/13/daddyless-daughters-standards-mistake-define_n_3587142.html.