A Self-Check: Are You an Absentee Parent?

by Brenda Yoder, MA

absentee parent

I work with kids whose fathers are absent – permanently, temporarily, or in spirit.

I recently read a book review of “Father Hunger”, a book discussing the epidemic of absentee fathers.


If you don’t think it’s an epidemic, visit a school in your community for a day. Talk to your co-workers about their lives, or the people you come into contact with:

Two parent families are no longer the norm.

But absentee parenting isn’t exclusive to fathers.  Moms can also be absent either, physically or emotionally. It’s heartbreaking to hear a young child say, “My mom doesn’t love my dad anymore” or a teen write in an assignment, “My mom chose her boyfriend over me.”

I’ve heard it all.

What does it mean to be present with our children? Does it simply mean to love them? 

I’ve seen a lot of damage done in the name of love.

Being present with our children requires action  – being compassionate, intentional, and exerting emotional energy while nurturing them to be all they can be.  It’s not living through them, pushing our dreams on them, or giving in to them so they’ll be happy. It’s developing their heart and character.

There’s a lot of enabling in the name of loveEnabling a child is tempting.  It goes against our parenting nature to see our kids suffer consequences from their choices. But doing what’s best for our child means they may experience adversityWhen we take the pain away, they don’t grow as individuals.When we eliminate pain, they continue to need us, and it feels good to be needed, right?

There was a time when I was an absentee parent.  Confessions of an out-of-balance-mom. The summer I started running, I had a toddler, preschool, school age and preteen child. Running became my escape from an otherwise hectic, busy life.  It became an idol.One of my kids got my attention by hiding my running shoes.  I found them in an obscure, well-hidden location.I got the message:

One of my kids needed my emotional presence as well as my physical presence. 

Mindful parenting doesn’t happen by being busy or giving the latest gadget. Raising healthy children requires thought, care, and attention.  It requires selflessness in ways that are not comfortable.

  • It requires giving up control.
  • It is requires admitting we have parenting flaws.
  • It requires placing our children’s best interest before our own.
  • It requires putting down rights and taking up grace.

I can’t change absentee fathers or displaced mothers. But I can change the magnets in my life that pull away from the healthy development of my familyI can be honest with myself about what each child needs from me and how I can be more present with them.

What about you? What are the magnets in your life pulling your heart and mind away from your kids?

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