By A woman with daddy (and mummy) issues
Where the term originates is uncertain, but it could date back to Freud’s ‘Father Complex’ which is a group of unconscious associations with the father or a father figure. For Men’s Health Month, I’d like to discuss how “daddy issues” can affect men too. Based on conversations and experiences I have had throughout my life, and despite being a woman, I hope to capture these with some accuracy – without getting too scientific. I just want to be real.
I wanted to write this when I first listened to Kendrick Lamar’s new album ‘Mr Morale & the Big Steppers’ but I didn’t feel like I had a purpose because I was only going to write it for myself. The track that inspired me was ‘Father Time’ which quite naturally and effortlessly addresses some of the “daddy issues” that men can experience. I never really thought about it before
but I was instantly in agreement and thankful to Kendrick for bringing this to the attention of the generations of fans he has as said “daddy issues” are often attributed to women alone. I happened to be messaging a friend at the time, who encouraged me to write this regardless of purpose and who agreed with the concept.
Admittedly, I hate the term and do feel offended when somebody explains away something I have experienced or the way I behave with “daddy issues”. As a woman, I want to acknowledge that the relationship I have with my dad is very complicated and although I like when he is present, I do see how his absence has impacted my life in so many ways. But for now, “let’s give the women a break, grown men with daddy issues” (Lamar, 2022).
I am constantly aware of how “daddy issues” have affected the men and boys around me too.
When discussing the urge to write about this with my friend, he felt that a lot of men had “daddy issues” that are buried and “that is probably fundamental to why a lot of guys play up” – his words, not mine!
Sadly, I have witnessed this in friends, family and students, from many different backgrounds but mostly white British, black Caribbean or some sort of mix. Ironically, two friends of mine recently asked why it’s so common in our culture for fathers to be absent – one is Italian and one is Indian Mauritian. I couldn’t answer.
My uncle and other positive male figures kept me occupied enough to not “feel” my dad’s absence when I was young so I feel lucky about that. I never asked questions and plenty of my friends were in a similar situation – it was so “normal”, that those with dads around weren’t even phased by those of us whose dads were not. Heartbreakingly, I have witnessed the effects of absent dads on some of the children in my life. They often feel deep sadness and blame themselves as they do not understand the reasons behind their dads’ absences. I question whether their experience is different to mine because I was a girl. But my biggest question is “why wouldn’t they want to be in their beautiful child’s life Luckily?” Luckily, they too have positive male figures who distract them from these heart-breaking thoughts.
However, many of my father friends are deliberately present in their children’s lives and express their confusion about fathers who are not. They strive to be a positive force in their children’s lives either because their dad inspired them or because they want to be a better father than theirs.
“…it was so “normal”, that those with dads around weren’t even phased by those of us whose dads were not…”
If these boys feel like they have nobody to turn to, anything can happen. They grow into teenagers who can turn to crime because they are vulnerable, or want to support their mother, or simply do not have a positive male role model to guide them in the right direction. Kendrick said “Learn shit ‘bout bein’ a man and disguise it as bein’ gangsta” and it can become a cycle. A friend of mine turned to a life of crime as a teenager and into his early 20s and has acknowledged his father’s absence as a contributing factor. He does have a step dad but, naturally and quite commonly, they initially had a strained relationship which could have further contributed to his decision to turn to crime. Unlike many, he has left that lifestyle in the past and now has a good relationship with his step father.
Whether there was an absent father or an emotionally detached “tough love” dad, it can impact the mental health of the child leading into adulthood. I can’t imagine not feeling as though I cannot express myself because “man should never show feelings” (Lamar, 2022). I’m relieved that things are changing and more and more men feel safe and supported enough to express their emotions. We still have a long way to go.
I could go into the science of this but hope this at least triggered these thoughts in your mind like Kendrick did for me. Next time you hear “daddy issues” hopefully the stereotype of being associated with women is not the most prevalent.
Mental health issues, crime or just an ordinary person who becomes a great dad (or just a great person!) – the possibilities and outcomes are endless because everyone’s situation is different and uniquely complicated. I still get questioned about why I bother with my dad but I don’t think everyone realises that it’s not an obligation – I care and I do it for myself. Or perhaps, it’s my own “daddy issues”.