Growing up with both parents is a privilege not everybody can say they were able to enjoy. Millions of children grow up without a father or even a father-figure in their household.
Here are some of the AskReddit community’s stories of why they grew up without a father in their lives.
Comments have been edited for clarity. The source can be found the end of the article.
A woman slept with me after I said no and passed out wasted on her floor.
Next day I moved across the country to report for military orders.
Got a call months later saying she was pregnant, I did not believe her but went for the birth anyway. After a long caesarean section for twins, everyone was healthy, and I still didn’t believe they were mine.
The paternity test confirmed they were mine. I started paying child support while living across the country.
After a year, they were removed from her custody for endangerment and abuse and placed with her parents, who are good people. I transferred my payments to the new custodians, didn’t make contact for years.
Recently, I visited them, made a few contacts, and made myself available for them to know, but I am not pursuing any kind of “fatherhood” for them, because I don’t claim responsibility for them.
We broke up due to her infidelity before finding out she was pregnant; She moved 2,000 miles away before we knew – and yes, paternity test taken. I’d very much like to be in my child’s life, but she was not keen on having me around (at the time she was trying to rekindle things with an ex and generally do her own thing). She has since gotten married and had another kid – I figure this is probably a healthier environment for my child than having two parents constantly fighting. I’ve only gotten to see my child once – he is 8 now. I pay about $1,100 a month in child support.
I don’t know what she is telling my kid. He might feel abandoned. Maybe there’s hope for a relationship in the future.
Some time ago, when I was living abroad, I was in an abusive relationship with a girl who seemed sweet and caring on the outside but inside was toxic and manipulative and would do just about anything to have her own way. I found out that the entire time we were together she was also sleeping with her ex, and after not being able to take anymore, and breaking myself down, I moved back home. We broke off all contact with each other and haven’t spoken since.
9 months after I returned home her friends began posting pictures on Facebook with a baby girl, who turned out to be hers. She was back together with her ex, the ‘father.’ I didn’t want to open old wounds, and so I threw my suspicions to the wayside and moved on with my life.
Fast forward another year and my curiosity gets the better of me, I asked her friends about the baby and although none of them spoke to her anymore as she had driven them away the same way she did me, the general consensus was that the baby was indeed mine, and that after being unable to conceive themselves, they had conspired to bring in an ignorant outside party to help them get the baby they wanted.
At this point I had moved on entirely and was in a happy relationship. As much as I wanted to know if this baby was mine, I was also very much aware that both of our lives had moved on and I didn’t want to make it harder for anybody. Not to mention the fact that I knew that I was 100% not in a position to look after a child, especially one that was pretty much as far away as it could be. So I left it at that and moved on.
I might have a daughter somewhere, I might not. Either way, I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself her father.
I left my ex-girlfriend a few weeks after we found out that she’s pregnant. I lived with her and her parents. She physically and emotionally abused me to a point where I wasn’t myself anymore. I had to give up all my friends, I was only allowed to go with her and nowhere else. Found out she cheated on me but forced me to stay with her. She forced me to sleep with her. Otherwise, she said she’ll end her life and I was too young (19) to realize what was happening at all. Only when I told my mother what happened in the 8 months I was with her, she had to pull me out of the relationship.
She found a new boyfriend who she treats as his new father and my son is now 2 years-old. I hope he’s alright.
A girl I used to see socially when I would be home on leave stopped by my parents house a while back with a 6-7 year-old. Dad answers the door recognizes her slightly. She just says that the kid was my daughter, they’re both happy and healthy and I should know. He asks for some way for me to contact her. She says “no,” walks away, gets in a car, and drives away. Dad tried to get the plate number but she was gone too fast. He couldn’t remember her name. Waited a few weeks to tell me. So… I could be a dad. I don’t know.
A couple years ago I met my deadbeat dad when I was 25. Naturally I was full of questions about why he’d walked away from me and my sister when we were toddlers. Plenty of people divorce like my parents did, but not all dads move to Germany and disappear for a couple decades.
Essentially, he was mad at my mom for divorcing him. He wanted to “punish” her by making her raise 2 kids alone without his help, to show her how good she had it before.
Throughout the conversation, I picked up on some other reasons too. He didn’t want to be a family man. He enjoyed living in Berlin through the 80s and 90s, partying and sleeping around. Didn’t need a wife and kids slowing him down, and he had only married her cause she got pregnant with me.
I had hoped for deeper, more significant reasons but it always comes down to mundane stuff. Petty humans being lazy.
He never left, she took their son and ran. Poor guy. My sister was married with two kids and felt trapped. So, at 33 my sister entrapped a 21 year-old at her work to sleep with her. She gets pregnant, mission accomplished and her marriage is over. The 21 year-old helps her buy a bigger car and after that, she moves across town and doesn’t tell him. After their son was born she moved out of state and keeps moving around. When her son was around 8 I press her that he should know who his dad is (I didn’t even know his name), she walks away and never speaks to me again.
She is still skipping around the country, doesn’t use her real name on social media and lives in constant fear he will find her. He never did anything to cause her to hide, other than she didn’t want to “share” her son. She tells her son that she has always been, and will always be both mom and dad. So weird. It really wasn’t fair to the dad and I wonder if he ever wishes he met his son. Or, if he tells his later romances that he even has a son. If my nephew is reading this, your dad never had a chance to even meet you.
Mom and Dad meet on holiday in Israel. Dad is a proper drug user and is really into his nomad lifestyle. Mom owns her own business and hangs around with him for the summer.
She gets home and finds out she’s pregnant. She gets in touch with him and he lives with us for a few years until he goes “on holiday for a few weeks.”
20 years later, he gets in touch over Facebook. This hippie substance user is now a rich executive and feels bad about what happened twenty years ago. Pays my mom all of the child support she never got and they became friends.
7 years later, they’re married again and I guess… I now have a dad?
My father left when I was 8 and I did not reconnect with him until I was 22. He was always a heavy drinker but fell into hard substance abuse around the time he abandoned me. This turned him into a man that was not suitable for children. He felt that distancing his destructive ways from us would be best for me and my siblings. I will never forgive him for his actions but he is now 7 years sober.
My great-grandfather was a good man who wanted to be better than what he felt he was. But he was the son of a convicted murderer in a very small community in depression-era Georgia, and he couldn’t escape his last name. His son, my grandfather, was a brilliant young student, but he was told by the local committee that managed college funds there was no way a McCullough was ever going to get a scholarship.
So ultimately, I think my great-grandfather felt that, based on the toxicity of his own relationship with his father, the best thing he could do for his children was to extract himself. So he took a job as a prison guard in another county.
Ultimately, he took a train to California with another woman. Once there he called his wife and said he was sorry for everything, and a few days later he finally succumbed to health issues relating to his service in the first world war.
After he had left home, but before he went to California, his son went to a Junior College in the same area my great-grandfather was working. Seeing his father walking toward him, he crossed the street to avoid him. He hated himself for it the rest of his life, and never knew whether his father had seen him or not.
He never saw him again.
I’m actually the child in the scenario. My mom & dad divorced before I was a year old. I was raised by my, then 17 year-old mother. I knew who my father was & he made random appearances (I’m incredibly close to that side of my family).
His sister (my aunt) helped raise me. In 2007 (the year I graduated college) my father got clean after a lifetime of drug use, jail & general mess ups. We talked & he basically said he felt like I’d be better off without him. I used to harbor so much pain and resentment but now I understand. He was an addict, he didn’t choose substances over me like I had always felt – they were holding him hostage.
I have a wonderful step father who taught me what a good man should be and I am so grateful to him for that. He once told me that I should “Always hope for the best in people but don’t expect anything from them. That’s unfair to them to expect more than they can give, just hope that he’ll do better.” I’m not angry or upset and my father and I have a generally friendly -see each other on holidays- kind of relationship.
I didn’t leave per se, but who knows what my soon-to-be 9 year old daughter currently believes or will believe in the future. Maybe I’ll get lucky, and she’ll come find me in a decade. Anyhow, I started a messy divorce proceeding about 6 years ago when my daughter was 2. I fought long and hard to stay in her life, but my ex made it as difficult as humanly possible without physically moving away. There were allegations of domestic abuse all without a shred of proof or corroboration. 2 years ago, after 4 years of fighting through professionally supervised visitation and repeated court appearances, I was finally awarded unsupervised time with my daughter.
Faced with the unacceptable prospect of an actual father/daughter relationship, my ex somehow convinced the court that my then 6 year-old daughter had PTSD directed toward me and was depressed at the prospect of seeing me. Mind you, I have her on video literally dancing in my living room the week prior. Since then her mom has thwarted all attempts at court ordered reunification, and I haven’t seen nor heard from her. I dont even know what she looks like right now.
We were dating, and I wore a condom every time. There was one night where I was unsure if the condom broke or not, but did not tell her. 18 year old me did not worry about anything. A month or so later I went to break up with her and before I said anything she said she was pregnant. I freaked out and followed the steps you were supposed to take. I was in bootcamp when he was born. When I came back I wanted a paternity test, and she told me he was not mine. Timelines match up to when the condom might have broken and the due date. So I don’t know. She was kind of one to sleep around, and she probably was not above cheating. I still don’t know if she was trying to spare me or if he is not mine. That was 7 years ago, and no contact from her. I don’t think about it too much but after having my legitimate son two years ago the uncertainty keeps coming back to me.
I was a mental train wreck. I was abusive and neglectful. I suffered from serious depression and PTSD from my time in the military. My oldest son is on the autistic spectrum and when combined with my own problems there was no way I would have been able to give him the care that he needed. So I ran to the other side of the country. I don’t regret leaving them. They were much better off with their mother. But I do regret not being there to see them grow up.
I will speak for my wife’s dad. He was forced to leave because of religion. He got baptized Mormon right before he married. Soon after with baby on the way he didn’t realize what he had gotten himself into. His coffee cups were being put out on the back porch. He was young and confused with this new religion in his life just trying to make his then wife happy. He never left. He was later abandoned by his wife and child because of a religion. Fortunately that little baby that grew up and is now my wife sought out her dad when she was older. They have a very happy and healthy relationship now. So I guess my point of this story is that not all dads that leave are bad and that good things can happen in the end.