The phrase ‘daddy issues’ comes with an over-sexualised connotation. The general census, especially on social media, is that if a girl has ‘daddy issues’ she is kinky in bed, easy to manipulate and is always looking, or shall i say needing, a dominant male at the helm of her boat. There are so many things wrong with this stereotype and generalisation – so that is where you have me, here to dispel any myths, rumours and downright shit talk about ‘daddy issues’ and to explain why, as women we will not let our childhood trauma define us.
I first became dis-attached from my Dad around aged fifteen, when he left the family for another woman. I was confused, angry, hurt and anxious for the future – we’d always had a good father/daughter relationship and I was worried that this sudden shift would change things. The relationship from that point deteriorated a lot – there was a lot of resentment and visiting each other became awkward and emotionally charged. The visits dwindled and then we were hit with the news that Dad and this lady, were moving away to Switzerland. To be honest, I think that was a lot to take in, not only was my Dad slipping away before my eyes, I didn’t know what emotions I should be feeling; anger or sadness? Irregardless, I knew things would never be the same.
The complete unavailability, yearly check-ins followed by silence was really damaging. As I grew up, I constantly thought a friendship or relationship was going to end at the click of a finger. Almost daily I would have feelings of worry, that I wasn’t smart, funny or interesting enough. Even when I did get the few and far between calls, I really felt like I need to prove to him I was worth talking to, and that my life was in fact great. I felt such an intrinsic instinct to show I was worthy of this telephone conversation, and thinking back to it now, it was just so wrong. Let’s fast forward to present day, skipping over the non-invitation to his wedding, the birth of two new daughters and a few missed birthdays. He pops back into my life every year or so, happy for a formal chat but nothing more. More like co-workers that work in different buildings.
So more recently, I decided I wanted to explore and find out why I felt like I was defined by my ‘daddy issues’, if anyone else had similar experiences and how it has shaped their life today. Due to the millenial I am, I put out a lonely hearts-esque casting call on Instagram and the response was simply overwhelming. I had people in my inbox I knew, and a lot of who I didn’t – which signified to me I wasn’t alone and people wanted to share their personal stories. There is something about strangers sharing intimate details of their childhood trauma to help others, completely amazing, and reading people’s experiences I felt so connected to them even though we’ve never met.
One person I spoke to, who also has quite a corporate-feel relationship with their father, can even remember the exact place she was stood when she was told her Dad was leaving. As a warm and positive person, she found it hard to talk with her negative-by-nature Dad because he always shut her down, so decided to switch tact and tried to be negative about things to bond with him. Another person I spoke to also explained she found the unavailability hard, and also how he didn’t want to take ownership over the past. Upon speaking to lots of these girls, it is the similar blatant disregard of any wrong doing which has been hard one to tackle.
What also shocks me is the sexism and patriarchy at the forefront – you never see a meme on Twitter about a father that has abandoned his children and it be taken in such jest, but you do see thousands of memes shaming girls with ‘daddy issues’, blaming them for being somewhat damaged and also how to play on that. We need to banish this narrative and its toxic message.
So what is the advice to someone that feels defined by their ‘daddy issues’? Talk. You cannot choose your family, correct – but what you can choose is the people you surround yourself with. You can choose your support system. You can choose the people you learn from. You can choose your own definition and you can choose to be whoever the fuck you want to be. You are enough, you are strong and you are important. Use your childhood trauma as something to make you stronger and better, not as an excuse for actions. Break the chain. We must tell ourselves we should not be defined by someone else’s mistakes – but to learn, grow and share experiences to help others.