Dear Gray Areas,
Four years ago, I married the man of my dreams. He is a restaurateur, and I worked for a non-profit, so we had some financial ups and downs, but mostly life was great. We agreed it was time try for a baby, and I got pregnant right away. I quit my job and planned to be a stay-at-home mom. Once our daughter was born, my husband started working longer and longer days, saying we needed extra money. When my daughter was two months old, he came home one night and told me that marriage and family were not for him after all, and that he was sleeping with a nineteen-year-old waitress at work. He left the next day. I was forced to find a job and put our baby in daycare, as he contributed almost nothing to our household financially after that. He spent time with my daughter whenever work allowed it, but weekends are hard because of being in the restaurant business. It is now a year later, the relationship with the waitress is over, and the lease on his loft apartment is almost up. He pays the court-ordered child support and sees our daughter every week. He has explained his behavior as having been ‘freaked out’ by becoming a dad, and has apologized profusely. I get the feeling that he wants us to give our marriage another shot, as he spends more and more time at our house and calls me every few days. I still love him and feel that my daughter should know her father. I just don’t know if I could ever trust him again. What do you think?
Surely you jest. This man walked out on you and your newborn infant when you were both at your most vulnerable, with nary a backward glance. The man of your dreams? Really? He’s the man of my nightmares.
Unfortunately for you, you have to retain some kind of civil contact with this schmuck, for the sake of your daughter, and, quite frankly, your finances. Personally, if I were in your situation, I’d be damned if I was going to let him into our lives to hurt us again, but you have made your decision on that, and you obviously feel that it is important for your child to know her father. But remember, you are not only raising a little girl, you are raising a future woman; if you were to take this guy back, what message do you think that would be sending to your daughter? That the two of you are disposable? Shelved when you are too much work and picked up again when it looks a bit more fun, or when he’s at a loose end? It’s interesting that his lease is almost up, just around the time he starts hanging around your place.
It always amazes me when new parents gripe and ‘freak out’ about life with a baby. What on earth did he expect? To casually throw it out there that fatherhood and marriage were ‘not for him’ , as though reflecting on a minor hiccup, like “You know, I thought I could live with the bathroom painted red but it’s just not me,” instead of the full-blown abuse of trust that it was only underlines his staggering egocentrism. Could he not have maybe, oh, I don’t know, THOUGHT ABOUT IT before bringing another life into the world?
We could rehash his shortcomings again and again, but of course that does nothing to solve your current confusion, but I do think it is important to remember the fear and panic and gut-wrenching pain that must have been induced by his sudden departure so early in your daughter’s life. The passage of time, and feelings of fondness (for the distant past or for any current suck-up fuzzybunny behavior) may lessen the impact in your mind of what he did to you both; please do not forget. He could and probably would bail again if things got hard or complicated, as they inevitably do at times in all families. Some are man enough to handle the ups and downs, but I fear he is not. In terms of future romantic partners, I’d look into the adult male of the species. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that ‘partner’ can mean just that. - GA
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