Ten years ago, I met a then-35 year old man who had told me very adamantly that he never wanted to be a father. Shortly after that, he had a vasectomy because the woman he had been seeing had begun putting pressure on him to have children.
“End of that conversation,” he said with great satisfaction.
I was aghast, shocked, dismayed, and offended even, at his savage vehemence about being a father. He has such violent views against fatherhood, and though I respected him enormously as a colleague, I didn’t want much to do with him outside work. But though I tried to confine all my conversations and dealings with him at a professional level, we often fought viciously because of the emotional tension and huge clash of ideologies between us.
I could not understand how man, he who showed such great sensitivity in the operating theatre, could have such sharp thoughts about something beautiful and natural. It seems so opposing, but now and then, the same sensitivity which I see in the operating theatre crept into his person:
The hands that folded this had also held many a beating human heart in their strong, gentle grasp and cradled newborn babies delicately.
“The best I have to give is as a doctor. I would be a disaster as a father,” he had often said. “Sorry, Jac, those skills are not transferable.”
Why, why, why!
“Because beneath this big strong body that you see and the clever hands that you admire is is a broken boy. And this broken boy is not ready to parent anyone. Trust me, I’d be a Sad Dad.”
In the ten years since, I had learned a lot about life, in particular, about broken boys and Sad Dads (or Sad Mums). It was a steep learning curve, but I began to see more of real life and humanity that I had not for the first 40-odd years of my sheltered life. My mother had brought me up in a world where no ugliness exists, and by design, I found a man who was brought up the same way to be the father of my children. For almost thirty years, we lived in this bubble, and we brought our children up in this magical bubble.
When they were grown, we embarked on our own journeys of growth. It was then that I learned about broken boys and Sad Dads/Mums deeply and personally.
I saw, through my own experience, that that we parent from where we are, and if we are a broken boy or girl inside, we parent as we truly are. We lash out, we hit verbally and we inflict on others the pain that we feel on the inside. Pain, if not transformed, is transmitted.
And then I began to see why this strong, beautiful man who would make beautiful, strong babies does not want to parent. I began to grudgingly admire his self-awareness.
In the last 10 years, he had grown beautifully from the broken boy that he had been for 35 long years. Ten years ago, as a 35 year old, he was a successful, young doctor in Europe with a dazzling future in front of him (and three ex-wives behind him), but nevertheless he was still a broken boy beneath it all. It took 10 years of being brave (breaking all ties with his comfortable old life), 10 years of solitary living in a country halfway across the world from Europe and 10 years of a journey of self discovery plus a strong commitment to grow, evolve and transform the pain to take him to where he is today.
He is even beginning to mentor, and slowly co-parent, my boisterous, carefree, generous children. And whenever it gets too scary, he would disappear for a while but he would always come back to continue his journey of growth.
I still glimpse the broken boy sometimes when he is deep in thought, always when he is tinkering with the piano, thinking of his mother who died when he was eight, leaving him to the mercies of an unkind world. I began to understand that though parenting, which is my greatest joy, is not for everybody. We have to go home to ourselves to take care of the broken child within first, before we can take care of anybody external ❤
Here is a brave article about a broken girl who refused to be a Sad Mum. I applaud the writer greatly for her honesty and courage. Click here to read her words.