Why do some baby daddies abandon their families? The general consensus, most often, is that it is an act of cowardice: the man did not want a child, had a child unexpectedly, and ran for the hills.
Many fathers took to Reddit to explain why they believe that their children are better off without them... or desperately wish they could see their children, but are forced to live without them. These are their stories, edited for clarity.
"My first wife and I had a son together in 2001. We divorced in 2003 because I simply hated her. I hated her before we got married, in fact. Don't ask me why I married her because I don't even know. As soon as we split up, she began having my then 2-year-old son start calling me by my first name rather than 'Dad'.
She continued to brainwash him into hating me. I remarried and things got worse. I moved about three hours away for my job and would drive to her house to pick my son up for my visitation weekends. She would wait until I knocked on the door to tell me she wasn't going to allow me to take him. I'd call the police so that I had a record of my attempts at a visitation. There was nothing the cops could do.
Eventually, I got my lawyer to file for contempt of court due to her visitation shenanigans on five or six different occasions. After court, she allowed my visitation, but got remarried too and had him calling his stepdad 'Dad' while continuing to call me by my name. He wouldn't call me by my name in person but he would slip on occasion or I'd hear him say my name in the background when I'd talk to him on the phone.
Eventually, I had to move again for my job but, this time, it was nine hours away. Our relationship got weaker and weaker and his mother's influence got stronger and stronger. He began calling me and cussing me out for arguments I was having with his mother. That's when I knew I had lost him. I stopped calling. I stopped trying to visit. That was four and a half years ago and we haven't spoken since. I pay my child support and that's about the extent of my involvement. I don't really feel bad about it very often. I love him, but he was born out of a hateful marriage and I never wanted a child and definitely not with her."
"I didn't leave because I was never really there. I was a dysfunctional, budding substance abusing, non-empathetic, toxic, terrible person. I spent the first three years of my son's life careening to rock bottom and the past two trying to be someone I didn't hate (with a lot of bumps in the road and painful reflection).
Just a few months ago, a judge ruled that I have no say in whether I get to be in his life because I didn't get my stuff together fast enough. I won't deflect the blame I deserve whenever I get to see him again. I failed. And now, for some indefinite amount of time, I'm nothing to him.
He probably doesn't even know I exist."
"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 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 and other terrible situations - all without a shred of proof or corroboration. Two years ago, after four years of fighting through professionally supervised visitation and repeated court appearances, I was finally awarded unsupervised time with my daughter.
I was then 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 a court ordered reunification and I haven't seen nor heard from her. I don't even know what she looks like right now. Like I said, I didn't exactly walk away, but for all I know, that's the story my daughter is being fed. So, same difference."
"Here's a real one from me: the woman slept with me after I said no and passed out on her floor after a night of drinking. The next day, I moved across the country to report for military orders.
I got a call, months later, saying she was pregnant. I did not believe her, but went for the birth anyway. There was a long C section for twins, everyone was healthy, and I still didn't believe they were mine. The paternity test confirmed that the twins 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 and didn't make contact for years.
Recently, I've visited them, made a few contacts, and made myself available for them to know, but am not pursuing any kind of 'fatherhood' for them, because I don't claim responsibility for them. They have parents who have raised them and will continue to raise them. They call their grandparents mom and pop. I still provide support.
But, since it started as her taking advantage of me and they have new legal guardians, I will not be stepping in as their permanent parent. It's not the path I chose and, as long as they are safe and healthy, I don't think it's my responsibility."
"Typical story: I met a girl. We liked each other. We did it on the first date. She got pregnant. I was young and she said she was on the pill (I learned my lesson about pulling out unless I'm wearing protection). Then, we moved in together. After a couple of months together, it was obvious we weren't going to make it, so we split amicably (I thought) and talked once or twice a week after.
Well, she stopped letting me come to ultrasounds and doctors appointments. She didn't want me to come to the parenting class she was taking with her and, around the seven-month mark, she ceased all contact.
Now, I knew when the due date was, so about a week before I started calling. Her phone was disconnected. I messaged on Facebook, I emailed, I messaged her little sister and even her little sister's boyfriend, all trying to get in contact with her. Well, two weeks after the delivery, I got a call from her. She said that the day after she and I slept together (I went away to Detroit to catch a football game that weekend) she had one last romp with her ex and it was his.
Obviously devastated, I got off the phone. But we stayed friends on Facebook and I watched this kid that should have been mine grow up.
My mom asked me one day, about a year later, if I talked to her anymore, or knew anything about the kid, so I pulled up my ex Facebook profile and my mother and I were dumbfounded. The child looked exactly like my mother and sister when they were the same age to a friggin' tee - same hair, smile, eyes, and chubby cheeks that every baby in my bloodline has.
So, I went about trying to get back in contact with my ex. I messaged her on Facebook, called the old number, and emailed again. Her little sister had blocked me by this point, so I couldn't even get in contact with her. All I could do was send her a message on Facebook outlining my concerns and that I wanted a paternity test because the baby looked like my kin and I had to be sure. I was raised big on family, so if I have progeny out there I want to be involved in their lives.
Well, I didn't have to wait long for a reply. It came the next day and went a little something like this; 'I don't care if you think the child is yours or not, I have a good thing going here (she got back together with her ex) and I don't want anyone coming in and ruining our family. She's happy and healthy, so please stay away.'
I didn't know what to do, I asked advice from my parents and friends, some said to leave it, others said to go after her and my best friend said I had dodged a bullet. So I sat on it for another two years. By this point, seeing her pictures, I knew, my heart of hearts KNEW, this was my child. So I messaged again, this time a little more forcefully, and told her I was demanding a paternity test. I sent pictures of my mom, sister, and myself as a baby as proof. I wanted to be involved in my child's life and I would take her to court if I had too.
Her reply wasn't as cordial this time; 'If you try and break up my family, I will tell your daughter (she basically admitted she was mine) that the reason why mommy ran away from you is that you're a bad man who was in jail for touching little girls. I'll tell her you used to hit me and that you hit the other children you have (which I don't have any). I will totally ruin you in her eyes, so even if everything is settled after court, she'll NEVER want to see you again.'
I wasn't to be deterred. I talked to a close family friend who was a retired family court lawyer (who handled my parent's custody issues over me) and she said the cost of the court, the therapy, the supervised visits, and integration therapists (for making sure her transition was smooth accepting my family as hers) was going to cost me around $300,000 over the four to five years we would be in court, not to mention, back child support and other bills I would be retroactively responsible for. I wanted to forge ahead, so I went and talked to another lawyer, who confirmed everything that was said to me by my family friend and I didn't know what to do. I just knew I wanted to be involved in my daughter's life.
So, I went back on Facebook to talk to my ex about everything I had learned and she had either blocked me now or deleted her Facebook. I drove out to where she lived and she had moved. She up and left with my child. I do not know where she went and, what was worse, I lost the only way of keeping track that my child was indeed safe and growing up healthy.
As well, I'll admit, even though it's petty, I enjoyed seeing pictures of her shunning her 'father's' attention. She never looked happy in pictures with him, not like she was scared or anything, just indifferent to him. It might have been wishful thinking or seeing what I wanted to see. But, it's the little things that get you through something like this.
On the day I went to court to file my papers to get the ball rolling on getting involved in my daughter's life, my mother sat me down. I had kept her up to date on everything. My mother has always been there for me and been a very supportive mother. She looked at me and said: 'My son, do you remember the constant court battles with your father? How you felt after we went to family court every time? How much you hated that man when you were growing up?'
So I answered, 'Yes.'
My mother continued, 'Now, imagine you didn't know that man at all. He was a stranger to you, telling you that everything you knew in your life was a lie, that the man you knew and loved as a father wasn't your real father and this man your mother is scared of and loathes is trying to take you from your family. Can you really say you love this little girl and want the best for her if you go and absolutely shatter the world that has been built for her?'
And it was then, I actually realized just what my mother was saying. All of the years of court room drama, fighting in the waiting area, the feelings of being lost and not knowing why my father hated me so much all came flooding back, and I realized I couldn't put her through something WORSE than what I went through."
"Child support is so high it made surviving very difficult. The baby mama treated me like a baby sitter and not the father. I got laid off and had to find work or else I would lose my license and go to jail. I ended up taking up a job across the country. The baby mama got more spiteful. She completely cut off contact with me.
I tried to send my family to my son's address, but she may have moved. Her phone number changed. Courts don't care unless it's about collecting my money. If I go back to court, I'll probably have to pay more child support. Life became a hard struggle the moment I became the wallet. I only hope one day I get to see my kid. I love him and miss him so much."
"I became a father in September 2013. I have only seen my baby girl once.
Throughout the pregnancy, the mother and I had conflicting views on what we wanted to do. Maybe it was selfish of me, but I did not think it was possible for us to raise a kid at 17. I had too much growing up on my own to do. I played sports, was head of clubs, worked part-time, and was accepted into a prestigious college with honors. I was also suspicious because she was talking to her ex and I had used a rubber. I advocated for adoption. It escalated, and soon it got to the point where she told me, 'Either you are there 100% of the time, or not at all.'
This caused a huge emotional struggle within me. Do I give up everything I have worked so hard for (first family member to go to college) to raise my child in a toxic situation with the mother? I'm obviously biased, but I chose the latter option. Since that day, the mother has blocked all forms of communication with me.
This has something that has always bothered me, even years later. I am about to be a senior in college. I ended up going to college halfway across the country, partially because of the great program they had, but also partially because I wanted to get away from it all. As a Sports Management major, I have really redefined myself here. I have worked for the professional sports team here for three years. I have interned at a sports agency and I have actually been working on starting my own venture.
However, this whole situation hasn't failed to come back around to me. Just two weeks ago, I received a letter from the state government, asking me to put my baby that I haven't seen on my medical insurance.
Throughout this whole process, I, as the father, have been through an emotional roller coaster. I love my baby girl so much, yet when I see the only picture I have of her, I feel... nothing. There is no bond I have because I have not been able to see her due to the mother and her wishes. I wondered back then if I was ever going to get out of this God-forsaken town and begin my life. Turns out, it already had begun.
When you are faced with a situation as sensitive as this, you can either let it destroy you... or you can let it define you. Since this whole thing has happened, I have become an advocate at my school. I hope one day I will be able to hold my baby girl in my arms and tell her I love her. That is all I want."
"We broke up due to her infidelity before finding out she was pregnant. She moved 2,000 miles away before we knew - and yes, a paternity test was 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 (with him) in the future."
"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. I found out she cheated on me but forced me to stay with her. She forced me to do it with her. Otherwise, she said she'll kill herself 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."
"I am actually the step parent in this situation, but my husband has a 10-year-old son. We're both 26, so do the math when he had his son. He was with his baby mama for two years when she got pregnant and they stayed together until the baby was one. They broke up because she cheated. Things went downhill from there.
Three years, they have been battling in court and each time he has tried fighting for his son, he only got weekend visitation among only seeing him on some holidays. The baby mama remarried soon after the baby turned one and had three more kids with her new husband, who, by the way, has a record in Florida and was recently locked up, so you can tell the type of environment my stepson is in.
My husband just sucked it up and dealt with the weekend visits, but it got worse even after we got together. She barely let him get his son on scheduled weekend visits which led to numerous visits to the precinct (yes, we're from New York City). After hundreds of police reports, confrontation, and the whole typical baby mama drama, he just settled with 'just getting him when he can.' Fast forward to many things he missed out with us (our wedding, some of his brothers birthdays, knowing his new little sister, etc). Now he barely is in contact with him because when the baby mama calls, she calls private so that he won't have her number. Supposedly her significant other doesn't want him to have her number which is stupid.
My husband is now at the point at which my stepson has a few more years to make his decision on who he wants to be with. He tried numerous times to reach out to his son, but gets nothing. It has been months since we have seen him or heard from him. It's really sad because he has a younger brother who loves him dearly and a new little sister who would love to know her other older brother. I know my husband is hurt, but he is confident that his son will choose to want to be with us in the long run. So for now, we are patiently waiting.
It's definitely not easy, but my stepson needs all the love he can get and I don't want to be looked at as if I was the one who kept his dad away from him. I even researched if there was any way a stepparent can get custody. I can definitely afford three kids and I will fight if I am able to. My husband hasn't given up, but he was just overwhelmed with everything, especially fighting three years for him. He saved all his court docs, police reports, etc. to show his son proof he has fought for him. At least my stepson KNOWS his mom is the evil one in all this and knows we dearly love him and are ready to welcome him in our home. Even if he decides he doesn't want to stay with us, he also has my mother-in-law he can stay with. Either way, we can only hope his mother doesn't try to scare him from leaving her because she has controlled everything he does or says to us."
"I very seriously dated a girl for about two years - first 'love' type stuff.
Well, she was always crazy - like, true mental issues that really showed up the last year of it. I then found out that she had been cheating on me essentially the whole relationship, so I broke up with her. She stalked me and did, basically, all the standard crazy stuff.
Fast forward - I got a call: 'I'm pregnant.'
Panic set in and I told her I couldn't be a parent with her and asked if she would consider ending it. She said no. After nine months, I got a call asking for everything. I told her, 'No, I can't.' I was broke. I had just met my future wife and I was only 20. I knew I wouldn't be a good dad to this child, especially due to the hostility between her mother and I.
I signed over all parental rights so she would leave me alone. Fast forward to the present: I am in an amazing marriage with an amazing woman and I have a 9-year-old daughter. But, at least once a week, I still have fear about what I did, that one day this girl will show up saying I am her dad, and having to explain to my daughter and my family.
I am terrified of this one person, who has never met me and may not even know I exist. I pray I never get that knock on the door."