Soft Men, Strong Men, and Daddy Issues

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Daddy issues don’t discriminate. And there are too many men out there who, just like women, have issues with their fathers, but never address them. I think it’s about time we address those issues.

I don’t want to quote statistics, but let’s face it – the majority of kids in Trinidad grow up without their father. And that’s not just daughters. It’s us sons too, who end up having to patch together an idea of manhood from a bunch of absent men, or make it up from the ideas of the mothers they left.

Men, you could ‘play big’ all you want…

Men, you could ‘play big’ all you want, but the only way you can say that doesn’t affect you at all is if you’re not human. I can speak for myself, at least, and I’ll be honest…it affects me.

By the time I was old enough to say dada, I had never seen mine.

I had no reference for a man being in the home, save for my mother’s constant bickering about a man who gave her no aid to take care of the twins he had given her. I was never depressed by the idea that my father wasn’t home. To be honest, mom did a pretty good job. But, by the time I had met him for the first time, I had no idea what to call him. That actually bothered me a lot. I couldn’t call him sir’ because he couldn’t be strange to me, but I couldn’t call him ‘dad’ because he was strange.

It was because of him I spent a lot of time scrutinizing the relationship my mother would later have with another man, and hating my grandfather, who was no different from his son.

But not every man is the same.

I have spent a lot of my own life criticizing the young and old men around me, and putting a lot of thought into the sort of man I would be. Or, rather, the kinds of men that I would never be in a million years – liars, cheaters, abusers, and men who left the children they helped conceive.

But not every man is the same. Some guys still view their father as the man who teaches them how to be a man. So, if he’s a horner man, then being a horner man is good enough for them too. After all, he’s getting what he wants, gets it on his own terms, and managed to leave your nagging mother in the process.

Sometimes, the father not being there in the traditional sense doesn’t stop him from being the strongest influence in his son’s life. That’s why some men end up wanting to be just like this strong, independent, dominating man who gets whatever he wants.

As strange as it sounds, some even end up resenting their mother for all the things she said about their father, thinking that people should have a right to live their own life however they want, and treat people any way they please in the process.

Absent or present, fathers affect us.

Men whose fathers weren’t around aren’t the only ones with daddy issues, though. Absent or present, fathers affect us. There are some men who are great fathers, but are horrible husbands; so, they’re affecting their sons too.

Regardless of whether their father was around or not, some guys end up trying to be anything but the strong, dominating, advantageous men they’ve seen.

They want so badly not to be anything like the man who hurt their mother that they end up not really being men at all. They remain being mama’s boys for the rest of their lives, in fear that they end up being just like daddy instead.

They stick up under their mother, almost as if apologizing for their dad being an a**hole. I’m not saying this as an insult to the guys who are still living in their mother’s house at age 30…but when your entire life is surrounded around apologizing to your mother for something another man did wrong, it’s safe to say that what you’re doing doesn’t make sense. It also means that you risk becoming a doormat for every other woman in your life, because you mistake doing right by them, as being too soft.

Then there are the men who just ignore their father, long enough to say it doesn’t affect them. There are a lot of men who repress their issues about their family life. We could tell them to ‘man up’, and deal with their emotions, but I understand them. It’s not easy.

I wasn’t heartbroken about my father not being in my life. But I still sometimes found myself looking at registration forms, asking for my father’s date or birth and occupation, or Father’s Day cards in Hallmark, and wondering what that life would’ve been like.

Like me, most men push those thoughts out of their heads, thinking that they’re not affected by their father’s absence. But it’s there, in the back of your head, silently informing how you deal with your mother and other women, how you look at and criticize other fathers and men, and how you decide who and what you will be as a man yourself.

We’re often left with the idea that only women and girls have daddy issues. They, just like their mother, sometimes are left feeling abandoned and unloved, incapable of gaining a man’s affection. They carry that into their workplaces and romantic relationships, always seeming self-conscious and insecure.

But men have those same issues, in one form or another, because of their father. Sometimes, they’re the men who unfortunately repeat the cycle. But does not having a positive father figure justify how some men treat women?

Where it gets complex is when I have to balance my issues with a woman who has her own daddy issues. I’ve been in situations where it didn’t matter to my girlfriend that I was always faithful, caring and loving. When it came down to it, I was a man. I caught the rap for the emotional crimes her daddy committed.

All this brings me to the idea of me never being a bad father. I have firsthand experiences with the bad taste that it leaves in everyone’s mouth. Not me and that at all.

Just like some daughters who learn that they can be loved by how their father loves their mother, sons learn from their dads how they should love women, and themselves. We could say that the men around us need to buckle up and teach their children to live their lives full of love and respect, and to do right by their families. But for those of us who will never experience our father setting things right, it also means that we need to deal with these issues, instead of ignoring them, so we can be the kinds of fathers who raise well-adjusted kids, before the cycle keeps repeating itself.


Image credit:

Brendon O'Brien

Brendon O’Brien is a writer, Spoken Word poet and performer, blogger, activist, and a host of other things. Simultaneously pursuing performance and journalism careers, he writes an almost-weekly, inspirational blog for ARC Magazine called “Operation Ante-Up”, as well as his own blog, and has tried his hands at acting in the 2010 Best Village-winning “RepatriHaiti”, and directed the ASHTAR Theatre production ‘The Gaza Monologues’.


  1. Clare

    April 30, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I always like to read articles where people speak about their experiences with absentee fathers. I find that at the end of the day, people portray fatherhood in two primary ways: either one’s father is there or he’s not. People criticise homes where the father figure is absent and expect that the offspring is automatically going to have “issues” in the future as if a father’s mere presence is a magical solution to producing well-rounded and successful individuals. What about people who DO have the presence of their father but for a myriad of reasons cannot, in the case of heterosexual females, look to him as a model for how to be treated by potential mates or, in the case of heterosexual males, learn how potential mates ought to be treated? I think that fatherhood is filled with complexities that many people ignore or are terrified of voicing because, according to society, they have their father’s presence so have no valid reason to express dissatisfaction.

  2. Brendon O'Brien

    Brendon O'Brien

    April 30, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    I completely understand. Daddy issues are not tied to the notion of whether the father is simply there or not. My grandfather on my mother’s side was always in her life, in a sense. But he was a cheater, abuser, and just an overall a**hole. She still views men through that lens, and has resentment for her father. People have daddy issues regardless of where their father is. it’s more about what their father does, and how their kids respond to that. But I do believe that the majority of issues surround men that leave, and that is a reality that definitely needs to be responded to.

  3. Jaime Lee Loy

    Jaime Lee Loy

    May 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Very good article Brendon. And I am glad you wrote it because you are more likely to hear a woman confess or confront such concerns in writing or verbally. And when we do we sometimes get brushed aside as ‘woman complaining about something again,’ so it’s good to see you address something important regarding parenting, especially as a man, because as you rightfully said, you’ll are unfortunately forced to stay silent on these issues as well. And yes I agree, people tend to think that because the father is around or showing little or major presence that it’s great, without even knowing what happens behind closed doors.

  4. Sean N. Brown

    November 30, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Being a feminist, I am always baffled to find such emphasis being placed on the father. Throughout the history of our country no one ever placed such emphasis on the mother, or the vital role she played in the upbringing of the children. As time goes on people are gradually learning that the structure of the family is not as important as its substance. With respect to the writer, following his line of reasoning families without a mother father structure are sure to develop disfunctions and fail. This implies that same-sex parent households cannot function properly due to their structure, or lack thereof.

  5. JK

    December 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    yep, I have a close friend who has father issues and has been divorce twice. He is a good guy but he doesn’t like anyone and never holf himself accountable for his mistakes.

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