‘My Own Father Was Largely Absent, But I Still Think Fathers Deserve To Be Celebrated Today’

Sara McCorquodale's father was a violent alcoholic who left when she was five. But here she writes how becoming a parent has made her appreciate father's day for the first time...

Absent father

by Sara McCorquodale |
Updated on

Father’s Day meant nothing to me until I became a mother. My dad left when I was a child – and I didn’t miss him. A violent alcoholic and chronic liar, he was emotionally and physically abusive to my mother and had no natural affection for me.

He moved out of our home in Greenock, near Glasgow, when I was five. The last time we spoke I was seven. He appeared, out of the blue, at our door. I hid, too disturbed by the sudden expectation I should embrace him to accept his peace offering of Opal Fruits. And that was it. I didn’t yearn for him – his departure seemed to set my mother free and I preferred the spirited woman who emerged. We sang Cher songs loudly in her car, survived on quinoa when the norm was meat and two veg and were obsessed with the final triumphant scene of Dirty Dancing, rewinding it over and over.

When she started dating, I loved sitting on her bed watching her get ready. I longed to put on blusher and be taken out for dinner too, but I never dreamt of finding a husband myself. Marriage was, at best, boring; at worst, scary. I never saw the point of having a man around. They were disruptive and unreliable. I’d see friends’ dads hogging their TVs to watch football and think, ‘Thank God this isn’t us.’ Because it was just me, my mum and my older sister, we did whatever we wanted: thick as thieves, with no boundaries set by a man.

We’d chat excitedly about how brilliant university was going to be, despite having no money in the bank and very little food in the cupboards. There was always hope, a better future to strive for. Giving up was not allowed. In the end, my sister and I got first-class degrees and were accepted to do postgrads at distinguished universities, which we couldn’t afford but somehow made work anyway.

Saying that, my childhood wasn’t all make-up and feminism. For a start, the financial hangover left by my careless father took years to shift. I have never not been worried about money and, as a result, I have done and will do any job. My work ethic comes directly from my mother, who did whatever it took to keep our heads above water. We were uncomfortably close to drowning at times, but hard work saved us – and, happily, my mum found love. My stepfather didn’t try to be my dad but he is my sons’ grandpa and they adore him. Observing their relationship reminds me of mine with my maternal grandfather – a kind giant with heart and intelligence – and for that I am so grateful.

And the person who finally made me understand why dads deserve to be celebrated? My husband, whose empathy for and commitment to our two children makes my heart overflow every day. If you had told seven-year-old me such happiness was possible in a marriage, she never would have believed you. Yet, here I am with someone who puts our boys first, loves them unconditionally and believes deeply in equal parenting. The icing on the cake? He doesn’t even like football. It’s the happy ending I never even knew I wanted

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