Why does Father’s Day make me feel sadder and lonelier than Mother’s Day does when I clearly have a shit ton of mommy issues and a father who at least tries to be there for me now as an adult more than he was when I was a child? Maybe because it’s the loss of my children’s father that I mourn more than anything still. He’s alive and they will even get to see him this week, but what’s gone goes beyond the physical. And social media testimonials from loving wives to their stellar husbands/children’s fathers reminds me of what my family lost when my husband of 16 years had his second massive manic episode.

Ten years ago I thought I had the dream. I was married to my college sweetheart with two amazing children. We were the first of our crew to marry and have children, winging it all the way. Sure, we were broke all the time and I was busy ignoring increasingly larger red flags waving more and more frantically, but I was “secure” with a man who, while I trusted his judgement less and less, I loved beyond reason and just knew was a father my kids could count on. When he had that manic break, we all lost that illusion.

The man who had once been our children’s primary playmate, the get-down-on-the-floor-and-play guy, became the one who drove cars scarily speeding down the road with them in it, who got into confrontations with security while our children were present, and who cursed me out to our children on their visits.

I’ve hesitated writing about what his journey did to me because it’s his journey. His pain. He has his own view of how things went down and his own demons to battle. And it’s my children’s lives too, ones that I didn’t want to be labeled by their father’s actions. But it affected me too and I can finally acknowledge that losing that partner wounded me in a way that I didn’t immediately realize and so I hadn’t really treated it. 

While divorce was a real possibly, I thought I could at least have had a parenting partner. I know he loves them. This was never in doubt. But his mental illness, whatever the diagnosis is these days, robbed him of his ability to moderate himself and be steady enough not to frighten or endanger our beloveds. I won’t pretend I’ve been a model parent, especially since I took it on solo. I’ve done a million things wrong, sometimes mired in self doubt and the cesspool of my own childhood issues. But I’ve put them before myself more times than not and remain committed to raising them with values and as many options as possible for a good future.

It’s a staggering weight. One that it seems so many other women bear with much more ease than I do. I know that’s an illusion but the struggle to be that “strong Black woman” is real. And while I have the most amazing network of friends and loved ones, it’s my weight to carry. I’ve shared it with my God. And to be clear, whatever I’ve accomplished to date has been because of His grace and love. But He also knows my heart and that I want a partner. A short while ago I thought I’d found that with someone new but it wasn’t meant to be. The time is nearing when these children will be considered adults and no longer my charges. But they’ll need my support and guidance for many years to come. I pray for their father’s health, in body, soul, and mind because it would mean the world to them. But in general, it would be such a boon to them to have someone else to be a steady loving presence for them… and for me.