Was your father absent in your childhood? If you are a woman, this may be the reason for several dilemmas in your professional life.
Fathers can be physically or emotionally absent in their children’s lives for many reasons, and all of them hurt. Some of them are death, divorce, abandonment, prolonged work-related absences, or abuse. While the impact of a missing father on his grown-up daughter’s relationships with men has been discussed extensively, there is not that much information available about how this situation influences her professional life. (One source is Pamela Thomas in her book Fatherless Daughters.)
A woman who has not been guided, protected, encouraged and lovingly challenged by her father as a child and adolescent, is often incongruent, lopsided and highly emotional when it comes to her work life. Although nowadays most mothers also work, and many of them have sophisticated, well-paid jobs away from their homes, this is a relatively new development in the history of mankind. Traditionally, it has been the father who occupied the role of main breadwinner and whose work was important, valuable, and looked up to.
Here are 7 main conflicts in the lives of women who grew up with an absent father, and they are often played out over and over:
1. The strong desire to be competent, independent and in charge versus the need to please and be liked by bosses and coworkers. This sends mixed messages and can lead to emotional entanglements at the workplace. Some of them create drama, while others lead to intense internal struggles.
2. A quest for glamorous, very visible professions (like actress, artist journalist, politician) versus strong fears of being visible and the painful need to hide. I call it the “visibility conflict”.
3. The strong motivation to have a great career, to “make it big” versus the childlike wish of being pampered, supported and taken care of. This often creates resentment about having to work at all and lack of perseverance when the going gets tough.
4. The need to feel safe and secure financially versus being drawn to “risky”, non-mainstream professions and negative emotions about money coupled with incompetence in money matters (“I can’t be bothered”).
5. Either adoring men in authority and having illusions about them or distrusting and fighting them every step of the way – and often both at the same time which can hurt chances of promotion.
6. The fear of having to compete at the workplace versus either completely giving up and avoid competition at all cost, or being overly aggressive. And sometimes both at the same time which makes the situation even more complicated.
7. Deriving all self-esteem from work and career versus having a big hole in the heart when observing other women balancing their work and family life seemingly without effort.
As always, being aware of these conflicts and how exactly they are being played out is the first step to healing them. The next step might be asking for help. There are friends who are happy to listen and to offer advice, there are wise books, and there are professionals, like psychotherapists, counselors, or EFT practitioners (EFT is mindful acupressure that releases painful emotions and can create amazing shifts in self-awareness and behavior).
Ultimately, having had an absent father is the call for a journey that can lead to emotional growth, independence and empowerment for a woman.