Rejected fathers: Living beyond estrangement

Rejected fathers: Living beyond estrangement

rejected fathersby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Judging from the emails I receive from rejected fathers, there are a lot of good men out there suffering estrangement. Men of substance, heart, courage, and grit. Dads who sacrificed their hearts, their bank accounts, and sometimes even their beliefs to support their children …. Only to be ignored and abandoned later. Many of these men say they long to impart their wisdom to the offspring they hope will make the world a better place. Beyond the loving and fun parts, that’s the crux of fatherhood, isn’t it? Leaving a legacy of wisdom for the next generation?

Rejected fathers: You can still make a difference

I’m amazed at the fathers who tell me that, despite the sorrow of what’s happened in their families, they’re making thoughtful, strong choices, and getting on with their lives. And they’re doing great things, leaving a legacy of love and support in places and with people who appreciate their time, effort, and wisdom. Here’s a sampling.

Curtis, whose daughter was alienated from an early age by his ex-wife (I hear this frequently) updates me after nearly every newsletter. He tells about all the good he’s doing in a poverty-stricken area of the world. There, whole villages of children and adults appreciate him. He provides material help and is hands-on in restoring historic buildings alongside the people he serves. He has also remarried to a local woman who is equally community-minded, and says, “There’s joy in it all.” Curtis has decided he won’t be leaving money to his daughter. He’s too busy leaving a legacy of fresh water, food, medical supplies. “And besides,” he explains, “we spoke a few times after she graduated college. My daughter made a lot of promises about us getting together, took any cash I’d give, and mostly just blew me off.” Curtis decided he could sit around and be angry or get back to doing something useful. He chose the latter.

Another rejected dad, Mike, says that his sons look down on him. “I crawled under houses to replace old plumbing and snaked out clogged pipes my whole life just to send them to college,” he says. “They’re both in tech and snicker at my frugal lifestyle, which afforded them the education that got them the fancy living they now enjoy.” Mike and his wife are debt free. Meanwhile, he sees his sons living in “a house of cards.” Now, Mike helps people who appreciate him. He started an interfaith food pantry, distributing groceries to those in need. He sets aside cash to buy food staples for the pantry each month. “It’s being there at the site that makes my day,” he says. Mike is as generous with the food as he is the hugs he shares with struggling parents or older people whose kids often don’t make the effort to help them.

Other dads write memoirs to impart their knowledge, or they volunteer at everything from train and aerospace museums to wildlife and conservation efforts. Some have launched late-life businesses, are involved in political activism, have started churches, or serve on their local community boards. Many are content to spend time with sons and daughters who remain loyal. These dads enjoy their grandchildren, putter in the yard, or help neighbors who are less able. While they miss the grandchildren they aren’t allowed to see, and wish they’d have known then what they know now, these men still strive to be good, giving human beings. They care about the world and the people in it.

Rejected fathers: In their own words

There are plenty of rejected fathers doing wonderful things with their lives. In this blog post, I’d like to honor some of these fathers by allowing them a public voice to share what they have learned from estrangement to help other rejected fathers and mothers.

To that end, I’ve combed through more than 21,000 emails looking for notes from estranged dads and have chosen those representative of the most common themes and messages. So, without names, with unique details changed to protect their privacy, here are their heartfelt thoughts.

“In my estranged son’s eyes, I’m only useful for one thing. I don’t learn all that fast but I’m in my seventies now and have come back to an old Beatles truth. Money can’t buy me love.”

“Two years ago, I set up an agreed upon meeting with a family counselor for myself and my daughter. She cancelled at the last minute. I have left the door open and tried to connect via voicemails, emails, and texts…. My thought going forward is to stop any such attempts since it is falling on deaf ears. My daughter will have to make some indication that she has some interest in moving in a different direction. If this were anyone else, I would have stopped trying much earlier.”

“I pray for them every day. And also for myself, for help to focus on where I can best be of service.”

“I’ve done all I can. I plan to write a final letter, asking for us to talk. If nothing comes out of it, I will wish her a happy life, say good-bye, and get on with living. She may talk badly about me and blame me for this rift, but better a horrible end than an endless horror.”

“Yeah, this hurts worse than anything, but I’ve had lots of other disappointments and heartaches in life before this happened. I’m down but not for the count.”  

“At 74 and with heart trouble, I know my days ahead are fewer than those behind me. I’m done torturing myself, trying to convince them I’m worthy of their time or love. Fact is, I’ve tried it all. I will always remember the way they came running to me, calling me ‘daddy.’ I gave most of my life up for those kids, years beyond the end of mutual caring. Now, I’m keeping good company with myself. I’m thinking good thoughts, seeing lovely things, and enjoying my life without them. It was their choice.”

“Sheri, thank you for helping us parents see that our lives have value beyond raising children. I can’t fix these grownups who are now in their late thirties. Their lack of character isn’t my fault or my responsibility. I can still be a dad to the one son who didn’t desert me, and I can honor myself and stop chasing what amounts to wind.”

Your legacy. Your heart.

Rejected fathers and mothers sometimes respond to estrangement differently from one another. To read another post that addresses that, click through to A gift for estranged fathers. I’ve included a few past Father’s Day postings under “Related Reading” below.

To all the rejected fathers out there, do assign yourself some honor. It’s your day … Maybe even your era.

Hugs and Happy Father’s Day,

Sheri McGregor

Related Reading

Father’s Day when adult children turn away

Father’s Day 2023 and estrangement

A gift for estranged fathers


Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

6 thoughts on “Rejected fathers: Living beyond estrangement

  1. Lydia

    I will not leave a cent to my son. Whatever I own will be donated for the caring of animals. I have discovered that animals show love, tenderness, compassion and loyalty no.matter what.
    Very few humans have these attributes. Whoever reads this comment, please don’t waste your time or emotions on your ungrateful kids. They are not worth your love!!!

  2. Jordan

    Thank you very much, Sheri, for sharing these great thoughts from fathers who are still giving to others making a contribution to their community! As a rejected dad myself with one child, this is what I try to do. I first and foremost try to impart my time to my wife and our other two children along with our grandchildren who are very involved in our lives. Secondly, I serve others in my church extending into the community in many ways. I’m grateful for everything I have in my life. I’m grateful for your great resource. I was referred to your website a couple of years ago by my sister.

  3. Eileen M

    This world is on a downward spiral! I had an awesome Father and never once did a cross word cross my lips. God Bless the wonderful men who Fathered and reared their child. Your reward is great in Heaven!!!!

  4. Lisa R.

    I believe that leaving any money or other assets to estranged children would be rewarding bad behavior. My husband and I have set up our wills and beneficiary statements to indicate that every dollar is going to a non-profit organization that helps to care for the environment. We feel good knowing that our hard earned, lifetime investments will be going to a better world.

  5. Margi

    I was glad to see the message from a father who said he won’t be leaving money to his daughter!! Why should we reward their estrangement?? My ‘child’ and his wife are kissing goodbye a fortune of money that they have no idea I’ve accumulated through the years. I would rather leave all to charity where I know it will be well used! Their loss!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *