Growing up without a father can have lifelong consequences.
Women become more vulnerable to negative romantic relationships and men are more prone to depression and more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour, according Margaret Giloth who details it all in her book, Who’s Your Daddy? 12 Steps for Rescuing the Next Generation from Father Absence Syndrome.
“Father absence” is something she experienced first-hand. She can remember sitting on the school playground at age ten, sobbing because her parents had just split up.
Although he only moved a little way down the road, she and her four siblings rarely saw their father in the years that followed.
“We walked to his house to collect money every week, but he was never there,” the 67-year-old said.
In early adulthood she struggled with romantic relationships.
“I had some boyfriends who adored me,” she said. “But I always thought it wasn’t healthy to love that much. I thought there had to be something wrong with them if they adored me like that.”
She married and had a son, but divorced.
“When I saw a statistic saying women without fathers in their life are more likely to be single mothers I thought, ‘Hey, I’m a statistic,’” she said.
Through therapy and self-help books she “realised that the problem lay with my own self-worth”.
For the past 25 years she has been happily married to Michael Giloth, who she says has been “the wind beneath my wings”.
With his emotional support she was able to earn her bachelor’s in organisational management in 2001.
“I could not do it before,” she said. “I was drowned in a lot of dysfunction.”
Ms Giloth believes people typically see the symptoms of what she calls “father absence syndrome” as misbehaviour.
“But if the individual was observed as having a disorder then appropriate services would treat the individual appropriately and they will likely heal from the damaging symptoms,” she said.
Ms Giloth was 53 when her sister hosted a lunch and invited her father to join them.
It was the start of a relationship that continued until his death in 2011.
Through their talks she discovered that he had also grown up without a father.
“His father would not even acknowledge him,” she said.
It was something she drew on at the after-school programme she worked with, where she often saw “father absence” in play.
“I got to see how we operate and the cycles that we go through, and what happens to children when things happen,” she said. “You can have a kid who is just a delight in the programme then all of a sudden he is melancholy, or acting out. He may get some time outs and some punishments. You go and talk to him and he says, ‘My mummy and daddy broke up.’ It is so heartbreaking. They get impacted.”
In 2006 she founded a Bermuda chapter of Phenomenal People, a charity to support children and families. Then she created the Dream Girls Club, a mentorship programme for girls ages nine to 18. She also set up Eagles Wings for adult women suffering from trauma related to non-nurturing parental relationships.
She spent 14 years with the Department of Youth & Sport. After retiring in 2019 she decided it was time to write a book.
A friend offered her a writer’s retreat – a cottage in rural Glais, near Swansea, Wales.
Ms Giloth was preparing to go when the pandemic hit in March 2020. She eventually wrote the book sitting at her own dining room table.
Who’s Your Daddy? 12 Steps for Rescuing the Next Generation from Father Absence Syndrome printed in November.
“I wrote the book for adults, primarily the whole family – grannies, grandfathers and parents and single mothers who think that their child does not need to know who their father is or be with him,” she said. “I get that there are troubles between mommy and daddy. There might be a lot of unpleasant stuff, but nevertheless, he is the father of this child and nothing can replace that.”
She acknowledges that not all circumstances are the same; some situations warrant separation from the father for the safety of the child and the mother.
“However, that does not mean the father should be completely obliterated from the child’s consciousness,” she said. “Remedies in some extreme cases could include a child advocate for structured visitation and supervised letter writing.”
Ms Giloth said the book directs and implores people to step outside their own realm and ask for help.
“I ask people to go deeper,” she said. “You will be amazed what you find. It is not bad.”
Who’s Your Daddy? is available on Amazon.com and at Brown & Co