Mismanaging Money: Oprah and Daddyless Daughters

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Audio Mismanaging Money


Mismanaging money isn’t what Oprah thought she was talking about.  In fact, she and Iyanla Vanzant had been talking about “Daddyless Daughters,” exploring what happens to girls whose fathers weren’t around to fulfill their traditional roles.

You’d think they were just speaking of girls who never knew their fathers.  But far more girls fall under the heading of “daddyless,” including when:

  • Daddy was never there (the more expected situation).
  • Daddy was there, then gone through divorce or death.
  • Daddy was in the home, but not present.

So the number of girls who are daddyless daughters extends to far more of us, and to more of our friends and colleagues around us.

Probably the most unexpected on the list are all those girls whose fathers were there, but were actually not engaged in their upbringing for some reason.  Maybe they were emotionally distant, or working too hard to be very involved or absent through addictions.  The reason doesn’t matter.

Here are the major conclusions of Oprah and Iyanla’s exploration:  the main impact girls suffer because of being daddyless is that they are cheated out of the first intimate relationship with a man that is not sexual.  This unique relationship establishes:

  • how we feel about ourselves (because Daddy said so),
  • the standards we set for how others interact with us (because Daddy set his high standards) and
  • the fact that we are loved because of the relationship … not because of a sexual element in it.

Not having that vital input affects how daddyless girls later establish social relationships, what they’re willing to accept, what they think they deserve and what standards they keep for themselves (or don’t).

Mismanaging Money … and Daddyless-ness

So what does this have to do with money?

Well, during an Oprah’s Life Class episode called “Fatherless Sons,” Roland Warren said this about fathers:  “Good fathers, they do three things:  They provide, they nurture and they guide.”

For a son, a father is a role model and someone who sets the standard of what is expected of him.  By being fatherless, without that role model, a son grows up not knowing what is expected of him … and, most important, what he is capable of achieving.  The first and best image of himself is simply is not there.

So when a father leaves a son, he takes along his son’s self esteem.

But when a father leaves a daughter, he takes along her self worth.

These are some phrases used to explain the impact on a girl:

  • “Without internal validation, a girl craves external validation.”
  • “She needs to know she’s beautiful by 5, if daddy doesn’t do that, she’ll buy her beauty.”
  • “He takes a piece of his daughter’s soul with him and leaves her forever seeking.”
  • “She’s left with symptoms of low confidence, overcompensating in other relationships, and seeking love in all the wrong places.”
  • “She doesn’t know how to be within herself and, therefore, how to have healthy boundaries in a relationship.”

Some of the basic reasons why women have trouble managing their money are:

  • Avoiding Money:  they ignore it, push it away, don’t ask for it or miss out on investing out of fear.   “Not deserving” is a major factor here.
  • Worshiping Money:  they hoard it, become a workaholic, take on too much risk or grossly overspend.  “Overcompensation” and “external validation” are factors here.
  • Mixing Money and Relationships:  they use it as a tool to manipulate, which destroys trust, results in unhealthy boundaries or leads to enabling or being enabled.  “Poor relationship patterning” is a factor here. 

Can you see how being daddyless can creep into to a woman’s behavior with money once she is an adult?

So How Can This Relate to You?

If there’s any chance this applies in your life, are you able to see where those factors could be causing you to trip up with money?

Are you willing to acknowledge that you received unhealthy messages, but that you now have the choice to release them … as being totally unproductive?

Are you willing to forgive yourself for holding on to those beliefs for so long, especially if you can see how they somehow served you and kept you safe?

If you’ve brought forward a story that you’re still telling yourself, are you willing to accept that it is worn out and could be let go?

Can you see that you deserve as much as anyone else and that you simply got a batch of bad messaging that has cheated you out of what you deserved for all these years?

Are you ready to move on, let go of the baggage, start over in your relationship with money on new, solid footing … and thrive?

Let us know in the Comments section below if you had realized before just how interrelated money is with how you were raised, whether you were “daddyless” or not.


Bio: Sharon O’Day fixes financial lives. She is a tell-it-like-it-is money expert with a successful career in global finance, plus an MBA from the Wharton School. Today she specializes in getting entrepreneurial women over 50 back on their game so they can have more money, less stress and more joy. With her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” strategies, they take actions that lead to their ultimate goal: financial peace of mind.

  • Martha Giffen

    I can so relate, but not because I was fatherless but because I am a “Daddy’s girl.” I went from being totally taken care of in my Daddy’s home to doing the same with my husband. That is someone who completely AVOIDS all money issues. It wasn’t until I had a friend who’s husband died suddenly and she cried to me that she was clueless about their finances and they were a MESS, that I had my first wake-up call. After that, I sat down with my husband and made sure I knew all about our finances. It wasn’t fun, but had to be done. I still struggle with avoidance but have learned to look at daily numbers and take responsibility for my part in them. With my business, I’m always like, ‘let’s look at the numbers.” LOL Boy, have I changed! Money is such an interesting subject. Always love reading your blog!

    • I’m thrilled that you’ve opened that vital dialog with your husband, Martha. Unfortunately, all too often the story sounds more like your friend’s, too late to get in control before facing such a devastating life event. Nothing pleases me more than hearing “Let’s look at the numbers …” And you’re right, money IS interesting! 😉

  • Marvia

    WoW Sharon! So impactful. Sometime I think we fail to realize just how string our actions are. We can leave a life legacy or a legacy that repeats the unhealthy. I know I “learned” a lot of my bad money habits from parents who were well intentioned. Now I am learning better. Great post!

    • Most parents ARE well intentioned, Marvia. They don’t sit around and say, “Let’s teach out daughter all wrong so we mess up her future …” I believe they are almost always doing the best they can, with what they know. However, now we have the chance to break that cycle and leave a healthy legacy!

  • Alexandra McAllister

    I pretty much grew up on my own without a father figure. I worked hard and saved as much as I could. Everything went well till I invested into something I knew nothing about….and lost it all a few years ago. I didn’t do my homework or ask for advice. Lesson learned!!

    • Ooooh, Alexandra, that hurts! Investing Rule #1: never invest in something you don’t understand. Unfortunately, fast talking, wise marketing and a slick hand will find you holding an investment you don’t get … and eventually a whole lot less money unless you’re particularly lucky. So sorry to hear it happened to you. Now I understand a little better what you’re working back from … and I repeat, let me know if I can help with something …

  • I enjoyed reading this post Sharon!

  • Barbara Becker

    Parents can be influential in preparing the child for the world regarding their finances and relationships. Your article is wonderful in that it includes the fathers that were there, but not present. There are those of us who asked for a journey to be difficult in order to gain the experience and knowledge to help others. For myself, I had to throw out all the old programming about money and finances I learned in school and from my parents.

    • I understand the “journey” process, Barbara, and know those who choose a difficult one have done so for a reason. “Programming” is the right word in many cases; glad you could recognize the need to dump what you had learned and start anew!

  • Yetunde

    Sharon, thank you for sharing another apt article. I read through it with mixed feelings. I am a Daddy’s girl but it hurts a lot to see children growing up without a Father figure or the Father being there but actually absent. Great article.

    • Where you are most fortunate, Yetunde, is in those lessons you most likely learned from your father about self worth, personal value and being deserving. Those messages can translate directly to your abundant relationship with money; if not, look to see if there is still a stray message or two hanging around that got misinterpreted along the way …and let it go!

  • My dad was there and a big inspiration. He is an entrepreneur and has 4 different successful businesses. He really impressed on us a good work ethic and ideas to manage your money well.

    • I do believe that parents share what they know, and have the deep intention of giving their best. Unfortunately, they’re not always sharing good practices. But in your case,MarVeena, you have been blessed with a father who had lots of healthy lessons to share, through teaching and modeling with his own life. In your life work, be sure to figure out how to include that knowledge in what you share with all the women around you!

  • Wow, wow, wow – so powerful, Sharon. I know so many girls and women in this situation and will definitely be sharing this with them. Such a travesty but as you also suggest, “If you’ve brought forward a story that you’re still telling yourself,
    are you willing to accept that it is worn out and could be let go?” Helping them see where it originates helps them let it go. Thank you for this wonderful piece.

    • Thank you, Lisa, for validating my work. Nothing is more motivating for a writer than to read that others not only find value, but are also willing to share the work forward! I know you know how it feels … 😉

  • Susan Schiller

    This one hits home…. hard…. wow! I’m bookmarking for extended meditation on this topic. Thanks, Sharon, for delivering hard truth that unveils the hidden stumbling blocks to financial security!

    • As I was writing, Sue, I had an image of “your father, the pilot” … and wondered briefly what role he might have played in your life decisions. I don’t know why that image … except that I haven’t forgotten the fullness and warmth in your ‘voice’ when you’ve written about him …

      • Susan Schiller

        You have an incredible memory, Sharon – thanks for recalling this! My dad was amazing and I learned so much from him up until I turned 12-years old… and then on a day I’ll never forget, in which I remember every word as if it were a hammer sealing my coffin, he explained that I was achieving way too fast for my younger siblings to ever feel they could compete, and so he told me he would not spending any more time with me, from that point on. He kept his word. That lasted 5-years until the day he died, and I was 17-years old when he passed. An abrupt changed occurred at that the age of 12… I quit drawing, quit writing, quit trying to excel at anything. I tried to shrink so no one would be jealous. I became the invisible girl. It happens to a lot of people. But I treasure the good years with my dad, and I treasure the wisdom he taught mostly indirectly, by example.

  • Robert Manea

    I hope this never happens to my family..

  • sheila

    scary – but great advice

    • Only scary when it’s not acknowledged, Sheila. Once it is, it can all be released as one chooses to build a stronger foundation.

  • Amazing impact fathers have when they are not there. We need some really strong cultural shifts to bring men into the awareness of their important role. Would be great to see a men’s organization develop around this theme. Thanks for the comprehensive article.

    • The idea of a men’s organization around the theme would be great, CoachLaura! I wonder how many have a clue what long-term impact they make with their “personal” decisions …

  • Jackie Harder

    Ah yes…choice! Excellent point. It’s important first to recognize we have an issue, then make the deliberate decision to move beyond it.

    • You’re right, Jackie, awareness IS the first step. But that deliberate decision is the one that trips up too many people. Unfortunately, the magnitude of the next step is blown out of proportion and makes them think they need more resolve than they actually do …

  • Wow, Sharon! There are more than one areas touched on that represent my childhood…where my dad is concerned. I’ll choose one and explain. “Without internal validation, a girl craves external validation.” Dad was always busy working to support his family of 7. After work he puttered outdoors and came in at dinner. The paper became his friend after the night-time news. By then mom has us bathed and ready for bed. Attending events seemed like his teeth were being pulled, not a happy occasion for us kids. Recently, I’ve learned why he was that way…it’s a very sad story indeed…at least now I understand it had nothing to do with me. Great information, thank you.

    • Wouldn’t it be helpful if we had the perspective as we were growing up to understand so many of the decisions and actions we see on the part of our parents, Carla? Things that seemed such a mystery … and many that actually hurt … would have been so much more easily accepted if we had the context in order to understand. And, you’re right, so often “it’s not about us!”

  • This is an extremely powerful article Sharon – thanks for that! You’ve hit on a few areas that I’ve experienced growing up – I can really see that without internal validation, a girl seeks external validation – I’ve done much healing on this but I can really see the impact! Thanks for a great read.

    • You’re very welcome, Moira. I realized as I was writing the article that, daddyless or not, we all can find something that we either fixed or need to fix. Present or absent, the influence of a father is just to powerful to not leave SOME trace, and they can’t all be 100% positive …

  • Erin Miller

    What a powerful article! Some major food for thought for sure. A lot of great points brought up that will hopefully help out many others! I hope this never happens to my future children. 🙂

    • It’s entirely up to you, Erin … choose well! 😉

  • Norma Doiron ´*•჻.

    Love this line: “Good fathers, they do three things: They provide, they nurture and they guide.” I so wish more men got this… <3

    • Dontcha, though! Norma, the world would be a different place … 😉

  • Shelley Webb

    This is a beautiful article and explains a lot of things I’ve seen over time. I was blessed to have my father present for my entire life, as were my children. I can see the strength in my daughter who runs her own extremely successful event planning company and has never run to a man for validation.

    • That’s wonderful, Shelley. What a joy to watch children grow with a full sense of self. Congratulations!

  • Ahh beautiful example of some things I’ve been thinking about lately! My children are very lucky to have a great Dad. I see so many that never had one and the problems it causes! so sharing this!

    • Thanks, Liz. When all the pieces fit together, we ARE lucky. And having unconditional support within the family is such a head start!

  • I think this post will strike a chord with so many women who grew up without a father. There can be so much damage caused both on an emotional as well as a practical level. Thank you for your insight Sharon.

    • The number of us with “holes” in our lives–that extend way beyond our finances–because of our relationship with our fathers is vast. (Different holes, to different degrees and for different reasons.) And then we fill those holes over the course of our life journey …

  • Cindy Taylor

    Hmm….interesting ideas…never looked at it from that angle! Thanks for helping us think about this subject differently!

    • You’re very welcome, Cindy. My “down deep” goal is to get us all thinking about the topic of money calmly and openly, without judgment, so we can each make the best life choices FOR US … 😉

  • MamaRed

    I watched this entire series and, for the first time since my husband asked for a divorce, I sobbed and looked at the role of Daddyless Daughter…which describes me even tho my dad was around until I was about 13 (a pretty crucial age) I love what Iyanla said about “Daddy gone” and how to move forward. Your article wraps another crucial element around the guide aspect of a father. And the lack of self esteem that is so common to Daddyless daughters.

    • I too found it very insightful, MamaRed, with strong and empowering messages. I like that she leaves very little room for victims. We all have our burdens — some heavier than others — and we also all have the right to set them down. 😉

  • Nice take on Dads. Thanks for sharing!

  • cathsj

    Interesting perspective. Lots to think abou there, Sharon.

  • Meire Weishaupt

    I had no idea of those relations, the very good advice here is to forgive yourself and let go, but knowing the why, right?

  • daniele holmberg

    Wow, this was a very interesting article to read. I found myself thinking of my high school students because alot of my girls grew up without a father and I see alot of the patterns mentioned above..I want to check out this Oprah episode now:)

  • Robin

    Wow, what a great article 🙂 Fatherlessness is a HUGE epidemic and it’s quite heartbreaking to see all the fallout because of it.

  • Norma Doiron ´*•჻.

    Hmmm… you’ve got me thinking Sharon.Never thought of it this way. Dads are so important.

  • Wingate Wyndham Sulphur

    Very interesting take on “daddyless” daughters! I am going to let my husband read this as well so to reinforce how important a daddy’s job is in their childs life. Thank you!

  • Joseann

    Hi Sharon, this is a very impressive post, thanks a lot. You ask if we are ready to move on. When reading about the impacts on girls who weren’t fathered properly: how do you move on from there? Like, the missing piece of the soul, how do you get it back?

    And where does she move to? Is it towards “knowing that she is beautiful” or is it “who cares whether I am beautiful”? Is it “seeking for love at the right places” (and if so, what are the right places?) or is it “stop seeking for love in the first place” ?

    Could you give a description of how a girl operates who has been fathered properly, to make it clear how a healthy setup looks like? Not in a sense of “high confidence” instead of “low confidence”. More like: what is the healthy girl able to do that the other girl is not, and how does the daddy-less girl get there?
    Relating to the whisperer post: that would be something I’d be really grateful to hear. Thank you so much for your work and clarity.