Why single moms don’t get to celebrate Father’s Day

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Plenty of memes going around Facebook giving Father's Day shout-outs to single moms who “do it all.”

Make your way down the card isle and you will come across Hallmark's cards, they have a half-dozen designed celebrating moms on this day.

Cards read:

“Happy Father's Day, Mom!”

“Mom: You're the best! Thanks for being both father and mother.”

“Happy Father's Day to all the single moms pulling double duty.”

It is not OK to wish single moms a Happy Father's Day.

Should you wish single moms a “Happy Father’s Day”?

In short: Moms never get to celebrate Father's Day. Don't wish any female-gendered person Happy Father's Day. It is absolutely uncool to every male, female, adult and child.

Why people wish single moms a “Happy Father’s Day”

Overwhelmed and (often justifiably) resentful mothers who do not have a supportive co-parent (whether she is in a relationship or not) have long taken on the mantra: I am the mother and father.

Subtex: I do the work of the two parents that a child should have, because the asshole won't do his share. Sometimes, the backstory is less bitter and involves the death of the father.

I get it. I really get it. I get that you do all, or most of the work.

I get that he checked out and that is so, so, so wrong and absentee fathers hold men, women, fathers, mothers and most of all children back.

Absentee fathers is a big freaking problem in this country, as I have explored in numerous posts.

I am making it in my work a priority to address and remedy.

Why you shouldn’t wish single moms a “Happy Father’s Day”

First, no child is guaranteed two parents. In fact, through most of history in societies around the world, children were raised by whole clans. The idea of a two-parent nuclear household is an advent of the past 150 years.

Second, the problem of absentee fathers is not because men are inherently horrible, and do not care about their children. The reason so many kids suffer without a father — and mothers of those children struggle to raise them — is an institutionalized and complex social shitshow that is caused by both genders equally, hurts both genders equally. In summary:

Our society, culture and policy has institutionalized the patriarchial model that men are breadwinners, women are caretakers.

Countless articles bemoan that even educated, high-earning married women do far more child care and housework than their husbands. Why?

One possible explanation for this is that by outearning their husbands, wives worry that they are breaking norms on gender expectations. The same norms are at play for men in female-dominated occupations, such as nursing, who are more likely than other men to do more masculine types of housework like power-hosing the deck or mowing the lawn. Women in male-dominated occupations, such as law enforcement, tend to do more feminine tasks such as cooking and washing the dishes. These men and women are “correcting” for their jobs by asserting their masculinity and femininity through housework.

ALIYA HAMID RAO, in The Atlantic

Now, let's look at separated and divorced families. Only one state, Kentucky, as of 2019, has any laws that guarantee that both parents — mothers and fathers — are guaranteed a presumption of equality when it comes to parenting time. The rest of the states default to the decades' old mantra of best interest of the child which means that both parents are encouraged to fight tooth and nail to prove they are the better parent, the reward for which is majority custody and parenting time.

All the white, straight, rich men (who have benefited for centuries from unpaid at-home wives) overwhelming award mothers primary custody. Dads are relegated to every-other-weekend parttime visitors in their childres' lives — often with unaffordable child support requirements.

Conflict between parents ensues. The less parenting time fairness, and the more conflict, studies show, the less involved fathers are.

The men check out. Fatherlessness ensues. Inconsistent involvement from fathers is tied to every social ill: Emotional and academic delays, low employment, incarceration, addiction, and an increased likelihood of repeating these family patterns.

Are single-parent families whole?

Five things never to say to your kids about their father

You are not a father. Only a Father can be a father.

By saying: I am taking credit for being a father, you tell your children:

“Fathers are replaceable.”

They are not.

It is heartbreaking that your kids' dad is not an equal parent, but that doesn't mean that his absence is irrelevant.

It's not.

It's a big deal, and your children deserve the honor of feeling sad, mourning the absence of a committed dad.

“Men are irrelevant.”

Men aren't irrelevant.

You don't die when you don't have a romantic partner, and your kids don't die when their dad isn't around.

But that does not make men irrelevant.

You have a son, or you have a daughter.

If we are going to teach our children to respect women, we must respect all genders equally.

“I am a martyr and you owe me.” 

First of all, no one owes you shit, no matter the day of the year.

Second, you kids don't owe you because you raise them.

The makeup of their family, the involvement of each parent, is on those parents.

You do you, raise your kids and stop asking them or the world for acknowledgment.

“Your dad sucks.” 

He might suck. You might be right.

But don't say that to your kids — directly or passively.

Trust me, I get the temptation.

I've been guilty of saying bad stuff about my kids' dad.

But it is not pretty and you will feel bad later.

“Your dad will never be an important part of your life.”

That may be true, but it may not be.

Fathers Day

There are many, many examples of parents who checked out of their kids' lives, but re-emerged to be meaningful fathers and mothers.

Maybe they finally get their priorities straight.

Or deal with mental health or financial issues that hold them back from being involved.

Other times, the vitriol of the divorce or breakup subside and make room for healthy co-parenting.

If you establish that Father's Day does not involve your kids' father, you close that door of hope.

Instead, you do what you can to raise those gorgeous children.

Single moms on Father's Day

It may mean welcoming in other male figures (even if their dad is actively involved — it is impossible to have too much love for our kids!).

Related: When to introduce your boyfriends to your kids — or have him sleep over?

It may mean growing your community by way of friends and neighbors and other bonds that make life full and happy, and help your children know that life is abundant with love — as much love as they are willing and able to accept.

Even if the love does not come from the people whom you crave it from most, there is indeed more love than you, your kids, or even their dad, can fathom.

Your kids and you get to celebrate your love for each other in May. On Mother's Day. [Happy Mother's Day to you, you incredible single mama!]

Until then, I wish all the fathers — biological, surrogate, foster, step, unofficial, official, absent, part-time, incarcerated, and otherwise — a very happy Father's Day.

Maybe you are opening a power tool and crappy popsicle stick framed pic of your kid, and enjoying a regular ol' Sunday with them.

Or, not at all. But in some way you made a contribution, and if you are like a huge portion of dads in this country who do nowhere near your share:

I believe you can do better. I believe you will do better.

And whenever you're ready to step up, please, please do. It's never too late.

Post related to single moms and Father's Day:

Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful single moms!

29 ways to co-parent like a pro

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

82 Comments

Emma,

People seem to be very upset by your article. I did also find it a little triggering….However, I’m not sure you deserve the level of vitriol you’re receiving. I think the aggression is misplaced….I’m a single mom, who has a deadbeat baby daddy. Ultimately, I think you’re right that a mother is not a father. But a good mother can certainly be all a child needs to grow into a happy healthy adult. Research seems to support this. My plan is make sure I have positive male role models in my child’s life.

I am a single mom and I agree with the sentiments of this article. I am not a father by any means nor proclaim to be. Yes, I have to do more work to support my children on a daily basis. My village is strong and supports my children. Yes their biological father is not present but they have uncles and grandfathers that are. With a lot of therapy and support of the village I have gotten to healthy emotional place – Happy Father’s Day to the uncles, fathers and grandfathers!

Thank you for realizing the unique value that only men can add to children’s lives. And just plain getting it.

I dont understand why we shouldnt wish our single mom a happy fathers day if the fathers of the child would step up and play there part of been a good father show there child love attention and affection then we wouldn’t have to wish mother a happy fathers day

Emma, you SUCK!!!
Until you have stepped foot in any of our shoes, you should keep your mouth shut.
How could you even be a single mother writing such crap. Get off your high horse and sit your ass on a donkey because you’re acting like a jackass!

This is a really heteronormative article. There are lots of different types of families out there, and this only attends to the mom/dad style of family. To say that nobody who is female should be wished happy Father’s Day is really short sighted and reductive.

Horrible sentiment. Single mom’s are both parents. Aren’t you a single parent? If not, maybe do not speak on such topics.

My Mom worked two jobs to support 5 kids after my deadbeat father left and never even checked in on us.
I can remember her saying she wasn’t hungry and weighing in at 95 pounds.
I can remember getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and hearing her crying.
You, Emma Johnson, have no idea what you are talking about.
I wish the strongest and most loving woman I have ever know a happy fathers day every year.

I have strong doubts about the mental state of this writer.
Either this is written by a Patriarch behind a female screen name or some suppressed woman suffering from Stockholm syndrome at the hands of a very controlling man.
Emma, you by writing this article have insulted the hard work a mother puts in her child’s life 24/7/365.
Just as a student doesn’t get 100out of 100 from a teacher for doing F’all…likewise a deadbeat dad absentee sperm donor doesnt get the love, respect, recognition and honour of a dad landing on his plate.
I teach my children not to be so nice to other’s that they walk all over them.
I am extremely disappointed with this article of yours
A happy father’s day to all the single moms out there.
X

What if the child’s father has passed away? So yes, my grandson’s mother is both mother and father right now.

Wealthy single mommy.. says it all.. I tried reading your article but it was offensive to me and the memories of my family that had single mothers holding it down and raising many children without fathers and also fathers without mothers helping. Not everyone has the support system you have and the education but they make it work.

I disagree. Being a “real” single mother, I have raised 2 children pretty much by myself. I received child support for one of my children for 6 years out of 18 of $250 a month. Then when they graduated from high school the medical insurance ended as they headed to college.
In my opinion if a parent is getting real financial support of at least half the cost of the child’s need, then they are not single parents. Single means one parent is single-ly supporting a child. A parent receiving $8,000 a month in support is not single, even if the paying parent is not spending time with the child. I average $60,000 a year and the $250 a month I received barely covered groceries. I still had to pay mortgage of $1,400, utilities of $500, general expenses for clothes, food, personal items of about $300(average) and educational cost for private school of $1,000 to $2,000 and $1,000 for summer camps. I made major sacrifices to provide for my children, which is what I’m suppose to do. So to give credit to either of them in the form of Happy Fathers day is an insult to me playing the role and unjustified to them for their refusal to step up and be fathers. So… Happy Father’s Day to me!

Happy Father’s Day to EVERY single mother who has to pull double duty! I DGAF what your opinion is… We all deserve recognition on this day, as well as MOTHER’S DAY! We (I) did all the things he should have done but, he literally said he couldn’t be a father!! We were married 7 yrs… With 2 kids and NOW you figure this out?? FU I’m taking credit!!

The father of my friends child died when she was a year old and she does celebrate him as dad on fathers day but she isn’t a single parent. She is the ONLY parent now. And I will respectfully disagree with you and continue to wish her a happy father’s day while acknowledging her child’s father

Mothers have a mother’s day. This is not rocket science. Don’t have a loving father in your life? Don’t celebrate father’s day. How is this tough to understand? Many single mothers have run off their kids’ fathers on purpose. It’s not hard to do really. Take him to court, claim maltreatment, sue for as much Alimony and Child Support as you can, claim abuse, sue for sole custody, sue for ownership of his entire house, and leave him with absolutely nothing but the very real struggle to make those lofty payments wile barely scraping by in a studio apartment. And then tell the kids that the reason daddy isn’t around is because he’s a deadbeat dad (while you all enjoy the house he paid for). So yeah, thanks to the legal system, a great many single dads can never be a father or enjoy father’s day. So yes, I will advocate for Father’s Day never being for the mother because no good mother would ever do this to the father of her own children.

Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are what you make them. There is no gender neutral Parent’s Day (yet?) even though society in 2019 is increasingly moving away from defining roles by gender. If we’re so fortunate to have children and they’ve been blessed with gratitude in their hearts to want to celebrate us, who the heck cares when they do it, or how pubically. Parenting is challenging enough. Saying when or how we’re allowed to celebrate is essentially just another way of holding one another down, when we could be lifting each other up. A woman celebrating Fathers Day obviously doesn’t take that day away from male parents, just as a man celebrating mother’s day doesn’t take that day away from women.

For me, I was raised with an amazing, irreplacacle Dad, so I definitely value and have the utmost respect for the father role. Now, I have a sweet little boy who does not have a father. He had a birth father, but that man did not wish to be involved as a parent, which is completely fair and completely within his rights and his reproductive freedom. My son and I are a happy, very complete family with a lot of love. And though I am a woman, I will assume a role that has similarities to the roles both mothers AND fathers play in a two parent household. I would be honored if my little boy grows up with the love and gratitude in his heart to want to celebrate me beyond just Mother’s Day. (But that’s up to him!) There is NO way I think this gives him the message that fathers are replaceable or that he doesn’t need to be a responsible father if he has children someday. On the contrary, I think it shows him that every occassion to show love and gratitude to those who love us is worth making the most of. Which will only make him an even more amazing parent, if he someday chooses to be one.

Emma you are an idiot! My dad gave up his rights when I was 6 months old. Your situation might be different but everyone’s is. My mom raised 3 kids with no child support or help from my sorry donor. Think about things before you write a ridiculous article

Why are the other comments salty? Lol if there’s no father figure in the picture then just celebrate Mother’s Day. You’re the mom. Whether you’re taking on double duty it doesn’t make you a father too, it just means you’re taking on more as a MOM.

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