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

single mom celebrate fathers day


Plenty of memes going around Facebook giving Father’s Day shout-outs to single moms who “do it all.” Mahogany, Hallmark’s line aimed at African Americans, has a half-dozen designed celebrating moms on this day.

I don’t dig it.

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

But 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 make up 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. 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. 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!). 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.

Until then, I wish all the fathers — biological, surrogate, foster, 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.

13 thoughts on “Why single moms don’t get to celebrate Father’s Day

  1. Exactly! My ex husband is abusive, was convicted of assault, a horrible man. However, he made my kids with me. As nasty as their memories are of him, to them he is still their dad and they still miss him at times. Fathers Day hurts, but I let them mourn, they sometimes make cards and I let them send them to their Nan’s house (I don’t know the ex’s address) etc.

    It took a huge effort to let them talk about him, how they feel, discuss the few good memories they have but they need it. I don’t bad mouth him in front of them, I don’t try to replace him or be their dad. I am their mum. That’s my role.

    Fathers are not replaceable and they are not irrelevant.

    1. Um… For one, don’t tell me not to celebrate Father’s Day with my mother. She’s the only person who’s cared about me and raised me practically my entire life by herself. She’s not just my Mother, but also my Father, so she deserve the right to celebrate whatever hell she wants to. My Dad doesn’t deserve the right to feel appreciated on Father’s Day because he’s not a Father, he’s a piece of shit.
      So, if kids of single Mothers wanna celebrate Father’s Day with their Mothers, they have all the rights in the world to do so.
      Don’t come at us with this, “You’re a Mom, you’re supposed to only feel appreciated on Mother’s Day. Don’t try to steal Father’s Day away from Fathers.” That’s all bullshit.
      You say children should grow up learning that all genders are equal, so why the hell can’t a Mother celebrate Father’s Day? Why the hell can’t a Father celebrate Mother’s Day?

  2. I have to respectfully disagree.
    My ex walked out on his family (me and our twins) when the twins were 5 months old. He was there sporadically, then not at all. The kids weren’t people he loved…the were tools to hurt me.
    He was absolutely replaceable. He was replaced by my husband, who adopted the twins, who will be 12 next month.
    My brother’s father saw him 1 time..when he was 6 months old. He told my mother, my brother (via a phone call) and my brother’s brother that, as far as he was concerned, he only had one son (the brother). My mother was the one who raised my brother, from birth until he was 18, on her own.
    His father was absolutely replaceable. My mother did it all. She taught my brother things a man should. Because I am older (7 years), I taught him how to play baseball.
    My mom was mother AND father to my brother. That’s all he’s ever known. So I don’t take this away from her.
    On the flipside, I have a dear friend who raises his kids 100% on his own. Their mother walked out when they were young and has nothing to do with them. For HIM, I wish him both a happy Father’s and Mother’s day, because I feel he deserves it.
    Fathers ARE replaceable. Mothers are replaceable. It’s up to us, as parents, to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.

    1. What is the value in saying you are both mother and father? Why isn’t it enough to be a super-mom? Or an amazing step/adoptive dad? Why assume both gender roles? Baseball and peeing standing up can be taught by a robot – they are not gender specific. Fatherhood, however, is.

  3. Why do women have to judge and label other women rather than embracing each other?! I can’t imagine a man telling another man he can’t celebrate mothers day with his kids. Men just look at each other and say “cool” and remain friends and don’t judge. No competition. If a single parent wants to celebrate a holiday with their kids in a certain way, let them. Parenting is hard enough without having others around you who should understand you actually judging you instead. When will women stop doing this to each other? It helps no one.

  4. If I celebrate Fathers’ Day as a single mother, it’s not because Dads don’t count. I used a sperm donor. I don’t want my daughter to feel ashamed, or that she is any less, or any less loved, or that she’s missing out on Fathers’ Day (and every other day of the year) because she has no father.

  5. I just recently stumbled onto this blog and I think it will help me greatly. I disagree and I agree all at the same time. Everything that happens in our lives, both good and bad only affect us in the ways we allow them to. With me, at age 38, I just recently had a baby with a man who was a deadbeat (the reason I finally left him). Found out shortly after, I’d been pregnant for 2 months by this person. Our baby was born 4 months early and spent 4 months in the NICU. The father visited him almost daily the first week or so and then it tapered off to once a week…once every couple weeks. I was there every day, three times a day and this continued even when I was back to working full time and no longer on maternity leave. My life was consumed with pumping and running back and forth to the hospital and balancing that with working and taking care of my first born. I developed a lot of hostility towards him because of this. Because HIS life did not change when our baby was born. HE didn’t seem to realize he had a whole new set of responsibilities. On the positive side, he also didn’t get to reap the benefits of our son smiling each and every day even with cords shoved down his nose and throat. He didn’t get to bond with him which was his own choice. Nothing was taken from him. I thought it would change when the baby came home (it did not). His version of being father of the year is paying 75% of day care expenses and seeing his baby 2 hours a week or every other week. When Fathers Day rolled around this year, I was torn. Did he come to visit the baby? NO. Did he bother to text or call to check on him? NO. So of course I was part of the moms out there telling myself Happy Fathers Day for being the dad and mom, because part of me feels that way. It was so very hard shopping for a Fathers Day card for this man when they all have so much meaning. I can’t possibly pick out a card that talks about “you’ve been my protector… you’re my inspiration…over the years you’ve been my rock… etc”. Do you know what the card says? “Happy Fathers Day big guy, from your little guy”. That’s as short, simple, and honest as I could fathom. But it was a huge step for me even BUYING him one! Throughout the whole NICU/preemie experience, I have found a new faith in the man upstairs and the spiritual side of me tells me every day that I need to let go of this resentment. I need to find inspiration somewhere, from people with similar stories. People who feel at least part of what I feel, and still find a way to carry on and live their lives..giving the best they can to their children. I don’t want to be the mom who talks crap about the dad every day and instills resentment in my son. If my son feels any negative feelings toward his dad, I want it to be something HE figures out on his own. Not because I brainwashed him. I don’t want him to feel like men or dads are replaceable or useless. Because simply put, that may be MY feelings at the moment but that doesn’t make it a FACT. Simply an opinion. The fact is: I wholeheartedly wish I could give my son a family that includes both mom and dad and NOT a split home. But since that is not the case, and I most definitely do not have time to date or get to know anything anywhere in the near future, I need to learn to be happy. I need to learn to be happy that I am the person raising this little boy. The person who can teach him to be responsible and respectful to women. The person who gets to see his smiling face each and every day. The person whom he looks up to and admires for doing all that I do for him. Ok I’m off my soapbox for now :)

  6. All of the POV on this subject are very enlightening to read. I have a different take on the whole thing. I don’t celebrate Mother’s OR Father’s Day… for the simple facts that I am a mother EVERY day, and that to me it is basically a greeting card holiday. I do not want to tell my children when or what to celebrate, or to feel guilty if they forget to get me flowers or make a card. The random days that they tell me I am awesome, appreciate some mundane thing that I do for them, pick me flower, draw me picture… that is my Mother’s Day and it happens way more often than once or twice a year.

    Regarding Father’s Day, I too left an abusive man. My children really do not have a father. I let them feel the way they need to feel about this as well. They have expressed that the family dog is more of a father to them: loyal, protective, kind. I love that they can recognize that these traits are what a father or good man would be to them, and they don’t feel ashamed or needy to replace the crappy father they have. They just accept that is the way he is, and know that it is his garbage and not reflection of how amazing they are.

  7. I don’t celebrate “father’s day” I celebrate grand-daddy day. He’s my father. That other dude who got my mother pregnant, I don’t know him. But I know my grandpa. He’s who I give love and appreciation to on Father’s Day. He was father to both me and my mom. And we love him so much!

  8. I am a single father, i respect everyones choice to celebrate whatever they want, if a mother wants to celebrate fathers day, well let her, and if a father wants to celebrate mothers day, let him. I myself dont feel the need to be celebrated on mothers day nor fathers day for that matter, my role of being their dad is sunday through saturday, 365. I do not feel the need to tell them wrongful things about their mother because the fact that she left doesnt give me the right, they will soon be grown people and realize for themselves what doesnt need to be said. When my kids ask all i say is that people make mistakes and their mother made a mistake. I should remark that there are as many DEADBEAT mothers as there are fathers in this world, my personal opinion anyway.

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