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.
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.