Father’s Day is for Fathers. Period.

Father’s Day just passed, June 20, 2010. It was a beautiful day, for the most part, and it was so wonderful to see so many fathers out with their children. Their proud smiles beaming, happy children laughing… it was just amazing.

However, it wasn’t so positive for a number of people, mainly a lot of single mothers. Every year, I see more and more single mothers being wished “Happy Father’s Day” and every year, it really grates my nerves. Women are not and can never be fathers. It’s against every possible biological, emotional, mental, spiritual law known to us. It is an impossibility! Similarly, men cannot be mothers.

Father’s Day is already a diminished holiday as it is. The top day when greeting cards are exchanged? Mother’s Day, followed by Christmas. Father’s Day was created after Mother’s Day. Much of this dates back to the time when mothers stayed at home and took care of the children while men worked and remain somewhat disconnected from their children. Mothers have since been looked at as the primary parent, so giving special attention to fathers has not been something we’ve done as a society. The tide is changing, however, and more fathers are taking active, hands-on, equally nurturing roles in their children’s lives. More and more men are staying at home and more men are acting as single fathers. Fathers deserve their day and I don’t think we should do anything to take that day from them.

Yet, there are those women who are rather bitter about being abandoned and believe they deserve to be celebrated on Father’s Day in addition to Mother’s Day, because they believe they play both roles.

No, they don’t.

Single parents more often than not have to work harder, spend more money, time, and energy raising their children. Single parents probably experience more stress on a day-to-day basis. Some single parents may find that they don’t have a lot of support when raising their children. However, this does not mean they somehow have absorbed the role of the missing parent. They are just doing what they are supposed to do and what the other parent is not doing. Do single parents deserve kudos for not giving up in the face of adversity, when it is easy to do so? Sure. Should they receive special treatment for being the parent that didn’t leave? I don’t think so. Leaving is not the default; staying is. Therefore you get no extra props.

What is up with us congratulating parents on doing what they are supposed to do? Like, why do we give special props to Black men who are active in their children’s lives, when that is what they should be doing?

I read so many Facebook posts and tweets from some really bitter women! I kept saying, why are we focusing so much on the ones that don’t when we should be focusing on the ones that do? I asked a number of women to explain how they “play both roles” and I have yet to read a coherent answer that justifies those assertions. Nothing they described was any different than any mother who has an active partner co-parenting with deals with.

I understand being hurt. I understand wishing your child had a father around to provide that fatherly attention and support. I understand wanting to give up. I understand that the struggle is harder for most single parents. I’m sympathetic to that, really and truly. But there is no way a woman can fill the role of the father. Fathers bring something different to a child’s life, something that cannot be mimicked or reproduced by a woman. As strong as single moms might have to be, that strength doesn’t translate into some weird morphing into fathers.

I think wishing single mothers “Happy Father’s Day” undermines the spirit of the day for fathers. I think it steals something from them and I don’t think it is fair. I really hope that we move past this and we stop saluting mothers on Father’s Day. It’s just sad all around.

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18 thoughts on “Father’s Day is for Fathers. Period.

  1. Bra-Vo!

    Not to take away from what single parents do, but there really are tow separate days for the two separate, gender specific parents. It’s okay. We know y’all do a great job

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  2. Say it again! I so agree and think those kinds of things ruin the relationships between men and women instead of helping them.

    I wonder how many single Fathers get wished a Happy Mother’s Day and if they did, would they say thank you?

    I think not.

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  3. I agree with the sentiment of this article. I am a single mom and it literally made me cringe when people wished me a Happy Father’s Day. It’s not my holiday. Even though my ex-husband isn’t as involved as he should be, that doesn’t make it right to wish me a Happy Father’s Day when he has a father.

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  4. i agree with this. i grew up with a single mom & i think i did wish her happy fathers’ day here & there growing up. however, once i got older, i realized she most definitely was not my father. instead, on fathers’ day, i thanked her for staying and for trying to maintain what little semblance of relationship that was present between me & my dad until i got old enough to see the real deal.

    this especially frustrates me when i think about the plight of our black men. they have SOOO much negativity surrounding them anyway, why this, on THEIR day? as one of my twitter mentors noted, most black kids do actually have both parents! unfortunately, we’ve fallen into the trap of focusing on the other numbers – those that choose not to be present, whether it be for addiction, cowardice, or whatever reason(s). my heart goes out to all the fathers who truly are there, because those who are absent still get more attention than those who are present.

    great piece, ms. benee

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  5. Agreed. Simple biology. Mother = female parent. Father = male parent. Each has a day. Let me also say that I could do without the sideways stipulations. “For all the fathers who are doing the damn thing with all their kids and baby mamas and you clip their toenails on the seventh day of the month, Happy Fathers’ Day!” FOH! You think Bobbi Kristina is only giving Whitney cards on the months where she’s not smoking rocks? Please.

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  6. Wow. This is a strong statement. I like it 🙂

    I feel strongly about this too, but for different reasons than you. But I also disagree.

    First, You say that the single mothers you know could not give a coherent answer as to why they deserve to be celebrated on FD because what they deal with is no different than what a co-parent deals with. As a co-parent, thinking if I had to do this by myself, I’d think your response ignores the reality. Sharing parenting duties means I don’t have to be 100% everyday, someone has my back not just as a parent, but as a person. Even if you just look at chores – if I had to do them all myself, I’d be constantly burnt at both ends, like a lot of single parents are. If the other parent is absent, you don’t have another person to bounce of parenting ideas with, meaning everything falls on your back, all the time. To say that the burden of single parenthood is no more than what a co-parent has to deal with, I’m like, really?

    Second, related to the first, what is it specifically that fathers give or do that mothers don’t? You mention the emotional, biological, etc., but what is it tangibly? It can be seen the other way around too, I admit – what do mothers give that men/fathers cannot? Yes, biologically there are differences. But when it comes to how children are parented, we know that studies of same-sex families show that children are generally no worse of, and may be even better off. Missing the other sex/gender we intuitively think that something is “missing,” but what is it?

    Lastly, I think in general that neither day – mother’s or father’s day – should be made a big deal out of in the first place. Just a way for Hallmark and fancy brunch places to make a lot of money. Celebrate those who raised you on more days than just one out of the year. And it seems you feel the same way, about not needing to celebrate parents for doing what they are supposed to do, considering children didn’t ask to be brought into the world. So why the concern about undermining the spirit of father’s day?

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    1. LaToya, let me respond to your points

      First: “As a co-parent, thinking if I had to do this by myself, I’d think your response ignores the reality. Sharing parenting duties means I don’t have to be 100% everyday, someone has my back not just as a parent, but as a person. Even if you just look at chores – if I had to do them all myself, I’d be constantly burnt at both ends, like a lot of single parents are.[…] If the other parent is absent, you don’t have another person to bounce of parenting ideas with, meaning everything falls on your back, all the time.”

      I’m a co-parent who does all her own chores lol. I think this was the poiint I was making. Being a single parent can have different definitions. It can mean being “single” by marital status but sharing parenting responsibilities or it could means parenting alone. I disagree that most single parents have to be 100% everyday because I dont think any parent CAN be 100% every day. The truth is, I think we’d find that MOST single parents have a support system. They have siblings, parents, aunts, cousins, friends they can turn to for support when it comes to rearing their children. MOST can take breaks or count on others for assistance. They DO have people they can bounce parenting ideas off of. If they didnt, our kids would be totally screwed.

      I’m not close to my family, at all. 99% of my friends live in other states. I have no siblings or mother. Outside of my dad, I have no one to turn to to help with my son aside from his dad. So, as a co-parent I’m just making the point that our plights aren’t automatically all that different on the individual level and these people I asked could not articulate how their experience was so much harder than mine. In some cases, they seemed to have it easier.

      “Second, related to the first, what is it specifically that fathers give or do that mothers don’t?”

      We discussed this in this post about whether or not single moms can raise boys to become men. You said then: “He has his father in the home, yes, so I’m sure there are things that are invisible to me that I don’t see that are being taught about being a man.” for example. It seems there that you understood that there is something unique a father contributes as a parent. I offered, in that piece, that women cannot role model maleness and that the primary example of manhood a boy, for example, gets is from his father. I also discussed how we are limited in our nurturing, specifically with boys, because we cannot relate tot heir experiences so we can only offer general advice on some things. That is just an example.

      “So why the concern about undermining the spirit of father’s day?”

      Because of how I see it fit into the overall treatment of Fathers. As I said Fathers are looked at as the secondary parent. The laws even uphold that. I think that we should push to focus more on days, events, ideas, discussions, studies etc that propel fathers to the forefront of this parenting thing. The more we make fathers feel like equal parents, the more changes I believe we will see in our family structures.

      It starts with something this small, IMO.

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  7. I feel compelled to comment (thanks, LaToya, love the new blog).

    This post REALLY bothered me. I’m a single mother, my ex is involved/engaged/around a lot, and I get that I am not a father and that fatherhood matters (study it for a living in fact). If someone wished me a happy fathers day, I would find it really weird. So I agree with the main point.

    That said… really? Can we make the point that fathers and male role models matter without calling everyday parents (whether male or female but who, gee, often tend to be female) bitter and abandoned? Might we acknowledge the amount of work that single mothers do to facilitate a ‘happy fathers day’ that is rarely reciprocated? Could we also acknowledge that fatherhood is more than once a year at the park and stop applauding Sunday dads as if they have done something really difficult?

    I would love a discussion that acknowledges the difficulty of non-residential parenting that doesn’t discount that work that single parents (again, mothers usually) do and discount the role of fatherhood in the process by obviscating well-documented differences in parental engagement — it does a disservice to mothers, fathers, and parents in general.

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    1. “That said… really? Can we make the point that fathers and male role models matter without calling everyday parents (whether male or female but who, gee, often tend to be female) bitter and abandoned? Might we acknowledge the amount of work that single mothers do to facilitate a ‘happy fathers day’ that is rarely reciprocated? Could we also acknowledge that fatherhood is more than once a year at the park and stop applauding Sunday dads as if they have done something really difficult?”

      I was writing specifically about the bitter women I read comments from. I didnt say every single mother was bitter. Slow down. Those women expressed their own feelings of abandonment, why can’t I relay what I read.

      What work is a single mom doing to “facilitate a happy fathers day’? Can you elaborate. I’m not sure why a single mom would do much else on that day but maybe spend it with the men and father figures in her life and expose her child to those men who ARE helping her. Not sure why she would try to facilitate a happy day rather than just skip it, if its that serious.

      I actually said we should stop applauding parents for doing what they are supposed to do, but I take issue with the whole “Sunday Dad” thing because I think I’m a “Sunday mom” lol What does that term mean to you?

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      1. It was clear to me that you were only talking about the ‘bitter’ ones, not all single moms. My comment is really about a post that starts with “Nice to see all the Dads out” (and I agree with the sentiment but I would submit that a Mother’s Day post doesn’t start with “Nice to see all the Moms out” because no one would find that surprising) and then contrasts fairly quickly with the bitter/abandoned single Mom without much discussion of the structural dynamics that produce both observations (some of which LaToya describes in her comments). That seems an unfair contrast to me — both to engaged Dads and to parents (male or female) doing it entirely on their own.

        I’m not saying you shouldn’t relay what you read — I have some friends I might describe this way as well but it’s typically because they and their children have been treated horribly and father’s day is tough for the kids because Dad isn’t around and everyone makes a big deal about it. It seems not nice or fair to call them bitter as opposed to frustrated/hurt/angry/overworked/etc. My point is that going down that road doesn’t get us anywhere.

        On the facilitation, sorry that was vague. I was thinking of what I do on father’s day (and many many other days) which is: talk to the kiddo a lot about how much Dad loves her, how special their time is together, why we will always be family even though we live in different houses, make cards and presents because kiddo is too young to do it herself, have dinner with my ex once a week and always on father’s day so the kid gets some time with both of us, etc, etc. To be clear, I don’t expect or want to be applauded for doing these things as I think it is in the job description. On the Sunday Dad thing — this is actually a comment from my ex. He avoids parks on Sundays because all of the women there seem to want to give him a prize for spending time with his kid and he hates that.

        So, yes, children need fathers and it’s great that Dads seem to be more engaged these days. Does that mean Moms (married and not) don’t still do most of the work? No. Yes, some single moms were abandoned. Do they have reason to be bitter and is father’s day as a result a bit tougher for them? Yes.

        Lastly, LaToya’s comment on gender is interesting — I just read a bunch of studies that basically say it really doesn’t matter what kids have as long as they have one stable parent (male, female, single, married, gay, straight, elderly, or alien) and are not subject to a bunch of parental conflict or abandonment. So maybe we don’t need to worry so much after all? 😉

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  8. Yeah, I said that (you like to pull direct quotes, don’t you?), but again it was a more instinctual reaction – well, they are men, so they MUST be giving something I’m not. But on closer reflection (and I think I mentioned this in the last post), the gender biases and normative assumptions are enormous, and I don’t think I 100% buy it. My husband has a vastly different personality than mine – how do we know it’s not just that personality that my son is learning, instead of some amorphous quality of “maleness.” And is that what we want anyway?? Believe me, my child learns about gender role in many other places except for home – he returns from day care saying what boys can do and girls can’t, or what toys boys should play with and girls not. That’s not learned at home, where we encourage both children to play with all toys, traditionally gendered or not. As far as relating to experiences – are we talking about sexuality, and the difference between having a penis or not? Again, I think those things are taught in many places, and while I don’t know what an erection feels like, I doubt that many fathers are having that conversation anyway.

    You do your own chores – granted. And I do a lot of the chores in my house too. But I don’t do them always with two kids to look after at the same time. More importantly, I feel that I have an equal responsibility for my children on an everyday basis. When my husband is gone or sick or absent for some reason, having 100% responsibility at all times has a level of stress that, while perhaps not reflected in chores or other tangible, external things, has a great effect on the body, both physically and cognitively. Study after study shows that single mothers experience more stress and have less social support than married mothers. And there is considerable evidence that high levels of chronic stress negatively affect mothers and children and I would put single mothers – at least the multitudes that I know – in a category of people who are under chronic stress. Do they get a break? Sure, I suppose. But in many situations, that psychological responsibility falls squarely on that one parent’s shoulders, even if grandma helps out occasionally. This is the case for mothers in general, as well – high levels of psychic responsibility for the family – but when you are doing it by yourself, without someone who in theory also has some psychic responsibility, it’s simple math that the stress load for the single parent is going to be higher.

    I also think the idea that single mothers have all this support so its no different that being married is overstated. Research shows that just not to be the case, when looked at nationally representative samples. A 1993 study by black researchers showed that only a quarter of black single mothers receive financial support from kin, and only a fifth child care support. Married black mothers receive both more financial support and child care support. These results are controlling for poverty and the like.

    Most laws in this country around child custody favor equal custody unless one or the other parent is unfit.

    Lastly, I absolutely do not believe that because we, as mothers, make fathers feel like less equal parents, that’s the reason fathers do less. How does a single mother being praised on Father’s Day take anything away from the father who is celebrating being the best dad to his kids? If my kids make me something for mother’s day, I could care less if a single father is also being honored.

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    1. “Study after study shows that single mothers experience more stress and have less social support than married mothers”

      You’re talking specifically about single moms versus married moms. You’re leaving out moms who are not married but are co-parents. I am not doubting or questioning that married mothers have less stress and more social support. Sure we can find exceptions but I’ll agree with you on that.

      But in your argument, you’re leaving ME out. The “single” mother who shares parenting duties. I asked those women to explain to me how they deserved a Happy Father’s Day based on how they are playing both roles, how hard they have it, etc.

      “Most laws in this country around child custody favor equal custody unless one or the other parent is unfit.”

      This I can argue, bearing witness to all of the struggles my friends and colleagues, even my dad have gone through but it would be anecdotal, and I hate that. I think if we look at visitation and paternity hearings, we see a lot of judges granting the mother primary care and allowing the father weekend visitation or things like that. Some judges have even come out and said they believe children are better off with their mothers. If all things are equal, between parents, and equal shared custody isnt feasible, the default is generally making mother primary care. A mother has to be reeeeeaaalllly jacked up to not be awarded primary custody, while it seems fathers have to jump over major hurdles and represent perfection to have a shot at it.

      “Lastly, I absolutely do not believe that because we, as mothers, make fathers feel like less equal parents, that’s the reason fathers do less. ”

      I said society has done this, not us specifically. Our social structure has been set up and is sustained by the idea that father/male works and mother/mom raises the kids. I think there are many fathers who don’t feel as connected to their children or as responsible, especially when the children were born out of wedlock or out of relationship. Primarily, I’d guess it is because they dont experience the pregnancy, but I also think its because society creates a disconnected sense of accountability and rights. I think it makes many men feel left out of the equation and I think thats why it may be “easier” for some of them to walk away.

      If you cant understand my point about diminishing the celebration, then I dont know what to tell you. Many Christians believe the pomp and circumstance around Christmas undermines and takes away the true meaning of their celebration. Veterans often are bothered that people care more about Memorial Day sales than fallen heroes. Sharing a gold medal isn’t quite the same as winning solo. Lots of things lose their uniqueness and special traits when they are shared or overshadowed by other things. In this case, I think many of the single moms who want to be recognized on Father’s Day are doing so because they want minimize the day itself to mask the hurt they feel. I think they’re overcompensating, period.

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  9. “You’re talking specifically about single moms versus married moms. You’re leaving out moms who are not married but are co-parents.”

    Just to clarify, I’m not leaving anyone out – studies typically look at married vs. unmarried mothers, whether you are co-parenting or not. Within the unmarried category includes never married, divorced/separated, and widowed. And, according to the Census Bureau, the majority of single parents are those that are so as a result of divorce. There isn’t a lot of good data about co-parenting (Sara, correct me if I’m wrong) mostly because it’s hard to define what that means. Is it an equal 50/50 split? Is it when the child spends the week with one parent and the weekend with another? Is it simply joint legal custody, meaning that both parents have to agree on certain decisions about the child? What about when there is limited joint legal custody, but the child resides with one parent more than the other? (Which I believe is the predominant outcome, and yes, the child, depending on the age, is usually placed with the mother. However, as a child gets older, the gender of the parent becomes more important, as well as the preference of the child.)

    And many judges (I won’t say most b/c I don’t truly know) express a preference for whatever the parents decide among themselves. Custody “battles,” where a judge makes a decision, are relatively rare when you consider all the divorces that involve children. And in a battle, where there is an acrimonious relationship between the parents, you might not want full joint custody – there would be a fight about everything. Only 10% of custody battles assign sole custody to one or the other parent. And fathers who sue for custody of their kids more often than not win.

    And this certainly has not always been the case; fathers used to “own” children at divorce. As more psychologists came to realize that removing children from their primary caregiver was not the best idea, not “in the best interest” of the child. But most states have gender-neutral policies.

    I agree with you if you are qualifying your statements to refer only to those single moms who are actively co-parenting. With “co” really being the operative prefix, meaning that it is a true partnership, sharing child responsibility as if you were married, but you live in separate households. If a father is active and engaged, to the same extent a mother is, then yes – those “single” moms can’t really claim father’s day as their own. And I agree that it’s perplexing as to why they would want to.

    But the studies also show that for most relationships, when the relationship between the mother and father dissolves, so does the involvement of the father in the child’s life. This happens when they remarry, get into new relationships, etc. And it’s up to both parents to actively engage – if a mother is stopping a father from seeing their child, that father needs to go to court and fight. So while more men are co-parents in healthy relationships with both their children and the mother, this is still the exception, and not the rule.

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  10. I can’t agree with the statement that single mothers have it “easier.” Yes, my kids go away for about eight weeks a year. The other 54 weeks, I’ve got a foot in my ass. I spend two weeks recuperating, another two to three planning for their return, so I’ve got a maximum of four weeks of rest…if all goes according to plan. Last summer, that “break” came at a fairly high cost. If something serious happens, I can’t throw up my hands and say “ah well, it’s not my time.” I’m still responsible as a mother.

    Help and support is not limited to single parents. Even with two parent households, people rely on their families. I relied on family when I was married. Kids go away for the summer to relatives, stay with grandparents and aunts, etc.

    I can also say that you are hard pressed to find a mother, single or otherwise, that doesn’t feel that she “does more.” Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not, but most mothers regardless of their marital state feel worn out and under appreciated.

    For me, bitter or not, I think since there is a Mothers’ Day, wishing a mother Happy Fathers’ Day is just silly. That goes beyond stats and who does what. It’s not for you. I also don’t need presidents for Hannukah and I don’t need a big dinner for Canadian Thanksgiving. Some things just aren’t for me.

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  11. I dont think anyone said single moms have it easier, at least I didnt. I said that when I compare my situation to some of the situations of some single moms I know, they have way more emotional and financial support than I do. I was simply saying that being a single mother doesnt automatically mean you have it harder than moms whose children have fathers in their lives, nor do those women automatically have it easier than single mothers. I hope that makes sense. Shoot, just having a mom to turn to for support and advice puts many single moms in a “better” position than I’m in, from my perspective at least.

    Further, what do we say about all of the upper middle class, older, highly educated Black women who are now adopting as single women by choice? How much are THEY struggling? I have to wonder about that. Are they truly worse off, when they become single mothers by choice?

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