Yesterday was Father’s Day, a day to honor the men in our lives that care for us and protect us, and offer male perspective, masculine energy, and who father, in all the gloriously perfect and sometimes imperfect ways.
I have several single-mom friends that posted about celebrating Father’s Day honoring themselves, since they were providing both roles to their kids. I have a different perspective about that, that I am compelled to share.
First of all, before I start, I need to clarify that I don’t in any way want to minimize or disrespect the amazing job single parents do for their kids. They work hard, sacrifice, and have to figure out how to do this parenting thing alone. Oh, you may say there is support and help, and there is for some aspects: Friends who babysit, schools that provide free or reduced lunches if needed. But when it’s 2am and your child is suffering with a high fever and you’re out of Tylenol there isn’t another parent to run to the store while the other stays with the sick child. No, you have to pack up your sick child, perhaps more than one of them, and go to Walgreen’s in the middle of the night. I know, because I was a single parent for a decade and it isn’t easy.
But what I never did was claim “fatherhood”. I was, and am, a MOTHER. Even if my daughter’s dad wasn’t in the picture (and he is, thank goodness!), I wouldn’t say I am both mother and father to my child. As a single mom, yes, I had to do double duty at times, and work hard, and be “on” 24/7 with no break. Yes, I taught my daughter how to kick and throw a ball. Other moms may teach their kids how to use tools and how to change the oil in the car. But there are things a dad* does that a mom can’t, simply because they are men.
A dad provides masculine energy. Call it what you like, “yin/yang”, Masculine/Feminine, we all have a mix of both. But women tend to operate from the feminine (receptive, intuitive, nurturing) men tend to operate from the masculine. It is the energy of direction, action, decision, groundedness, forward-thinking. It is protection, physical strength and a solidness that women tend not to have in the same way. That isn’t to say women don’t have any of those qualities, and a healthy, good man will have a large capacity for the feminine energy too. But men carry those energies differently. We all know women who, either as girls or currently, or both, said, “I like hanging around guys better.” And they often can be easier, feel safer, less catty and less dramatic. Men are awesome, and can’t be replaced.
A dad provides a male perspective. No one will ever be able to convince me that men and women think the same. They don’t. No two people do, really, but if men and women were similar in the way they think and process there wouldn’t be so many books and jokes about how to understand each other. A dad offers his view of things, and that is valuable to children. It’s valuable to us, as women raising children. As women, we can’t offer that. We have our own thoughts, and opinions, but they are our own. We don’t have the luxury of having both for our kids.
A dad provides support to the mother. In a healthy family, part of the dad’s role is to love up the mom. Yes, two mom’s can love up each other and that’s just as awesome, but it isn’t the same as having a male figure care for, respect, honor, take influence from and deeply love, a woman in front of their children. This is a specific type of strength coming from a male role model. Mom’s can’t do it.
A dad moves through the world in a different way than the mom. Not better or worse, but different. They balance each other, ideally. Perhaps she’s more cautious but he’s a risk-taker. Perhaps she is great at balancing the books and he isn’t for example. Yes, one parent can do all the household things, but having a dad balance it out, offers more than just a lighter load for the mom. It provides an even-keeled household, and more stability. But this isn’t just about household chores. It’s about having another body that shows a different way of being present.
A dad is playful in a unique way. He usually has grown up figuring out how to roughhouse, wrestle, and play sports. And if not, or if mom has also, he has different interests to expose the kids to. Different passions to share. A mom only has her own.
So, happy Father’s Day to all those men who father. Who give of themselves, offer guidance and care, protection and strength and gentleness to the children they love. Whether they are dads, uncles, friends, grandfathers, the mother’s boyfriends, step-fathers, teachers…Thank you.
Dads are dads. Whether they are “father figures” that provide a dad-like role, or whether they are living in the same house or living apart, they cannot be replaced by a female, and one person cannot be both. Kids that don’t have a healthy male role model, a male person to care about and who cares about them can still grow up and be loving, responsible adults. But they will have missed out on something, in my opinion.
If you are a single mother, you absolutely deserve credit and lots of appreciation and admiration!! You are doing a LOT, and if you’re any of those that I know personally, you’re doing it WELL. So go whole hog on Mother’s Day, celebrate it for a week, or celebrate Mother’s Day twice a year. But don’t claim fatherhood. That’s for the guys, and all they do.
*I am writing this and assuming “emotionally healthy” male person. I realize there are abusive men, distant men, wounded men that are not able at this time, and maybe never, to provide the qualities I list. I’m not talking about the men who hurt others. I’m talking about the men who help, who heal, who love and care whether they do it imperfectly or not.