Overwhelmed and often justifiably, mothers who do not have a supportive co-parent have long taken on the mantra: I am the mother and father. At all times of the day, you wear the father and mother hat. Yet, you are only recognized for one of them. I get it. I really get it. As a full-time single mother for 13 years; I see you. I get that you do all or most of the work.
First, no child is guaranteed two parents. In fact, throughout history, in societies around the world, children were raised by whole clans. Now, let us look at separated and divorced families. Most of the time, dads are relegated to be every-other-weekend part-time visitors in their children’s lives. With less parenting time, fathers seek to become the fun parent; the one who is fun to see on the weekends. The kids are excited, overwhelmed by wonder and excitement of what is to come. But, when the going gets tough, the men check out. Fatherlessness ensues… and you are forced to suck it up, unnoticed for what you do.
Sorry to say, you are not their 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,”. However, this is simply not true. You became their mother when he became their father. It is heartbreaking to see your children upset; especially when their dad lets them down. Tears of disappointment, which you seek to remedy with the motherly love you provide. Our kneejerk instinct is to shield them; to become the father you wish they had. But our children deserve the honour of feeling sad, so they can mourn the absence of a committed dad.
How we desire to say that “men are irrelevant”. Men are not irrelevant. Our lives do not end, due to the lack of a romantic partner. Likewise, your kids live on, with or without a dad. But that does not make men irrelevant. If we are going to teach our children to respect women, then we must respect all genders equally. The notion, “I am a martyr and you owe me,” does not fly. First, no one is owed anything. Second, your kids do not 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 children and stop asking them or the world for acknowledgment.
There are many, many examples of parents who checked out of their kids’ lives but re-emerged to be meaningful fathers and mothers. For some, it takes years to accept the cards dealt to them. Other times, the vitriol of the divorce or breakup subside and make room for healthy co-parenting. Whatever the case, we must find it within ourselves to put our ego aside.
If you establish that Father’s Day does not involve your kids’ father, then you close that door of hope. Instead, you do what you can to raise those gorgeous children. It might entail growing your community, by way of friends and other bonds that make life full and happy. 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.
I wish all the fathers — biological, surrogate, foster, step, unofficial, official, absent, part-time, incarcerated, and otherwise — a very happy Father’s Day!
Sara Isabel Dias/ MS