June 17, 2021
First, we’d like to acknowledge all the wonderful fathers out there – single fathers, partnered fathers, and stepfathers. We love fathers and want to remind everyone that our decision to have children solo isn’t an indictment of all men and doesn’t mean that we cannot appreciate the role father’s play in our society.
But since we are single mothers who are raising our children without a father, Father’s Day can be challenging to navigate for our non-traditional families. Before we get into survival tips for this day, we’d like to share our feelings about this lovely Hallmark holiday.
I grew up in a household with my stepdad and I loved him – warts and all. Yes, I said stepdad, meaning I never knew my biological father. I’m okay with this and never felt a sense of loss. When I considered the SMC path, I spent a lot of time reflecting back on how I was raised, and I really credit my parents for ensuring I did not grow up longing to know my biological father. My family just was. That’s it.
That is how I’ve chosen to raise my girls. Our family is complete. Our family structure is a mom and kid family. I’m a firm believer that you don’t miss what you’ve never had. The reality is society will show us lots of things that we as individuals don’t have – like a mansion, a pony, or a million bucks and yet we still deal. The reality is there are many different family structures in the world and ours is just one of them.
I try to be intentional with how I’m raising my girls and I’m raising them with the knowledge that families come in a variety of structures and all of the structures are valid and loving. It’s not a zero-sum situation.
To me Father’s Day is just another day that other families celebrate that my family does not. I’m not a woman who wants to be acknowledged on Father’s Day because I have a day that I can opt to celebrate or not celebrate. I do acknowledge all the people in my social circle who do celebrate because they want to be celebrated.
When I was about five years old, I remember asking my father if one day I could marry him. At that age, in the eyes of five-year-old Hera, my Dad was the man who was capable of moving mountains and I truly believed he could hang his hat on the moon. Of course, he reminded me that he was married to my mother and that to me – he would always be “Daddy”. While our relationship has taken twists and turns, and hasn’t always been sunshine and unicorns, I appreciate the role that he’s played in my life and the lives of my children.
My father was one of the first people I told when I decided to become an SMC. I worried that he would think I was making a judgement on him by making this choice. I was also worried about what this choice would mean for my future children. I wondered if I would be enough.
To my surprise, my father was one of my biggest champions on this journey. He reminded me that I’d been an amazing mother to my son and that getting caught up on what society thinks is normal for a family structure would be a tragedy.
My feelings on this holiday have evolved. Over the years, I’ve gone from wondering if I should get a gift on Father’s Day – to owning the fact that I am not a dad and that being a mom is enough. When I became an SMC, I knew it was the right decision for me but I still had to process my feelings on raising children without a father – admittedly based on what society viewed as appropriate and “normal”.
I’ve been an SMC for seven years now and each year I’m reminded that these holidays aren’t about me – they are about my children. Father’s Day is no different. Over the years, I’ve taught my children to be proud of our family and to understand that there are different types of families. I’ve also allowed them to decide how they would like to celebrate Father’s Day. One year, my oldest brough the school made Father’s Day gift to my mother and said, “Momma, you had your day – you can’t have this one too.”
This year, my children will likely want to celebrate my father who has become an important part of their lives. They will probably make him a card, bring him some bugs from the yard to inspect with them, and snuggle up with him to watch one of their favorite grandpa TV shows on Sunday night. This will be a win – win for me because even though Father’s Day isn’t for me, I will grab a glass of wine and enjoy the time that my kids are having with Grandpa.
5 Tips for surviving Father’s Day as an SMC:
In various SMC spaces, we’ve seen a tendency for moms to hide from the topic of Dads. Some moms have even gone as far as changing the word “dad” in books to “mom” as though their children won’t wonder why certain words are crossed out.
It’s possible to affirm your family, while also teaching your children to appreciate and understand the structures of families that are different than their own. Father’s Day can prompt conversations about diverse families and this can help your child understand the different family structures they will encounter as a global citizen.
2. Proactively discuss with your care providers and schools how they can handle the holiday in a way that is inclusive of all family structures.
Let’s face it, even in 2021, many people still don’t understand that not all families have one Mommy and one Daddy. Asking questions, explaining your family structure, and collaborating with your child’s school or daycare will help make the environment more inclusive for your child and the other children at the school.
3. Prepare your children for the reality of this Hallmark holiday. Don’t operate with the intent to erase fathers from the picture.
A family structure that includes a father is a valid family structure. It is not a zero-sum game, validating the SMC family structure does not require diminishing or devaluing another type of family structure.
4. Allow your children to celebrate whomever they want to celebrate on the holiday because it’s not about you.
Listen, we all feel like we deserve all the love and all the gifts, but just as Hera’s daughter said – “you already had a day.” Allowing your children to celebrate people in your village will give them the opportunity to define what this day can mean for them and tell someone (other than you) that they appreciate them.
5. This holiday can be triggering for some people. Take some time to process how you feel about the holiday before you interact with your child, their care providers, or the public.
Parenting is hard, and it’s hard to avoid projecting your feelings and your past trauma onto your kids. But Father’s Day is just a day. There will be many moments in your parenting journey when you will have to face your decision to be a mother – without a co-parenting father.
We are huge proponents of therapy. While this is not the only way to process trauma, it is often a very effective one and will be beneficial to both you and your children in the long run.
And finally, we wish that our society could move away from these gendered holidays (yes, Mother’s Day too) because when schools feel pressured to celebrate them it’s often to the detriment of children who have different family structures. Can’t Hallmark come up with something like “Celebrate your Loved One’s Day”?
But alas, Father’s Day isn’t going anywhere because retail stores aren’t willing to give up the profits from gifts for Dads – helping to bolster sales during a generally low sales month. So instead, we encourage you to allow yourself to feel the emotions of the day and plan so that these emotions don’t consume you. And remember, you are a mom and that is enough.
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