When I got old enough to buy cards on my own I used to give my mother a Father’s Day card. Mama thought the whole gesture ridiculous, but as a single mother she’d earned it. Besides, honoring my mother on Father’s Day was one way to not feel so left out as a child. It gave me a way to celebrate the day, too.
But ever since I wrote A Silence of Mockingbirds, my perspective on this whole Father’s Day thing has shifted. Writing Karly’s story has made me more sensitive to the ways in which we ignore, and marginalize single fathers in our culture.
It is true that many women – my mother included – do double-duty as parents.
But it is also true that many men — Karly’s father and my own brother-in-law included — have done double-duty as parents. When my brother-in-law’s ex-wife was unable to perform her duties as a mother to their son and an older son she’d had with another man, my brother-in-law adopted the older boy and raised the boys together. Because, he insisted, the boys were brothers even if he hadn’t fathered them both.
Some of the best mothers I have known have been fathers.
Yet, single moms get all the attention.
Single dads hardly ever get any.
Over the years, I have known many men whose wives have walked out to pursue careers, other relationships, or simply a life unencumbered by the responsibility of husbands and children. I also know a handful of men whose wives have died, leaving them with families to raise on their own.
Media – and thus the public in general – pays very little notice to these fathers. Yet, recent research reveals that the number of single-dad households has nearly doubled since 1990, from 1.5 million to 2.79 million.
This bias against fathers shows up in our schools, in our courts, in our churches and in our neighborhoods.
In military culture, we go to great lengths to honor Gold Star Wives, Gold Star Mothers, and Gold Star children, and yet, if you are the father of a son or daughter killed in action, there is no community for you to belong to. No public acknowledgement of your loss. If you are a father of a son or daughter who comes home from war physically disabled — where do you go to find support?
We women get all the attention.
Men are still expected to suffer and sacrifice in silence. There is no community for them.
That just isn’t right.
Do you know a father who has lost a child? How have you helped him through his grief?
Do you know a father who is raising children alone? What ways have you come alongside him?
If you are a single dad, what or who has helped you the most?