HAROLD is a 33-year-old father of two young children. His wife passed away three years ago, just after giving birth to their beautiful daughter. It was a sad day for him and his family, but they have since accepted what happened, and Harold now solely takes care of a young son and daughter.
Duke was married to his wife for 13 years, when she left him (and their three children) for another man. It was devastating. As he was going through anger, confusion and grief, he also prioritized guiding the children through the agony of losing their mother, who they thought was their beacon of light through the years. As he knew his wife had hurt him and their children deeply, he also thought that wallowing would not make him feel better.
When a couple gets married or decides to have children, their way of thinking is changed, from living for one’s self to sharing life and having a family with someone who stands as a partner, half of a successful relationship. And with all best intentions, we know that when we’re in love, the “I” always turns into a “we.” And it’s not easy. That’s why having children is an important, life-changing decision to make. Unfortunately, the reality is that not all couples make it for the long haul. We can criticize all we want, but we are not them; we’ll never know their entire story, and we are all simply different.
Harold and Duke are just two examples of husbands left to take on both parental roles for their children. I also know of some who, despite complications in their marriage, decided to stay in the relationship because of the kids, mainly because the mother somehow does not have the maternal instinct. There are also unmarried couples who had children and separated, leaving the children to the father. I am sure we all know someone who is going through single fatherhood, and we admire them for it.
Though single moms go through the same challenge, we see a different picture when it comes to fathers who must stand as their children’s nurturer. As our society sees men as providers for their families, we also know how hard it could be for them to make sure their children are brought up strong, sensitive, discerning, yet loving, independent and responsible.
Having been a single mother myself, I have been sent “Happy Father’s Day” messages every year, and I appreciate that people acknowledge that. But I’ve always wondered if single fathers are also given attention whenever Mother’s Day comes along.
Gender aside, we celebrate Mother’s Day not only because of a woman’s being a mother, but also because of the role she plays in a happy family. She may be the treasured housewife who stays home to care for the children while the husband works, or a working mom who helps her husband support the family. And yes, she may also be the single mother who does everything. But I think we should add single fathers to this mix.
The definition of the noun “mother” in the dictionary is a woman who has given birth to a child. But being a mother doesn’t start and end with giving birth. If we read it as a verb, it also connotes bringing up a child with devotion and affection. It is a lifelong obligation, which is probably why we fondly call them “moms” as we grow up.
The same might also go for the terms “father” and “dad.” So if we choose to not stick with the labels, we can only see what the parent is doing and has done for the child. And since children relate so much to love, if a single father is able to fulfill that, then he deserves to be acknowledged for the acts of compassion and nurturing he performs in the absence of a mother.
In such cases—for men who were brought up to keep their tears from falling, to know nothing except to win all the time, to “man up” in times of crisis, to be taught that growing up meant having a job to sustain a family and being told to just find a wife who will take care of the kids—once they commit to be the dad-mom, the road ahead will take a lot of mental retraining, practice, and moral support from family and friends. Being a single dad will be a tough ride, but it’s a ride I’m sure they will say is worth going through.
I know of another friend, a single father who takes care of his four children. I am not familiar with what happened, and I know he goes through some rough times, too, but what I do see is a man who continues to keep himself in shape, still lives his life to the fullest, is kind to others, smiles a lot, shows almost zero signs of stress, while happily caring for his kids. Now if that’s not enough reason to celebrate single fatherhood, I don’t know what else is.
So to all single fathers or “seemingly single dads” out there, Happy Mother’s Day, too. You deserve to be recognized, as being a mom and dad to your children is one of the most admirable traits of a truly complete man. And do know that being a single dad doesn’t make you less of a man. It makes you more human. I salute you.