As I peruse Facebook today, I started to notice all the highly emotional content of my friends’ statuses. While I am sure there are a zillion deadbeat mothers, when it comes to social media and Mother’s Day, I don’t notice the same emptiness and longing, unless it is for a mother who has passed away. This isn’t to say that mothers are inherently better than fathers, but that there are a generation of people, notably female, who are longing for the fathers they never had.
Some people were completely abandoned by their dads, and others weren’t abandoned, but neglected–some notably so, and others in a more hidden, behind closed doors fashion.
Post after post, women–maybe because I am female I heard more “female” voices–cried out for the father they wish they had, or wish they knew. Some had other men step in to do the job, and others did not. Some women mourn for their children; their children suffer the lack of a father, which hurts the mom and kids.
Our generation–my generation, was home to a lot of fathers who felt that paying the bills and coming home were good measures of strong parenting. While clearly many of my friends and acquaintances could have only wished for a man to show up and pay those damn bills, a lot of women and men from my generation lacked play, compassion, and nurturing from the person they called Dad, Pops, Father, Daddy-o, or what have you. Mothers filled the other needs, and fathers were financial providers and head of the house.
With the advent of women in the working world, these roles have altered, and while some argue that woman working has brought on higher divorce rates, etc, the coming generations, such as my daughter’s are truly blessed to have a whole new breed of Fathers.
Fathers today are more active and involved with their children—on the whole. Yes, there were good dads back in the day, and there are shit dads currently out there sharing their sperm, but in general, our culture has formed a different role and expectations for fathers in this day and age.
It isn’t enough to pay the bills and come home Dads and Husbands: we want you emotionally involved and invested. We want you to cook, clean, play, put on some makeup during dress up, and wipe a few dirty asses.
I would love to see what type of Father’s Day posts will crop up on the walls of my daughters’ future 20-40 year old female friends. I suspect that the dialogue on fatherhood will be much better.
Men get a bad rap in many ways. You never hear people dishing the dirt on crappy mothers on their day, but with fathers, we as a culture–both female and male, really seem to be hurting. The good fathers and men I suspect, feel a bit cheated by the reputation that is held against them. The single mothers and children who have been abandoned by these men, have left a hole, insurmountable at times, that these mothers have to fill.
I know wonderful single fathers, and some of these men struggle, while the women lack clearly in every sense of the word, but our culture doesn’t have much of a dialogue for these single men. There is no narrative or culture of empathy for men who parent alone, without a present mother. I feel for these men highly, but I also know that the dialogue and culture of empathy written out for single mothers, is based on a myriad of factors.
We Mothers embody a generation of children. The expectations are always that we will be nurturing, present, and active. Now we also have the expectation to provide financially. For a single mother, she not only has to fulfill the maternal roles, but now she has to be the financial provider. She has to pay the bills, show up, and be super woman, which is what society expects of all mothers usually anyway. I am not stating that we should empathize more for single mothers than fathers, but that to remember how much we automatically expect from mothers is significantly different from what we expect from fathers. When a dad changes a diaper, we all applaud him for being such an awesome guy. When a mother works full-time and raises kids, we nod and say,”That’s what she’s supposed to do. She’s a mother.”
Additionally, women make less than men, so now you’ve got a single woman trying to raise kids on her own on less income than what a present father would have provided.
Now don’t think I am pitying single moms–it’s the toughest job out there, to be a single parent, but most people I know don’t want pity–just empathy. I know amazing single moms that are so strong, and don’t feel a lick of sadness that Pops never shows up to be a dad, but it is reality that a single mom has some work cut out for her that a single dad may not have.
Please remember I am generalizing to some extent, and that obviously, a single mother who is a lawyer, is faring better than a single dad who is a grocer.
I think the Facebook and social media walls are all a “twitter” over fathers because it is also socially acceptable to speak of negligent dads. For my friends whose mothers have been disgustingly absent, it is a quiet topic. We expect mothers to be there. A negligent mother is horrifying, and crushes society’s hopes in so many ways. Think of all the horrific moms in the news in the past 10 years that we have absolutely hated without even knowing them because they were murderers, child abusers, and more. While we hated male/father absuers, killers, etc, we really felt our blood boil when as females and mothers, we saw abusive murdering moms on the news.
Our culture is invested in Mothers. We don’t shine a significant enough of a spotlight on them to really discuss the pains of those who didn’t have a mom to hug, or lean on.
It’s time to really evaluate what we ascribe to parents of both genders, and to reconceptualize what it means to parent. Men are weighed down by social mores as much as women; we just may feel it more because of the financial and societal sexism that still exists. I think we are getting closer to doing this on so many levels.
For all of you who are missing a father, loving your father, or appropriating a different man to call “daddy,” enjoy your day today. To all dads, whether you struggle to parent or find it the easiest and best job ever, enjoy today and keep on showing up and trying your best.
We need you. Today’s women and girls want you more than ever.