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When You're a Single Mother, Father's Day Can Suck

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: Oh, man ... Father's Day is coming up again. I have an uneasy relationship with this particular Hallmark holiday, not related to its reputed roots. In case you care, Hallmark is actually not the inventor. The creator of Father's Day was a single man named Charles Berlitz, whose father, Howard Berlitz, died of cancer in 1867. Charles made the day up to remember him. (That's according to Wikipedia, though historical facts have been known to be hazy on the Internet.)


History aside, Father's Day is a tough one for me because I am a single mom with a just-short-of-deadbeat babydaddy. The idea of celebrating his annual 39 nights of childcare and the few pennies he's thrown my way does not thrill me.

I dream of being the other kind of single mom -- the one with the involved ex who does his duty at holiday pageants, birthday parties and cheerleading competitions and is on the phone when the kids need him. Just this morning, I tried to set up a playdate with another single mom for this weekend, and she told me that her ex was taking the kids for the whole weekend to celebrate Father's Day. Wow. Sounds like Mother's Day to me.

In our house, we will struggle to create a couple of construction-paper cards and I'll pray he won't cancel on brunch with the kids. I have spent years trying to celebrate this man, but he prefers to be reclusive.

So my real work on Father's Day will be to help my girls make sense of this mess. That's all we can hope to do as single mothers: try not to take sides, and let our kids have whatever feelings they are going to have. It helps to bring the subject up if children are avoiding talking about feelings. Providing a verbal map for them to navigate through their many mixed emotions is an important job for all mothers.

As for my M.I.A. babydaddy, I try to teach my kids empathy and compassion by suggesting that Daddy had a bad childhood and the way he expresses love is a little different. I also remind them that he does love them dearly, and that he is working very hard so that we will have food to eat. And then I turn on my shower real loud and have a little boohoo myself.

In truth, I don't dream about being that other kind of single mom. I dream of being an intact family so Father's Day would celebrate something real. There are 14 million single mothers in America. Does anyone else have these feelings?

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30 comments so far | Post a comment now
Debbie June 19, 2010, 3:17 AM

Why don’t you lead by example and celebrate Father’s day by honoring…your father.

Alison June 19, 2010, 8:58 AM

I’ve been a single mom since the day my son was born, and I can testify that it’s been so hard watching & knowing that my son doesn’t have a father around like he needs. My son is just turning 5 months and watching ANY movie dealing with family or love (try finding a good one!) brings me to tears almost instantly. I just recently watched “the Lion King” and couldn’t finish watching that. I know my babydaddy means well & wants to do the right thing, but when it comes to it- i can only trust him as far as i can throw him & can’t rely on him for a damn. This also interferes with seeking another partner, the guilt of my son growing up with someone else as his father-figure always comes barreling on top of me. Being a single mom is THEE toughest thing I have ever had to do. But what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Alison June 19, 2010, 9:02 AM

I’ve been a single mom since the day my son was born, and I can testify that it’s been so hard watching & knowing that my son doesn’t have a father around like he needs. My son is just turning 5 months and watching ANY movie dealing with family or love (try finding a good one!) brings me to tears almost instantly. I just recently watched “the Lion King” and couldn’t finish watching that. I know my babydaddy means well & wants to do the right thing, but when it comes to it- i can only trust him as far as i can throw him & can’t rely on him for a damn. This also interferes with seeking another partner, the guilt of my son growing up with someone else as his father-figure always comes barreling on top of me. Being a single mom is THEE toughest thing I have ever had to do. But what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

ambur June 19, 2010, 11:24 AM

I’ve been a single mom since the day I found out I was pregnant and told my baby daddy…(he now claims to the world that him and I never even had sex) and haven’t heard or seen him since. But I know my daughter will be alright in the end without him. I may not be a great person but I’m trying and I think I’m pretty decent and I didn’t have a father. The best thing I can do for my daughter when she gets older and asks about “dad” is to let her know that his absence isn’t her fault and that he just needs to work some things out for himself before he can be rewarded with such an amazing gift and that mommy loves her more than anything in this world. I don’t put my love life on hold because I know a father figure would be good for her. So I work at trying to find someone who would be a positive influence on my daughter and help me to shape her into an amazing woman. As a young single mom things r hard not gonna lie about that one but in the end I’m glad her father’s not around because I don’t have to share her hehehe :)

Anonymous June 19, 2010, 11:25 AM

To Debbie … some of us don’t have fathers either, so it makes it a hard day for us as well.

Sandra June 19, 2010, 11:30 AM

Yes, someone else does feel the same way you do. I do. I think there is a very small percentage of women who actually want to be single mother’s. I know that I never did. That was never my intention. I had dreams of what life would be like. They included a husband and our children. Life doesn’t always agree with your dreams does it? I too dream of both situations you described; an intact family or a single mom with a hands on father. I’ve been a single mother since before the birth of my son. His father and I broke up when I was 4 months pregnant. We had been together for four years and we were engaged. As soon as we split up he got together with someone else and I didn’t hear from him for 7 years. I found him on myspace last summer. I only searched for him because my son told me he wanted to meet his dad. I had to at least make the effort. He’s been in his life since then. Every weekend? Not a chance. Sleepovers? Even less. Is he a good dad? Can’t say that but I also can’t say he’s a bad dad. He’s around when he wants to be. He’s picking up my son today instead of tomorrow. Why? I don’t know. I don’t like Father’s Day one bit. To Debbie: I would love to make my father’s day celebration about MY dad, but he’s a rare one. He doesn’t like to celebrate holidays. To Alison: It’s been 8 years now since i’ve been a mom and I can’t stand seeing couples and families in movies much less shopping on Friday nights in Target. Both bring me to tears and make me wonder “what happened to me?? What’s wrong with me?” To the author of this post: Thanks so much for writing this. I’m glad I’m not alone.

XXXX June 19, 2010, 11:44 AM

Hey Wendy: I remember when both of you were on “A Baby Story” and both of you seemed so much in love. What happened?

Anonymous June 19, 2010, 1:58 PM

Solution to single motherhood, use birth control and don’t have children until you are married!

Erin Wilson June 19, 2010, 3:48 PM

It sucks for the kids too… I remember making many Father’s Day cards in art class, knowing that I didn’t have anyone at home to give them to. Yuck.

I really hand it to you for helping your girls through this in such a healthy way!

Samsmom June 19, 2010, 4:10 PM

I share the feelings of all of you. I, however, have decided that father’s day is my day to celebrate as well. every father’s day card they make at school is mine and i’m going to enjoy the day with my children and feel sorry for their father that he is missing out on two of the greatest kids in the world. Screw you buddy!

chris June 19, 2010, 4:11 PM

I’m very lucky that my husband and I are still married (17yrs) so are children (14 & 10) can share this so-called holiday with him but I can tell you that my dad died when I was 10 (still married to my mom) and I always hated father day’s after that. It wasn’t until I had my own kids (15 yrs later) that I even bother to remember what day it fell on. I know so many children today that are growing up without a father by the mothers own choice, but I can tell you that it’s the worst feeling in the world to not have a father. It’s not only fathers’ day but all the other important days in a girl/woman life that may still like happy days but in your heart you know you’re missing out.

Neil H June 19, 2010, 6:53 PM

I often comment to you, darling Dr. Wendy, that as a single father I can truly empathize, and assure you it’s exactly the same from my perspective, just reversed.

But here’s what I REALLY want to tell you, Wen; of all the many single Moms I know, you are head and shoulders above 99.9%, and that’s not a dig at them but a compliment to you. You are the best Mother, single or not, I know. You have wrapped those lovely girls in a coccoon so loving and happy, you’ve succeeded in minimizing his negative impact, while allowing them to still see what little positive he presents. And all the while showing them that a Woman can AND SHOULD be strong, successful, warm, loving, and beautiful.

You win, they win. He’s the only loser. Stop worrying about his failures and look in the mirror… at an extremely successful PARENT.

Angel June 19, 2010, 7:11 PM

I feel for you. I walked your shoes. Thank you for being so open about your feelings.I do not know you in person only thru TV and media but I believe you are a wonderful Mom and Human being. Love yourself, YOU are the BEST doing your best with the situation.Blessings

Marie  June 20, 2010, 12:05 PM

Over the years I have met so many single Mothers. 99.9% of whom became sole parents due to being abandoned by their partner. I don’t think men realize how much they mean to their children. I don’t think they realize, that when they abandon their partners, they are also abandoning the love their children need - from - them and want to give - to - them. I have never understood how a supposedly “mature” adult could openly and deliberately, reject a child’s love and yet, so many men do exactly that. I don’t know if they are too self-absorbed, not to care about the devastating emotional pain they cause their children, or, are they just too callous ?! I have seen the shell children build around their hearts, to stop the hurt from their Father’s rejection and abandonment. I have seen it time and time again. The saddest part of this disruption to their normal, emotional and social growth, is that this hurt and pain carries into their adulthood, which in turn, affects all of their relationships. The scars run long and deep.

XXXX June 20, 2010, 2:43 PM

Virgil left?

derrick June 21, 2010, 3:47 PM

Women need to collectively work on divorce. The facts are the facts: Divorce is at 51% in America. Of that, 70% of high school educated women chose to pull the divorce trigger. Of college educated, it is a 90% pull of the trigger. Men chose to stay married- women are the ones who chose to divorce. Stop divorcing the men, and maybe, just maybe, the smart men who didn’t get married will come back to the holy event of marriage. Divorce statistics are not 50/50 in percentage. They should be and they are not. My advice to younger men- do not get married, if you want children, with a 51% divorce statistic, you are better off to pay the child support at $700 per child. What have any of you women done to fight for any rights of men? Did you know that equal number of men have prostate cancer relative to breast cancer, yet all you talk about is breast cancer. What about custody? Why is it that a huge percentage of women have custody of the children? Don’t you women want equality? How about Selective Service? Why don’t you women demand that this country force all women at 18 to sign up for Selective Service like all the 18 yr old men- you want equality right? How about the fact, yes fact, that men, on average, serve 70% of their sentence, and don’t see their children all that time, yet women, serving a prison sentence for the very same crime, only serve 10% of their time they were convicted for? I ask, do you not want equality? Fight to make sure women serve equal time in prison, fight for basic equality for men, then and only then, will men like me feel for you. Other than that, you picked the apple- Adam is just dealing with the consequences the best he can. The fact is, when there is a domestic dispute, do you think it is fair that men are hauled away for a night in jail in 99% of the cases? Where are you women? Will you stand up for fathers? NO- none of you have. That is the reason men are finished playing this game. We don’t want marriage anymore- at least the smart ones know to stay away. This way, if you cause one argument, threaten a John Wayne man in any fashion- they can just walk away and not spend time in jail for your bad temper. What ever you do, don’t stand up for equality. God forbid- you don’t want true equality. Let men spend 70% of their sentences and women only 10%. Hey, if you want the truth: Look up the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services report on “The Maltreatment of the Child”. It is a yearly report. In there, you will find, that mothers abuse their children at twice the rate of fathers. This twice rate also holds true for parents that kill their children. Why? Explain to the world why women abuse, up to killing their children, at twice the rate. Explain why, the mothers who shack up with a man have that man abuse her children at a far greater rate than fathers who shack up with a strange woman, (in that case the biological father does not abuse the child nor does the new woman). Why such difference? I thought it was the evil men that were abusive? Hmmmm… I wonder why men are staying away from danger? No man wants a woman accusing him of abuse. No man thinks it’s fair that when a woman calls 911 for a fight that she starts, that the man should be sent to jail for the night. Are women standing up to demand equality? No- picking that apple is just too easy now, isn’t it? Adam, this time, is staying away. Sorry. Make things truely equal, demand equality, demand that the holiness of marriage, a sacred vow, to death do us part, is brought back, and you will see men take a chance again. But, who wants to take a chance when the deck is stacked against the man? 51% divorced out of all that is married? Sorry, Adam says no to 51%. I argue that women should fight for a divorce rate equal to the unemployment rate. If you think that 6% unemployed is normal, than it should be 6% divorce allowed. Yes, getting the divorce rate down low will fix alot- men will marry more often, if there is signs of abuse, put court ordered cameras in the home, and video tape the abuse. Then, you may get a divorce. The person committing the abuse to the other spouse needs to go to jail for a specified time, (wouldn’t that be fair?). Men are creatures of law- they want a level playing field/ fairness. When they see things are not fair- they simply stay away. First, fix simple things: demand women spend equal percentage time for prison sentences. Second, demand that all people, men and women, sign up for Selective Service. Then, work in getting divorce away from the 50% mark, and you will see men running to create and work themselves to death for their families to whom they are married. I myself, work myself toward death for my family. My wife appreciates it, and my children realize my hard work. That is why Father’s Day is celebrated. All that I have is mine because of hard work. I have seen the entire rainbow get into college ahead of me. I have seen my fellow men be ruined by divorce, I hold steadfast and work for my family. You women want communism; men just want to work hard and provide only for their families. Maybe, you should look at what type of men you chose. Oh, one great inequality- why is it that a man living on the street with no job is called a “bum”, but a woman in the same situation is called “charity”? Maybe, you need to demand that America helps these bums on the street equally to the women living in section 8 housing. Yes, I believe that 80% of section 8 housing is women, (young and old). Why? I thought we are all equal. The above are just a few unequal things that women know about, but refuse to make equal. Men know it, and have chosen to stay away. Work on divorce- it’s the only way to glue the apple back on the tree. Then again, keep divorcing and bring divorce percentage from 51% to say 80 to 90% and you might as well take an ax to the tree of life. True equality is what men demand.

Carissa June 21, 2010, 6:34 PM

From a teen without a father this year, it sucks. Not that i want my dad to be since he abused me but it really hurt me, waking up on father’s day without a father to celebrate. but what I can say is that every child does have a Father to celebrate on father’s day..our heavenly father GOD. Thats who I celebrated! I feel that some people forget your most important father and thats the one in heaven. Sure, it may hurt not having your ‘earthly’ father there but I know I will always have my heavenly father that I can count on and love. So do you all you single mom’s and their children! Im helping my mom and myself get through it aswell. Remind your children of their “never fail” loving father. GOD! Thats what helped me get through the day, and day’s to come! I hope that helped a little. Keep a positive mindset and know that god will help through your darkest day’s. you are his children so have faith and pray! Have a good father’s day celebrating your heavenly father! God bless, Carissa

HeeHee June 21, 2010, 6:36 PM

What happened to Virgil? We’re you married or not?

Sylvia Woody July 5, 2010, 4:16 PM

I have always been a single mom and even with the father around sometimes for the children, the kids always gave me the credit for Father’s Day. It was much harder when they were little, but when I hear my 26 year old daughter wish me a Happy Father’s Day, I feel proud that she gives me that credit. I do feel bad for the fact that their father is no longer around and wasn’t much before.

uuuu July 10, 2010, 5:23 PM

Thank you for posting this. I am a single mom too and I sometimes can’t help but feel like “I am the only one” in this situation.

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