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No one is both mother & father to their children
Mark Echols (Guest Blogger)
One of my favorite movies is Antwone Fisher. I believe that the movie appealed to me, as someone who regularly works with children. As a result of my work with children, I was particularly attuned to Antwone struggles to go through life as an abused and abandoned child. One of my favorite scenes in Antwone Fisher happened during his first break through therapy session. When asked who his parents were Antwone responded, “I have no parents”. In response to Antwone’s proclamation that he had no parents, the therapist simply stated “that would make you a medical miracle” (Washington, 2002). My initial reaction to this exchange in the movie was amusement at the clever word play; however, this verbal exchange has since taken on profound significance. Father’s day is celebrated every year in June. For more Junes than I can remember I have heard some women wish happy father’s day to all fathers; then boldly proclaim themselves “both mother & father to their children”. This June like so many others, I have once again heard this declaration. That on father’s day, women who are “both mother & father to their children” should also receive recognition. After so many years of standing by and holding my tongue; today I am going to respond: “If you are both mother & father to your children, then that would make you a medical miracle”.
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It is clear that the sentiment that leads some women to proclaim themselves both mother
& father to their children (as well as the root cause behind this issue) is the large number of
fathers who are absent from their children’s lives. It is also clear that this issue is extremely
painful for those affected by it. Single parent families have increased significantly and
consistently over the past 5 decades in the US. Although single parent families have increased
across all races (among all social and economic classes), they are particularly prevalent in the
African American community. The overwhelming majority of single parent families are led by
women, many of these women don’t receive any support from the men who fathered their
children. Lack of support from the fathers of their children, leaves too many women with the
responsibility of raising their families by themselves. Without question many single mothers do
a spectacular job of raising their children. Mothers are special, and they deserve special
recognition. As a man who has a close relationship with his own mother, I believe that there
can never be enough praise for mothers. Mother should really be praised all year long. However
as a man who also has a close relationship with his father, I believe that recognition of mothers
(no matter how special) should not occur on father’s day.
Father’s day was founded in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd; a woman who wanted to give
the father that raised her as a single parent, special recognition. Sonora Smart Dodd recognized
that there were other fathers like the one she had (men who have a special love and dedication to
their children), and believed that they should be honored. This is why we celebrate father’s day
in the US. The purpose of father’s day is more important today than it ever has been. The
image of the “dead beat dad” and “absentee father” dominates the media. This is especially true
in the African American community. This issue is so significant that President Obama in a 2008
father’s day speech at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago now famously stated that “too
many fathers are missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have
abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men”. Certainly this is the case for
women who state that they are both mother & father to their children on father’s day; however,
despite the almost exclusive concentration on the so called “dead beat dad”, fathers today play a
more significant role in their children’s lives than they ever have.
While an abnormality in the time of Sonora Smart Dodd, the number of single father
families also has continued to increase over the past 5 decades. Fathers today proudly take on
child rearing tasks which were once considered “women’s work”. Today fathers cook for their
children, they bath their children, they dress them and take them to school. Fathers in today’s
time bottle feed their babies in the middle of the night, and they help children with their
homework. Father’s take their children to the park and to the movies. Fathers take their sons to
the barber shop and their daughters to the salon. Many men today also without hesitation take on
the role of step-father to those children who have been abandoned by their biological fathers. I
can personally attest to the increasing role that father’s play in their children’s lives, because I
include myself among this number. I can also personally attest that I am not the only father who
can make this claim. I like many fathers take my children to school every day and to the park
every weekend. I like many fathers show up for parent-teacher conferences and take my children
to doctor’s appointments. I encounter other fathers (a significant number of whom are African
American) who also proudly take on these responsibilities. I like many fathers have been with
my children from the moment of their conception to their birth to the present day. I like my
father before me (like his father & his father’s father) intend to take my children from childhood
Father’s day is meant to recognize men like Sonora Smart Dodd’s father. It was meant
to recognize men like my father. To give praise to single mothers on father’s day is a dishonor
to its meaning. To give focus on father’s day to men who aren’t providing for their children is a
disrespect to the purpose of the day (a disrespect that is not done on mother’s day despite the
existence of women that abandon and abuse their children). Unfortunately there are too many
fathers who are absent from their children’s lives, and there has been little insight on how to
reverse this trend. Thus far it does not appear that efforts to shame absentee fathers into
playing a role in their children’s lives have been successful. Perhaps by celebrating those special
fathers who are involved in their children’s lives, who dedicated themselves to providing for
their family, we can inspire those who don’t. Positive reinforcement will always be a more
powerful educational tool than negative reinforcement. Men who don’t take care their children,
receive criticism and distain 364 days a year. Let’s save father’s day to celebrate those who do
take care of their children (and do an exceptional job of doing so). Let’s celebrate father’s day
without political messages and speeches. Let’s not put an asterisk on father’s day. Every year in
June for one day let’s just say, “Happy Father’s Day”.
Washington, D. (2002). Antwone Fisher. Beverly Hills: Twentieth Century Fox.
About the Blogger:
Mark Echols has worked in child welfare and education for the past 11 years. He holds a Master's in Counseling Studies and a Bachelor's in History. He's currently studying for a PhD in Human Behavior. He says thank you for providing me with a platform to share my thoughts on Father's day and for others to Read! You can connect with Mark on Facebook!
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