When Father's Day isn't easy
A reflection from a single mum on how to navigate Father's Day well
For all sorts of reasons, Father’s Day isn’t always easy. This single mum shares her experience which can help all of us, as friends and church family, to be aware of how our celebration of Father’s Day might impact others.
‘For me, Father’ Day is just one of those days … I appreciate its place for my own dad, and do buy him a card and take him out for a meal, but as a single mum the day is just not good.
It started when my daughter was six. Her own dad lived a long way away and just hadn’t mastered the art of being there for her – contact was loving but sporadic, and she was confused and hurt. We went to church on Father’s Day – with hindsight, perhaps not the best of decisions – and the well-meaning preacher started waxing lyrical about how our dads were so wonderful. To my horror, her eyes filled with tears, and as she looked at me, distraught, I saw red; I swooped her up and we left.
We’ve managed Father’s Day better since then, mostly by making sure it’s a really low key event. But it’s not easy. My daughter’s relationship with her dad is her business and I can’t magic it better; we’ve spent lots of time talking through how he does love her, even if he doesn’t show it in ways she recognises easily or try to see her. She has a wonderful relationship with her granddad who has in many ways been a dad to her, but it’s still not the real thing, and I’ve come to realise, and had to accept, that this is something she will live with for the rest of her life. Kind people in church sometimes try to tell her that she has a Heavenly Father as if this is the same as having an earthly dad, but of course it’s not – otherwise, why would God have bothered inventing fathers in the first place!
But I’ve also come to realise it’s not the be all and end all. We’re a single parent family and my daughter doesn’t have a dad – but that is true of millions of people all over the world. I can’t really influence her dad’s attitude, but I’ve learnt that I can influence lots of other things. There’s a couple of verses in Psalm 68 which I come back to time and again: ‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families …’.
I used to think that meant God would find me a new husband and my daughter a great stepdad, but as time has gone on and that hasn’t happened, I’ve understood things differently. We may be a little family, an incomplete family in a way, but actually, we are rich in friends and have a powerful and loving church family whom we are completely a part of, and who we love and support and who love and support us. I may not be able to influence my daughter’s dad, but I can build a rich network of relationships that bring us joy and wisdom as well as people who are there when we need them. That is church at its best!’