note: this is a recycled post. Edited a bit but I ran it last year on Father's Day. The year before that I ran one with a decidedly different message, you can read that one here, if you'd like. I was going to write a 2013 version, but guess what? I'm still on board with what 2012 Jenny had to say about it. Happy Father's Day, to all the Daddy's out there.
Since my divorce, my kids have taken to the custom of wishing me a Happy Father's Day. At first it made me uncomfortable, but then I got to liking it. Enjoying it. I felt as though I deserved it. After all, who was the one who dried their tears, made their lunches and cleaned their underwear? Me. I did it all. Dammit, I was both mother and father. Or at least that's how it seemed.
But I've had second thoughts. Don't get me wrong: I do the work of two people, just about every day of my life. I was talking to my attorney the other day, and he said something that really hit home:
"You take care of the kids 90% of the time, Jenny."
90% of the time. That's wild. Can you imagine missing out on 90% of your child's daily life? I can't.
This Father's Day differed a little from last year. This year, Big Daddy actually made plans with the kids, plans to pick them up. "They're having a Father's Day pool party, mom!" the kids told me. He picked them up, all four of them, at the time he said he would. I said, "Have a great day, guys" and then I prayed for rain (yes, I did. Don't judge.).
It's been raining for several hours now, and that's given me a lot of time to think about things (the fact that I now control the weather is not the least of those things). I've re-read my Father's Day post from last year, and I felt some of those old feelings again. The anger at my ex, the disappointment I saw in my kid's faces...all of it. But something is different this year. Something has settled in me, mellowed.
I'm not the father. Sure, I do the jobs of both mother and father in my day-to-day, but the reality is, my kids have a dad. Is he Father of the Year? Hell no. I'm fighting to get him to pay child support, and he's hiring a lawyer to fight me back rather than just pay up, but at the end of the day, he is still their dad.
And even though he's dropped the ball in the dad game, even though his choices and his actions have had a huge, mostly negative, impact on the lives of my kids, I now know this: It could be worse. It could be so, so much worse.
All you have to do is read some of the news stories that seem to never end, the ones about men who are convicted of horrendous crimes. Crimes against their kids. Neglect, abuse, torture. Murder. When you compare my ex-husband to some of these turds, he looks like Ward-freaking-Cleaver (that's like Phil Dunphy, my younger readers).
It doesn't take a whole lot of work to become a dad. Hardly any. Just one tiny little sperm cell drilling into a larger, but still tiny, egg. Boom. You're a dad. But it's what you do after that little miracle occurs that makes you a father.
My kids have a father. He was there when they were born, he held them when they were babies. He changed some diapers and pushed the strollers and watched them while I was at work. Something in him changed, and made him leave us, but he was there, for a little bit.
For a little bit, my kids did have a pretty decent dad. And that is why I can't take any credit on this day. Because even though I may do the work of two people, even though he is now more of an extra, a stand-in in their lives, he is their father. This is his day.
But don't worry, I can still be a snark. I'm going to share a clip from one of the best movies ever made. It's a line that made me cringe the first time I heard it, which was way before I had even THOUGHT about becoming a mom. And it's a line that makes me sad now, but also makes me laugh. Because I love what he does right after he says it...he kind of shakes it off. That's what I'm doing, and I hope my kids can someday do it too..shake it off.
So, to those of you who may have stumbled here looking for ways to wish the single mom in your life a "Happy Father's Day", may I politely suggest that you find some other way to honor her today. Save the Father's Day platitudes for the men, even those that may fall a little short in the dad department. Single moms, like yours truly, we do work our asses off...every day. We do the work of two people and we do it quietly, without (too much) bitching. We do it because we know that nobody else is going to do it, and we do it because we love our kids.
If you have a single mom in your life, do this: give her a hug. Hang out with her. Go see a movie with her. Buy her a drink next time you're out (Stella with a lime, or a big old dirty martini would be good).
But instead of saying "Happy Father's Day", try something different: tell her that she's doing a good job. Tell her that you're proud of her, tell her not to give up. Tell her that her kids are good kids and that they'll grow up to be good adults. Tell her that what she's doing may be the hardest thing she's ever done, but it will be worth it.
She'll appreciate it. Believe me.
Now go give the dads in your life a big hug. They deserve it.