It’s Father’s Day again. Last year on the third Sunday of June, I posted this snarky comment on Facebook: “Since I’m a single mother, does that mean my kids have to make me a cake on Father’s Day?” Lots of people—especially other single moms—thought that sentiment was soooo cute.
This year, I made my sons pancakes.
Here’s the deal. Single mothers cannot be fathers. I’m not just talking about biology. I’m a single mom, raising two teenage boys full time by myself, and in a life of bars set high, it’s bar-none the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. But I’m not both their father and their mother, and I don’t want to be.
Here are ten things single moms can do just as well as fathers:
- Make pancakes for your sons on Father’s Day.
- Work hard and make barely enough money to pay for the 6.7 gallons of milk your teenage boys drink each week.
- Watch Battlestar Gallactica with your sons.
- Don’t complain when the boys transform the kitchen into a model rocket factory at 1:00 in the morning.
- Say, “No, I will not buy you potassium nitrate at the garden store. I do not believe you when you say that you plan to make sugar with the potassium nitrate. I believe that you plan to use the potassium as rocket fuel accelerant.”
- Have that extremely awkward “This is a banana, and this is a condom” talk—early and often.
- Make your kids work. You work all day—they can do the dishes and fold the laundry. They can even iron their own shirts.
- Don’t buy them every single thing they ask for, and don’t feel guilty about it.
- Teach your sons to respect everyone, but especially women. If they respect women, maybe the next generation of children won’t be raised by single mothers.
- Love your sons. No matter what.
And here’s one thing single moms can never do just as well as fathers: be your kid’s father.
So stop trying.
Very few (sane) women sign up to be single mothers voluntarily (see #6 above). I certainly was not one of them. I never expected to be celebrating Father’s Day with my sons without their father. This is why the one piece of indispensable knowledge I want to impress on my sons is that if and when they decide to become fathers, they must understand and embrace the life-altering nature of that commitment.
Children need their fathers. Even when the fathers stop needing—or loving—their partners, fathers should never abandon their children, not for any reason. As long as single mothers continue to denigrate their vital role as co-parents (the horrible “sperm donor” moniker comes to mind), fathers will have less incentive to take the responsibility that is theirs.
So single-mom girlfriends, you can’t be your children’s father and mother, and you should stop trying to be. But you can be—and you are—their mother. On Father’s Day, let’s celebrate the men we know who have made a difference in their children’s lives, and in our children’s lives as well. I’m thinking of the scoutmaster who patiently worked with my son who has developmental disabilities, or the father of my oldest son’s best friend who takes him along on ski and biking trips, or my partner, who has no children of his own but has graciously made space for my children in his life.
What should a single mother do on Father’s Day? Do something that makes you feel good, of course. Myself, I went for a pedicure with hot pink nail polish. Then I took my boys to see a sci fi movie we all loved. It’s good to be a mother on Father’s Day.