While no one has asked me “How can I not be a jerk on Father’s Day?” (which may suggest we don’t take it as seriously as we take Mother’s Day), I don’t want to ignore it. In the US, we seem to have the idea that all fathers fit into a couple of neat categories: workaholic dad, deadbeat dad, or wacky/inept dad. And that’s a fucking shame, because dads can be those things, sure, but they can also be the primary caretakers, the supporters, the comforters. They might be the person who a child feels closest too. And they deserve to be treated better than as an afterthought.
So, some suggestions:
1. Please don’t assume everyone is a father, and don’t wish someone a happy father’s day unless you know they are actually a father. For the same reasons as you shouldn’t wish a woman a happy mother’s day.
2. If possible, please don’t fall into the trap of getting the card that relegates your dad to the role of goofy side-kick to your mother’s long suffering hero.* Yeah, I get that those cards can be kind of funny, but they also perpetuate this idea that mothers are always the one who do all the things, and dads are just there to coach teams and watch TV. Again, this may have been true for your family when growing up, but it’d be great if we could get away from this as the default dad setting in pop culture.
3. Please don’t assume this is an easy or carefree day for everyone. Some people grow up with one parent for many reasons, and may be feeling that absence strongly. Some may have lost their father recently (or not so recently; there’s no time line for grief). Some may hate their father and thus hate the reminder of the day. Some may not have a father talking to them, might have a father who disowned them for some perceived slight. This is a hard day for them.
4. Partners, please don’t just let dad go golf or engage in some other stereotypically male activity and then call it good for another year. Consider using this as a reminder to find ways to support your partner to help him be the best dad he can be.
5. If you do find that you are engaging in what you feel are obligatory activities in honor of Father’s Day, please do not complain about it to your friends who no longer have their fathers in their lives (or who want to be fathers but can’t be yet). While you are definitely allowed your feelings, consider how it might make your friend feel if you unload your thoughts on them.
6. If you love Father’s Day and enjoy celebrating with your children and your own dad, please don’t feel guilty or bad. If you want to mark the day with all the things we think of when we picture Father’s Day, then you should go for it.
*I mean, unless that actually applies, and if you think it does, think about why.