Sunday, June 26, 2011

You're Not a Mother and a Father, You're One or the Other....

When Mother's Day rolls around I don't say to a father "Happy Mother's Day," why because he's not a mother. I don't care if he's had custody of his child since the child was born, no financial, or emotional support from the mother, doesn't make him a mother. Same with Father's Day, no I wont say Happy Father's Day to a single mother, why, because she's not a father. For some reason this has folks in an uproar, but it shouldn't you have Mother's Day/Father's Day for a reason to celebrate each in their respective rights. 

Had a discussion with someone recently, and like every May/ June, I’m sure I’ll have some more about this issue, and this person made some good points. In the back and forth I asked the question how does it benefit the child saying Happy Mother’s Day to a father and vice-versa, the response, what day does either provide.  I realized I asked the wrong question, I should’ve asked is there any harm done through this gesture.

The reality is I understand why someone chooses to say I’m the father and the mother, but the truth is this is not reality.  Some say, Shawn it’s just semantics a play on words, but it’s more than that.  Absent fatherhood is an issue I deal with in my efforts to promote responsible fatherhood, and while fatherhood is an issue everywhere, in the US the biggest impact is felt in the low-income black community.  With over 70’s of children growing up in single family homes something needs to change.

I think the change begins with the parents, so back to the benefits/ harm question.  No it serves no benefit to the child rather or not they wish their father a Happy Mother’s Day or wish their mother a Happy Father’s Day, but here’s the reality. We know in the low income community fatherhood seems, at time, non-existent.  Like so many other disparities in the low income black community such as heart disease, poverty, high dropout rates, and so on it’s a problem that needs to be addressed and resolved. I say addressed because we don’t do it, we talk about it as a problem but we don’t address the issue itself (I’ll cover that next time).

Ok, here’s my scenario based on my personal experience as a father, my professional experience working with father’s and responsible fatherhood practitioners, my role as a confidant to many single mothers raising sons, and my civic involvement in schools working with youth.  Let’s say we have a single mother raising a son, this son grows up with no positive male involvement.

This child hears all the time from the mother “I’m your mother and your father,” or “I’m the only father you know,” while I can understand that perspective based on the parents frustration and struggle what about the psychological development of the child.  It’s bad enough the father isn’t around, it’s equally devastating no positive males around, but now on top of that, he’s hearing a woman say essentially “I’m not only a woman, but a man.”

When this young black male grows up dealing with all the peer pressures, struggles, and obstacles life has to throw at him, he’s going to wrestle with his identity, when he has a child if it doesn’t work with the mother (bad relationships), struggles with the family court (difficult time navigating child welfare system), and isn’t involved in the life of his child like he wants or should be, what’s he going to fall back on, are the voices in his head.  The voices in his head that recall a woman saying “I’m the mother and the father,” at this point if that male says, they don’t need me, meaning his family, which is the sad reality a lot of times (now we deal with mental wellness), that’s how this terminology, this play on words, can have a negative effect on the child.  Also, you can flip the roles, let’s say it’s a female in this situation, it could make her have a difficult time working with the father, when they struggle, because if her mom is both why can’t she be, and thus, her kids don’t NEED a father, because she is mama, and daddy.

                                                                                                Shawn Gardner

1 comment:

  1. After I had my baby the first advice I was given was "you can only be a mother so be the best mother you can be." That's why I never bought into the mindset that I fill both roles. But that it my thinking. To me there are a lot of single parents out there struggling to do the best they can and if it makes them feel better about the way they parent then why does it bother anyone else? If as adults people look back and see that their single parent did the best they could for them and tried to play dual roles then hopefully they will not feel confusion but pride that someone loved them enough to take on another role.