men, masculinities and gender politics

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When You’re a Good Dad, Every Day is Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is again upon us. (For most of the world, that is. For most of us, Father’s Day occurs on the third Sunday in June. But there is no unanimity as to the date. Other popular dates on which people around the world honor fathers include March 19 and June 21 – the beginning of summer. People in Australia and New Zealand celebrate Father’s Day in September, and much of Scandinavia observes the holiday in November.)

But the specific date shouldn’t really matter, because for a good father, every day is Father’s Day!

Raising kids is hard work! Research shows that heterosexual men’s involvement in the parenting of their children is steadily increasing. And that’s a really great thing! However, it is also clear that the majority of the actual work of childrearing still falls to women. And that is a very bad thing! The time that dads spend with kids is still disproportionately play time. Going hiking. Going to the park. Playing ball. And while it is great – essential! – to have fun with your kids, it is critical to keep in mind that raising kids is a heck of a lot of work, too.

So, if you are a man who has kids, absolutely do something fun with them this Father’s Day! But remember that love and care also get communicated when you help your kids through the drudgery of every-day life, and not just when you play with them on holiday weekends. In fact, it is probably during the drudgery of the day-to-day that love gets communicated best. Our kids need to know that we are there for them both in good times and in bad. And not just when the sun is shining.

So, as you celebrate this day, please also take a moment to think about what kind of father you want to be during the rest of the year as well – during the next 364 days until Father’s Day rolls around again.

Here are ten suggestions to help you make sure that you remain a regular, reliable fixture in your kids’ day-to-day life – and that you help share the burden of child rearing: 

 
  1. Take it upon yourself to schedule and attend a doctor or dentist appointment for your child.
  1. Take your child shopping for school supplies.
  1. Take a sick day and stay home to care for your child when he or she is ill.
  1. Have a developmentally-appropriate sex talk with your child. We should not be leaving the task of sexual education solely to women. And our daughters need good information about sexuality from their fathers (and father figures) every bit as much as our sons do.
  1. Help your child to clean his or her bedroom and do laundry.
  1. Prepare a list of healthy foods with your child, then go buy the food, and prepare it back at home. Do this often.
  1. Make the lunches for your kids every other week.
  1. Attend parent-teacher meetings.
  1. Attend your child’s concert or other event at the school.
  1. Give the mother of your children a day off! Better yet, give her a whole weekend off! And in addition to that, if you can afford to, go ahead and buy her a day of pampering at a local spa! (This might cut into your beer budget. But do it anyway!)

A word to non-custodial fathers: If you find yourself in the painful position of being a noncustodial father, offer to do these 10 things anyway. Depending on your relationship with the child’s mother, some of these offers of help may not be entirely well-received. But chances are that they will be. (And remember, you have to love your kids more than you hate your ex!)

In fact, some of the best dads I know do not have their kids with them all of the time. But their kids are always on their mind and always in their heart. Even if they don’t live under the same roof.

And, about that spa day: even if you are separated or divorced, buy it for the kids’ mom anyway! She is the mother of your kids. And she always will be. She deserves a day at the spa!

Do it because it is a kind thing to do.

Do it to show your kids that a good father will always treat their mother well.

A word to fathers who abuse women: If you do things that harm women – you need to stop. Right now. And until you stop mistreating women, you really have no business celebrating Father’s Day. Because treating women badly is no way to model fatherhood. It gives your kids a terrible message about what being a man and being a father is all about.

When you treat a child’s mother abusively, you are not being a good father. I don’t care how “wrong” you think she is and just how “right” you know you are – there is no excuse for abusing a woman – especially not the mother of your child.

How would you feel if you saw someone treating your own mother like dirt? You probably wouldn’t like it very much. And maybe you happen to be one of those guys who did see some guy treating your mother badly. You probably didn’t like it very much then either. So just remember, when you are treating a woman badly, you are being that guy who mistreated your own mom.

If you do have a pattern of abusing the mother of your kids, chances are your attempts to be “super dad” will be met with some suspicion. And in my opinion, others are right to be suspicious, because you sure as hell weren’t being a good dad while you abused their mom. So why have you suddenly decided to start being a great dad now? What has changed?

If you mistreat women, I would suggest that you spend some time on Father’s Day really thinking about just what kind of father you want your kids to have. ‘Cause right now your performance as a dad is nothing to celebrate.

But there is a good chance that it will be imitated.

A word to grandfathers, stepfathers, uncles, coaches, teachers, and other father figures: If you are a man who has kids in your life – even if they are not biologically or legally “yours” – chances are that you are a father figure to them. You play a critical role in their lives, and your impact can be immense. Do not discount how important you are to them. So, if you are a positive male role model for the kids in your life, even if they are not “yours,” go ahead and take some time to celebrate yourself on Father’s Day.

A word to families with “two daddies”: If you are a man in a same-sex partnership and you are raising kids, you guys are doubly lucky – you get to have twice the fun on Father’s Day! And your kids get to celebrate both of their daddies on this day! Over the years I have known several gay male couples who are raising kids. And they are doing a heck of a good job! These couples have often worked very hard just in order to become parents. And they spend a ton of energy focusing on good parenting. The research shows that their kids are doing at least as well as kids in hetero-parented families.

Supporters of reproductive rights like to say that “every child should be a wanted child.” And the children of households with two daddies tend to be really, really wanted. And loved. And cherished. And happy.

To all the dads around the world – have a happy Father’s Day, whenever you happen to celebrate it!

(And don’t forget to buy that “spa day” for the mother of your kids!)