Warning: personal content follows. Skip if you expect a book review or pictures of houses.
I grew up in a culture with no Valentine’s Day, no Mothers’ Day, no Fathers’ Day… We celebrated the start of spring on the 1st of March with Mărțișor and Women’s Day on the 8th of March (recognising that women are seldom given the credit they deserve, so they need an extra day to boost awareness of all that they do). The former was somewhat commercial, the latter somewhat state-sponsored, but all in all it was a rather nice way to leave winter behind and look forward to spring. Nobody needed to feel left out.
Am I the only one who feels these Western holidays, that are supposed to focus on celebration of lovers, mothers and fathers, manage to make some people feel quite excluded? What if I don’t have a lover – or would rather they were thoughtful and considerate all year round instead of giving me garage flowers, chocolates or tacky underwear once a year? What if you have lost your parents and it’s a painful reminder of that on those days? What if you have been trying desperately to conceive? What if my children are confused by the proliferation of different mothers’ days (UK, Swiss, French, US) and so don’t bother to treat me on any?
Above all, based on personal experience, I’m getting more and more upset about Fathers’ Day. About all the advertisements bombarding me about how wonderful dads are and how to spoil them on their day, when I know for a fact the father of my children was spoilt every single day of his existence and only cares about himself. Oh, of course he plays the Super-Dad, and of course the children lap it up! Easy enough to do when you only have them for weekends and holidays and keep taking them to theme parks and feeding them KFC. When it is the mother who is doing all the feeding and washing, pre-exam nerve soothing, panic attack calming, sensible eating monitoring, school liaison form filling, chauffering around to events, nagging about homework, making sure they have the stationery and uniforms for school and equipment for expeditions, thinking about the future and researching universities etc. etc. etc.
Meanwhile, Super-Dad only cares about living a good life in the present (and, to a lesser extent, about punishing me for disrupting his pleasant family life where he had to put in nearly zero effort). To hell with the children’s home or schooling or funding possible university studies.
And you know what? He’s probably right. Come the time when our sons graduate from university or get married, they will invite both of us to the ceremony. Do you think they will give differentiated speeches for the mother who sacrificed far too much for them and the father who sacrificed next to nothing? But the reason he is right, the reason he gets away with it, the reason his mantra can be ‘don’t expect us to be grateful’ is because somebody else is putting in all the hard work.
Yes, I know, not all fathers are like that, some genuinely care, some deserve to be celebrated, some have raised their children single-handedly etc. etc. But my solicitor can tell you that far, far more have avoided the burden of fatherhood in pretty much any way they could. So forgive me if I feel more than somewhat ambiguous about Fathers’ Day. I actually actively hate it – or rather hate the commercial and media fuss associated with it.
What about my own father? That is a complicated story for another day. He too behaved occasionally like a rotter, but he has done repentance for his sins. He supports my mother and takes care of her even when she doesn’t deserve it. He has been more encouraging of my feminist tendencies than my mother ever was. He hasn’t understood all of my life choices, but he hasn’t complained about them every single time we spoke on the phone. He doesn’t care about Fathers’ Day, but he is happy that I never, ever forget his name day and his birthday, and that we speak on average once a week. Here is an old poem I wrote about him.