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Re-thinking Father’s Day

As a cultural value, we all love our mothers and our fathers.

A celebration of mothers has existed in some way since ancient Greek times, and such celebrations exist in virtually every culture today. That celebration was formalized in the United States in 1868 with Mother’s Friendship Day, later signed into law in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson as a Mother’s Day holiday. Father’s Day was formally recognized when President Richard Nixon signed into law in 1972.

However, there are major differences in how we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

The National Restaurant Association reports that Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year, with families gathering all day long for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. Father’s Day is far less busy.

Mother’s Day is the single holiday the most phone calls are made. (The busiest day of the year for phone calls is the day after Thanksgiving.)

At the end of the last century, AT&T reported that Father’s Day was the day the most collect phone calls were made. Undoubtedly call phones have changed that fact.

Yet other differences persist in how we recognize those special days. Dr. Brenda Wall, a Texas psychologist, points out, “We have a different sociological response to our parents that is gender and role-related. We’ve always looked to mom for love and nurturing. But when we look to dad, it’s usually a business transaction or something that relates to power, positioning, or money.”

When mothers were asked what they wanted for Mother’s Day, common answers reported on the One Good Thing blog were time alone with children or time alone with husband, a handwritten note, dining out with the family, a home-cooked meal she didn’t have to cook or clean up after, a clean house, a clean car.

When fathers told what they really wanted for Father’s Day. Some said,
  • “A visit and a hug from my kids and grandkids. I’ll supply and grill the burgers and hot dogs.”

  • “A hug and a kiss from each of my children.”

Some men named specific gifts they wanted.
  • “A Corvette convertible C8.”

  • “A solar generator, compact circular saw (and a) kickboxing punching bag.”

  • “A massage, a six-pack, a nice cigar, a trip to a brewery.”

More often, the response was something like,
  • “No responsibility, no cooking, no BBQing, no paying the bills, no setting anything up, without worrying about anything that I am responsible for.”

  • “A day at the gun range. There is no better way to melt the stress away.”

  • “Solitude.”

One man combined some of the other suggestions with
  • “The simplest answer/gift is time. If at all possible, spend the day with dad. That’s what he wants most. Something he likes to drink is the tangible part if the child can afford.”

Ooohh. He almost got it right.

It seems there are still some stereotypical themes.

Mom wants quality time and a show of affection with the people she loves.

Dad wants to get away from it all - do fun things without his family.

The times, however, they are a-changing.

More men are willing to help around the house.

Some have even realized “helping around the house” means they’re still ascribing old gender roles, and so are changing to be partners in the relationship.

More men are willing to be more nurturing, show more emotions.
Some have even realized that in addition to parenting being a job, it is a joy.

For these men, Father’s Day is not just an opportunity to receive something, but an opportunity to say what Father’s Day means to them. If Father’s Day is a day to honor fathers, it can also be a day to acknowledge what an honor it is to be a father. Perhaps this year that Father’s Day gift could be the following.

Father's Day Certificates
Download PDF • 199KB


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