by Becky Ritchey
While reading Connie Kee’s excellent blog earlier this month on celebrating single mothers on Father’s Day, I had a thought:
What about single fathers? When does anyone champion their cause?
With Father’s Day coming up in a few weeks, I want to give a ‘shout out’ to all those fathers who are raising kids on their own, without the benefit of mothers sharing the parenting under the same roof. Whether they’re separated, divorced, or widowed, these fathers deserve encouragement and support from friends, relatives, churches, and whatever resources are available to them.
There’s historical precedent for honoring single fathers. Over a hundred years ago, a child of a single father started a movement that was the forerunner of our Father’s Day. Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six kids raised by a widower, campaigned locally in Spokane, Washington for a day like Mother’s Day for fathers. As a result, Washington State celebrated America’s first statewide Father’s Day in 1910. By 1916, even President Wilson was acknowledging the day (although it didn’t become an official holiday until 1972!).*
Is there a need to recognize single dads in our society? You bet there is! Single-father homes are on the rise in the U.S. According to the 2000 census, the number of single-father households in the U.S. rose 62 percent in 10 years!** Don’t you agree that’s a significant statistic? While single-father households are still a small percentage overall (2 percent), that’s still 2.2 million households where the fathers raise their kids alone!**
I’m not speaking from experience here – I was blessed to have both parents with us my entire childhood. What’s moved me to speak on behalf of single fathers have been my observations over the years – snapshots, if you will, of single dads I’ve seen struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their kids’ heads while doing double-duty as mothers.
When I was a Navy ombudsman in San Diego, I watched a family of young children on the pier wave goodbye to their dad as his ship got underway for a six-month deployment. I’ll never forget the stoic look on the face of the oldest child, a pre-adolescent, as he stood ram-rod straight at attention watching the ship sail away. The children’s caretaker stood with them, hired by their father for the length of the deployment. The scene moved me to tears. [I’d like to add that fathers with deployed military wives add a whole other category of ‘temporary single fatherhood’ into the mix.]
At a land-based naval site overseas, we lived down the street from a single sailor who was raising his daughter alone. A divorced man with sole custody of their child, Joe [name changed] maintained both full-time naval duties and full-time parent duties. Thankfully, it was a small base in the final stages of base closure so his military duties weren’t too demanding. We learned there were some minor issues with his daughter’s social skills, which of course Joe had to deal with alone. I wondered how he’d handle things in the future as his daughter transitioned from childhood through adolescence into young womanhood – seems like an unreasonable burden for a man on his own.
One of my close friend’s (herself a divorcee) married a widower with two young children. He became a single father when his first wife died of leukemia. Happily, God brought a good Christian woman into his life and they have a wonderful ‘blended’ family. However, I know he had to keep it together somehow for his kids while he was grieving for his wife – another unreasonable burden for a man to bear.
I think you get my point. If you know a single father, prayerfully consider what you can do to show them some kindness, especially around Father’s Day. Maybe take them a casserole and a plate of cookies for a meal one day. Or give them a gift card to a restaurant – I bet they’d even appreciate a McDonald’s gift card! Better yet, invite them over for a simple meal or cookout after church one Sunday, or offer to give the kids a movie night at your house. Would you consider sharing some of your family time with them, just to let them know God is on their side? Also, suggest to your church (and be willing to help) that they do a special Single Dad’s Recognition for Father’s Day. Remember, you are Jesus’s hands and feet on earth. May God reward your compassion and kindness!
* http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/fathers-day, accessed 6/6/15, 7:40 p.m. CST
**Armas, Genaro C., “Single-Father Homes on the Rise”, 5/18/15, http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=93279, accessed 6/6/15, 4:38 p.m. CST