I sat down and put my fingers to the keyboard to quickly type out my usual “I love my Dad, Father-in-law, Grandfather, and husband” type of Father’s Day Post, accompanied by adorable pictures of these strong men in my life. I even pressed submit. And then, just as I did for Mother’s Day, I quickly deleted the post. On Mother’s Day I changed my original post to this:
To all the amazing mamas, I am thinking of you today! To all the struggling exhausted mamas, I am thinking of you today. To all those who have experienced painful losses of their mamas or children, I am thinking of you today. To all those trying and waiting to be a mama, that are already mamas in their heart, I am thinking of you today. To all the animal mamas, I am thinking of you today. Hugs through your joys, losses and everything in between in this complicated journey. Love you all!
But for Father’s Day, I posted nothing. For some reason I was at a loss for words. I wanted to express my sympathy for those that had lost fathers and grandfathers, but moreover, my heart ached in that moment for the fathers and grandfathers that had lost children.
Then it hit me. On Mother’s Day, I intuitively think of all the potential pains for mothers, and yet for Father’s Day, I was at a loss for words to properly express sympathy for the fathers that experienced loss of a child, infertility, and pregnancy loss.
Did I think that these losses were more profound for a woman than a man? I absolutely do not. But these losses are not on the forefront of my thoughts and feelings in the same way as they are when I think of women.
And I wasn’t alone. As I scrolled through my Facebook feed I started actively looking for posts relating to Father’s Day in this way. For the most part I found posts and blogs regarding loss of a father, about acknowledging single moms for their dual role as “Mom and Dad,” and of course the mass appreciation for father figures. But for fathers that have lost children, pregnancy lost, and infertility? Nada.
You see, this Father’s Day I did think of the fathers that lost children because I have an incredible uncle and grandfather that lost such a special son and grandson a few years ago. In fact, there isn’t a moment at night when I lay my son down, that my heart doesn’t briefly hesitate and fear my son is just mine to “borrow” in this lifetime. I think about my late cousin often and his sweet, happy, gentle nature. For some reason my baby boy, that everyone refers to as the happiest, laughing, best-natured little guy, reminds me of my cousin that left this world too soon.
My heart desperately wanted to express to my uncle and grandfather that I was thinking of them in this way on Father’s Day — a holiday that will forever ignite both love and grief in their hearts. Yet, I didn’t know what to say for some reason. Words that come fairly easily to me when trying to convey earnest sympathy for women and mothers floated away.
Moreover, I realized, though I may mentally and emotionally acknowledge children loss for fathers, I have completely neglected to attempt to understand the role of pregnancy loss and infertility on men. While I write and talk about these topics freely as they relate to women, I (and many) have forgotten about the fathers.
This seems to speak to larger issues of community support when it comes to fathers in general. There are countless Facebook mom groups, mommy blogs, “mommy and me” classes, and mom networks, but I just don’t “see” the same for fathers. It reflects a stereotype mothers fight on a daily basis. You know the ONE… Like when you have a night out with friends, and people refer to your husband as the babysitter… Or when you have a work appointment and your husband takes the kids to the doctor and gets about five comments on “What an amazing Dad he is.” You know how many comments I get about how amazing I am when I take my kids to the doctor? Yep. That’s right. Zero.
There is an assumption that moms are the default caregiver, and that children are a more integral part of motherhood than fatherhood. This is not new news… and it is most definitely annoying. But when “we” neglect to remember losses as they relate to dads in the same way as we do for moms, we are essentially minimizing the role of the father to the proverbial “babysitter.” And I don’t think that is what we intend to do. For, I cannot imagine a grief or loss greater than the loss of a child to a mother OR a father.
So as we fight the assumptions associated with a father having a “less than” role, maybe we should also try to remember to expand our empathy compass when we think about loss… for fathers too.