Disclaimer: I know this isn’t “popular” content for a widely celebrated national holiday. I also know millions struggle with caretaker relationships. I’m not sure everything I write in this post is going to come across as well as I’d like it to but I’ll try my best. This isn’t a post bashing fathers of any kind. (The words father, dad, stepfather, caretaker can be used interchangeably – whatever Father’s Day means for you.) It’s encouragement for those who struggle on Father’s Day – for whatever reason. And let it be a reminder to fathers not to underestimate the importance of their presence in their children’s lives – no matter how old they are.
You know Father’s Day is coming when you’re bombarded with advertisements on television, radio and the internet by marketing companies telling you what the perfect gifts to get dad this year are. As a child, mother and stepmother, I could do without Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. I feel like we can show love and appreciation to our parents whenever we want – there doesn’t need to be a “holiday” for it. We all have birthdays and I guess I just think that’s sufficient. Maybe I’m weird.
I realize that Father’s Day is an exciting time for many people, but it’s also a time when anxiety and negative feelings may begin to creep in for just as many other people. Just because society tells us to celebrate our dad’s on Father’s Day doesn’t mean it’s easy or even something that everyone always looks forward to.
If you struggle on Father’s Day, this post is for you.
Reasons Father’s Day can be difficult:
- Longing for the type of Dad you never had
- Knowing people in your life who seem to have a great relationship with their own father(s)
- Knowing people with two loving fathers (bio, step) and feeling “less than” because you aren’t even close with the one you have
- Experiencing the death of your father (recently, or long ago)
- Feeling like you didn’t show enough appreciation for him while you still had the opportunity
- Feeling abandoned by your father and wondering why he left you behind (possibly due to a new relationship that was deemed more important, not wanting to associate with his ex – your mother -, etc)
- Growing up with an alcoholic father (or other substance abuse issue)
- Being abused by your father
- Not getting the praise you would have liked to receive from your own Dad
- Feeling like your father wasn’t there for you when you needed him
- You wish your children had a different type of father
- You wish you were a better father when your children were young
- Longing for a better relationship with your children
- Struggling to find common ground or ways to build better relationships with your kids
- Dealing with exes who make co-parenting difficult
Things You Can Do if Father’s Day Feels Tough:
*While this post was written specifically for Father’s Day, I think these tips would be helpful for any time you’re struggling.
- Stay off of social media. I actually tend to do this on most holidays. You’ve probably heard that social media tends to be the highlight reel of people’s lives. If you haven’t looked at it that way before, please do. Seeing photos and status updates from your friends and family about their spectacular Father’s Day can trigger negative feelings and emotions for you. It’s also important to realize that not everything you see on social media is what it seems. It’s okay to protect yourself from being bombarded with posts all day that may only upset you or make the day feel worse.
- Write an unsent letter. I wrote my very first unsent letter last year and it was extremely therapeutic. Mine happened to be for my stepdad after he passed away. I had a lot of harbored feelings, disappointments and things I wish I had said to him while I still had the chance. If you struggle on Father’s Day I would encourage you to write an unsent letter and get everything written down and outside of your head so that you can analyze it and work through it. It’s amazing how much better it can make you feel when you’re finished – even though the letter is never actually read by the recipient.
- Open up to your dad. If you have a relationship with your dad (or even if you don’t) it could be a great idea for you to reach out and let him know how you feel. It’s hard being the one to open up first but you never know what your dad might say until you let him know how you’re feeling. If he’s the type to get defensive and not deal with issues which ends up making you feel bad for trying, maybe stick to the unsent letter. Keep in mind that he can’t change what’s already happened but do be open to his explanation(s) and/or improving the relationship you do have if he’s open to it.
- Remember him. If your father has passed, it leaves a hole in your heart that cannot be filled. To help you get through the day it might be a good idea to visit his resting place, look through old photos, surround yourself with others who love and miss him, and/or eat at one of his favorite restaurants. Other ideas could be to listen to his favorite songs, watch his favorite movies or visit a local place he loved. You could plant a tree to remember him. Whatever makes you feel good remembering the man that is your dad, do that.
- Thank the caregivers who are there for you. This could be your dad by choice (also known as stepdad), mother, a grandparent, an aunt, uncle or cousin. Show your appreciation to them on this holiday as a way of celebrating those who have/are taking care of you.
If your father made the choice to abandon you, it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with him. My oldest son has been dealing with this since he was 4 years old. He’s 12 now and I remind him often that it’s not his fault. I know how easy it is for kids to blame themselves for their parents’ choices and behavior sometimes.
I know there are complicated situations out there.
The points I’m trying to make can be summed up like this:
- Dads are important to their kids
- While we can try to improve relationships, the other person isn’t always on board – that’s on them, not you
- Don’t let exes (or current partners!) get in the way of your relationship with your children – your children have been yours their whole life
- Appreciate and thank the caregivers who are supportive of you
Whatever you choose to do on Father’s Day, I hope you’ll feel a little bit better after reading this post. You’re not alone in feeling like Father’s Day is hard. I recognize that Father’s Day isn’t always a happy-go-lucky holiday. We shouldn’t feel ashamed because we aren’t shouting from the rooftops about how amazing everything is. If things are amazing for other people on Father’s Day, that’s great. But for the rest of us, it’s okay to deal with the holiday the way we feel best.
Love & light,