I have been parenting alone for more than nine years. I have also represented children in custody and post-divorce decree matters in domestic relations court. I know from both personal and professional experience that Father's Day can evoke a range of emotions in both single mothers and their children.
Let me first administer a dose of strong medicine to those of you who are in a parenting relationship with your children's father. Understand that I am swallowing this medicine with you. If I step on your toes, just yell ouch.
Fathers are important. No matter how your relationship with him ended, he is still your children's father and they want a relationship with him. Encouraging your children to reject their father is equivalent to asking them to reject half of themselves. All things being equal, I urge you not to do anything to prevent your children from seeing their father on Father's Day. Bite your tongue, grit your teeth, put your personal feelings aside and let your children spend time with their father. Your children will ultimately thank you for it. While your children are gone I grant you permission to sit down and relax.
In my case, my children and I have spent the last eight Father's Days together. It has not been by my choice or action. Father's Day can be very tricky for mothers who are parenting alone. Initially, I did not know how to handle Father's Day.
For the first few years I tried to create new traditions by visiting my family. Then I tried celebrating both Mother's Day and Father's Day because I felt like I was playing both roles.
Eventually, and perhaps fortunately, I realized that I am not, and cannot be, my children's father. I can only be their mother. So, I just stopped trying to compensate for what I believed were gaps left in my children's lives by an absent father.
I no longer schedule activities to take the edge off any pain my children feel on a day devoted to celebrating fatherhood. I stopped interfering and allowed our Father's Day to evolve organically.
So what does that mean? It means that no matter the activity or the day, I focus on being mindfully present with my children. My children and I may not experience a traditional Father's Day. But, choosing to focus on what my children and I have rather than what we lack has taught me a much richer lesson.
So what should single mothers do on Father's Day?
Celebrate and recognize that who we are individually and collectively is enough.
Originally published in The Shriver Report