The time of the year has come again to show all the fathers and male figures in our lives how much we love and appreciate what a spectacular job they do. They wipe butts. They braid hair. They coach t-ball. They kiss boo-boos. They love their kids. They love us. We love them.
What could we possibly give to honor this commitment they’ve made and honor every day? At all our favorite department stores, there are Father’s Day displays with all the stereotypical gift suggestions ― silk ties, grilling accessories and barware.
How about we really splurge for Father’s Day and demand equality for our partners, co-parents and other men in our lives whom we love? After all, equality is equality. Fathers deserve equal rights just as much as women deserve equal pay, access to health care and the countless other opportunities our male counterparts enjoy freely.
Unfortunately, fathers often do not share the same rights as mothers and experience many disparities while they’re just trying to care for and love their children. They deserve more.
I can’t tell you how many times my husband has taken one of our children to the restroom for a change only to return with a frustrated expression and a poopy baby because the men’s room doesn’t have a changing table. But the women’s room does! Ashton Kutcher led a successful social media campaign addressing this issue. President Obama signed a law mandating changing tables in federal buildings through the BABIES act. But, unfortunately, father cannot depend on having a safe, sanitary place to change their babies.
Establishing maternity is a non-issue in most cases. Establishing paternity, however, can often be incredibly complicated and confusing for all parties involved. Paternity laws vary state to state and are often based on outdated, archaic perceptions of marriage. (I’m looking at you, Texas.) The hoops fathers are forced to jump through in order to obtain rights to the children they helped bring into this world are nearly impossible and place an undue burden on fathers.
If a father is caring for his children while the mother is away, he is not babysitting. He’s parenting. They’re his children and he’s perfectly capable of caring for them.
Unmarried fathers were once declared “inherently unfit” by the law and considered unstable and incapable of parenthood. Even today, unmarried men have much less leverage than women when it comes to matters of major decisions regarding the child and custody. The idea that unmarried men have no interest in raising their children is outrageously offensive, categorically untrue and extremely unfair.
Two men in a loving relationship sadly face incredible hardship in their quest to grow their families. Many adoption agencies prohibit same-sex couples from adopting a child together. Sometimes only one parent is given legal rights although both parents are actively involved and are equal partners in raising the child. We’re facing a critical shortage of prospective foster and adoptive parents in this country. So many children live in the foster care system for years and yet many state laws deny potential fathers the opportunity to adopt them simply because they’re gay.
Maybe these archaic and unfair illustrations make sense on a planet where total responsibility of taking care of a child falls on the biological mothers, single fathers and same-sex families do not exist and a mother is present with a child at all times. But on the actual planet we live on, these traditions and laws are absolutely absurd, unjust and desperately need to be changed.