It was last June when it I first heard it: “Happy Father’s Day, Janis!” said my next-door neighbor. I smiled and replied, “Yeah, thanks.” It was presented as a compliment, but I felt weird being on the receiving end.
I was well aware when I first decided to dive into the Single Mom By Choice world that my son would be brought up in a very different type of family unit. That was my choice, but I never discredited or ignored the role a father plays in a child’s life. That really was the only real doubt I ever had when I began my Single Mom By Choice journey: bringing a child into this world without a Dad… was that the right thing to do?
Being a researcher by trade is both a blessing and curse: I can find evidence on anything I want, but the data presented isn’t always encouraging. In this case, I felt I needed to become better informed before making the decision to have a child on my own. So, I forged ahead and started seeking out credible reports on single family households. What the information concluded was the emergence of a true father-less epidemic happening here in the U.S.: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18— a total of about 17.2 million kids— is being raised without a father. I don’t know about you, I not only had to read that stat twice, but I needed to sit down and digest it as well.
And I stayed seated because, as I kept up my search, I tripped upon this infographic:
Holy crow. “Maybe I shouldn’t do this?”, “What if by choosing to forego a Dad for my kid, I really screw him up?”, “What kind of person would that make me?”
But, instead of drawing a conclusion and solidifying my doubt, I designed my very own research project with three components:
First, I headed out in public and observed. During my outing, I was fiercely aware of the Dads— the way they interacted with their kids, the way they spoke to them, the way they treated the mom, etc.. My eyes and ears were glued to them. Not in a creepy way, ya know, but in a researcher-fielding-research kinda way. I made note of the findings and continued to the next phase of the project.
Next, I planted my analytical butt in the sand along the Santa Monica shoreline and put pen to paper. First, I thought about all those people in my life who were raised by their mothers, with no Dad present. I made columns: Name, Education, Career, Financial Success, Psychological Standing. Then, I began to think: I knew six people close enough to me to evaluate using these five qualifiers. And let me just say, those six people turned out pretty freaking well. All are successful, responsible, psychologically sound and happy people. These were exceptional humans who learned that the nuclear family just wasn’t theirs, and Mom carried the role of Dad too.
In my last phase of research, I thought about the best examples of Dads I know and the qualities they bring to the family unit.
Once I was done with the research, I started the analysis and the conclusions presented themselves:
Great Dads have Patience
Great Dads have a Strong Moral Code
Great Dads are Open-Minded
Great Dads are Loving & Affectionate
Great Dads are Loyal/Honest
Great Dads Lead by Example
Great Dads Empower
Great Dads Discipline
Great Dads are Empathetic/Compassionate
Great Dads are Involved/Devoted
Great Dads are Responsible
Great Dads are Playful
Great Dads are Strong, Mentally and Physically
I sat with that list for a long time, and I realized something that caused my doubts about doing this alone to dissipate. I had all these qualities and, while I am not a Dad, I as a Mom would most definitely raise a child displaying these qualities. “I can do this Mom without a Dad thing.”
But something continued to weigh on me: yes, whereas I possess all these traits, I am still not a dude or a Dad (and to this day I have never claim to be). Maybe that’s why, when I was wished a Happy Father’s Day, it didn’t feel sincere to me. I mean, while I run a household, am solely responsible for the safety and security of my son, and support our family financially, I am very clear on the value a Dad brings to the family unit. With this clarity and realization, I knew what I needed to do next: build a strong tribe of men that can support Kellan in all the ways I can’t. Men who not only have the traits listed above but also provide Kellan the male energy, masculinity, confidence, and love that only a dad can offer his son– or in this case, men who can mentor my son. I have never believed that you have to be biologically related to play the role of a parent to child. I started to pull together this tribe of MENtors, and I am proud to say that it is comprised of some of the most exemplary men I could ever ask for. They are true role models and have shown Kellan things as small as the ‘dude hand-shake’ and as big as love conveyed by copious amounts of bro-holds (hugs/affection). I witness the difference in how they interact, in their flow and overall energy. I am proud that Kellan has this tribe and I look forward to seeing how these men will instruct him as he grows into different stages of life: from man-to-man chats about girls, to engaging in rough-housing (which guys seem to consider sacred play), geeking out over the newest tech gadgets, and more. Kellan’s tribe is solid, and I am so very thankful for the members who consistently show up for him (and for me).
So, whether you’re a Dad, Stepdad, Granddad, Godfather, Uncle or a MENtor to a child, we honor you, we love you and we celebrate your importance not only today, Father’s Day, but every day.