Father's Day

toddler laying on his mom in the sea
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How 10 Single Moms Feel About Hearing “Happy Father’s Day, Mom!”

From humor to hurt, emotions run the gamut.

For millions of families all over the country, Father’s Day isn’t necessarily the way commercials and greeting card companies make it out to be. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of children in the US are raised in a single-parent household, and the vast majority of those parents (more than 80%) are mothers. Lots of mamas are “doing it all” but... should we be telling single moms “Happy Father’s Day”? We asked 10 single moms what they thought about this well intentioned salutation.

Greetings aside, talking to these mamas showed that there’s no one way “single moms” feel about Father’s Day. (It’s almost like they’re all, like, individual people and not a politically convenient monolith!) Sometimes the day is one full of complicated emotions... and sometimes it’s just a day. Sometimes the day is emotional, but the emotions aren't terribly complicated. They feel happy or sad or angry or hurt or relieved or wistful or excited or vicariously hurt, which is a different emotion all together from ordinary hurt. Even the term "single mom" is interesting: there are lots of ways to be a single mom. You were never partnered to begin with, or you got divorced, or are widowed...

But what do single moms think about being told Happy Father's Day? Well, that completely depends on the single mom in question, but here's what 10 said when we asked...

Corinne M., Texas

“I am a single mom raising a young child. Things didn't go according to plan, so my kid is growing up not knowing his father. I am very grateful to have loved ones that want to say encouraging things. The thing is, when people wish me a happy Father's Day, it's implying that children should a) grow up with two parents, and b) one of those parents should be a mom and the other one should be a dad. I'm not 'pulling double duty.' I'm a single mom and, sadly, there is no father in the picture.

Inevitably, every year I get wished a happy Father's Day. I totally get it's a joke and people are well-meaning. I do appreciate the sentiment. The truth is though, it stings every time.

If you have a single mom in your life and you want to do something kind for her over Father's Day weekend, offer to take her kid/s for a couple hours and tell her she's doing a great job. Leave it at that.”

Nikky R., Pennsylvania

“I’ve been wished ‘Happy Father’s Day’ a few times. It was kinda funny and I appreciated it when my son was younger. But as he’s gotten older I’ve told people I don’t want to wished a Happy Fathers Day. I’m his mother and I’m doing what any mother/parent should do. I am not his father and will never be his or anyone’s father.

There was one year that his father wished me a Happy Father’s Day and it pissed me off. It felt like a genuine slap in the face. He really thought he was giving me a compliment by acknowledging how much I do... but when your own child’s father (who ... isn’t present) says ‘Happy Fathers Day’ to you, yeah you know there’s a problem.”

Allison R., Wisconsin

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“I know it comes from a good place so I don’t mind it. I take it as acknowledgement that I’m doing it all... because I am!”

Kelly S., Connecticut

“No one has ever tried that on me and if they did I think I wouldn’t be offended but I don’t think I could or would try to stop myself from laughing in their face. My kids have a dad: their dad.

For Father’s Day my boyfriend and I will go to a barbecue/pool party at my ex’s house. I’ll hang out with his wife (and snuggle their new baby, who I haven’t met yet — I’m so excited). If you told me six years ago this was possible I would have laughed in your face about that, too.”

Kendra L., Maryland

“I haven’t liked it in the past. It’s not traumatizing but it’s definitely not appreciated. This year, though, my dad, who was a father figure to me and my girls, won’t be with us. He died last October and this will be our first Father’s Day without him, so I think if anyone says it this year I’ll probably cry, because it will remind me that I don’t have him anymore.”

Wendy C., New Jersey

“Not a fan, I’ll leave it at that.”

Kim S., Texas

“[On Father’s Day], I try to respect the role my ex-husband played in adopting our six foster kids, though he really sort of abandoned our adopted kids because his new wife didn't accept them as his.

I try to redirect energy to how great my dad and step-dad are and how much those two men love them, but they say the day stresses them out because they feel abandoned. [Being told ‘Happy Father’s Day’] feels like so much pressure feeling responsible to teach my kids everything instead of sharing the responsibility with another parent.”

Jennifer P., Oregon

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“[When someone tells me Happy Father’s Day] I smile and nod and keep my eye rolls to myself until they walk away. Then I roll my eyes. It’s not something I’ll get upset about, but it’s low-key annoying.”

Stephanie S., New Hampshire

“I’ve been a single mom since my son was 2. I also grew up with no father in my life. We didn’t celebrate my mother on Father’s Day. I don’t need to be celebrated for it either. I’m his mom. ... With today’s generation we obviously see a lot of single parents. I have a sister who has no kids so she always wishes people with fur kids or people like me who raised a kid alone a Happy Father’s Day, but I don’t think it’s ever been directed at me.

I’m Mom. That’s all that matters to me. Takes two to create but it can be anyone who does all the work.”

Tami P., Massachusetts

“If you really think kids need two parents (spoiler: they don’t) just wish me Happy Mother’s Day twice.”