Originally posted in the Naples Herald in my Life with Moxie Column
It was December 1907, 361 men left over 1,000 children fatherless after a tragic mining accident in West Virginia. It was a local mother that suggested to her pastor that these men be remembered and celebrated as fathers. Woodrow Wilson considered making it an official holiday 1916 but declined noting that it would just be commercialized. It wasn’t until 1972 that Richard Nixon signed into being Father’s Day as a permanent national holiday, 50 years after Mother’s Day was established.
Fatherhood itself has had an extraordinary transition, paralleling the morphing of manhood. From once having the sole expectation of being the authoritarian breadwinner, fathers in the 20th century were being pressured to be “dads” as well, to actually parent, be involved, know their kids. This required men to be gentle, to listen, to be present and sensitive which was not the ideal model of a man at the time and they were to do this, all without abandoning the post as breadwinner. Thankfully that image of manliness has started changing in beautiful ways that benefit children and partners alike, yet the societal establishment has lagged far behind in supporting that balancing attempt.
Dads are allowed in delivery rooms for the delivery of their children now (they weren’t officially allowed in there until the 1970’s, although some forced the doctors to let them starting in the early 60’s), but the equality in parenting rights end about there. Workplace policies, post-divorce issues, etc. are still lagging. This doesn’t even factor in the challenges for the now growing single dad population, two dad families and do I need to even mention the step-dads since they seem more common than dads in nuclear families. Furthermore, many dads aren’t able to be with their kids on regular days or Father’s Day from extraneous circumstances like travel for work, deployment or the Ex moved out of town and retained custody. Yes, there have been strides, but there are so many more challenges remaining.
So what do dads want for Father’s Day? At Life with Moxie, we asked moms what they wanted for Mother’s Day and they overwhelming said they wanted a day off from being a mom, to sleep in and not deal with food or dishes, or requests for help. Presents were an unnecessary yet lovely bonus. With a clearer understanding of today’s father we can better understand why they want what they do for Father’s Day.
With modern dads often doing their fair share of the housekeeping (or all of it if they are single dads) with a baby strapped to their chest and/or sports equipment in tow, dads are wanting the dream of what being a dad looked like, before it all actually happened- and looked nothing like the dream. Dads seem to be craving the nostalgic experience (fantasy) of being a dad, more like a 50’s TV dad, with the family all around him. Let’s all just take a moment to transport ourselves to June and Ward Cleaver’s, in their lovely immaculate ranch house that smells of cookies and mums… in that pristine alternate universe of idyllic American life. That- is what we are aiming for. Even though June was only wearing pearls to cover up her scar and wore heels so she could remain taller than her boys, it was charming.
So what does like look like as a Father’s Day gift? If dad can be home with the family it looks like a weekend day with an appreciative partner looking lovely and pulled together, fixing the dads favorite dinner while managing the needs of the children. Encouraging him to head out with his friends to do what ever he’d like for the day, children neat and clean, behaving like church mice as if the Queen would be stopping by, dog resting peacefully, while dad is enjoying uninterrupted time drinking a beverage of choice while enjoying catching up on reading or programming of sorts. So other than maybe a bottle of Gentlemen’s Jack and a custom coupon book for others to stop talking or do dad’s regularly schedules chores- dads are really wanting what my dear friend refers to as a “command performance“ from their family, with everyone showing up as their best self.
For the dads that are away, technology is your best friend. So call, Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, whatever, but get in touch. Snail mail still works too and those letters and cards can be saved and treasured by those dads who are away for extended time. Better than anything that could be found on gift guide filled with stuff that no one needs, just be your most grateful and appreciative self for all the hard work he’s put in. Do what you know he’d love you to do most and say thank you… he’s earned it.
Have ideas you’d like to add to the list? Need more suggestions? Let me know!
Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company www.lifewithmoxie.com and Host of Life with Moxie Radio, Saturday’s at 1pm on 98.9 WGUF in Southwest Florida. You can reach her at Julie@lifewithmoxie.com
Passionate Living by Design, That’s Life with Moxie