I’m A Single Mom And This Is How I Made Father’s Day Easier For My Son

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Parenting Tips For Single Moms For How To Handle Father’s Day When Your Kids Don’t Have A Dad
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If you're a single mom, explaining Father's Day to your kids can be rough. And finding something to do on the actual holiday can be even more challenging. 

I’m a single mom with no father in the picture. I’ve often thought about how to deal with Father’s Day, but in reality it’s never been an issue.  My son’s schools never had any celebration of the day and since it was on a weekend, we just quietly ignored it.

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This past year we moved to Mexico where Father’s Day is on a school day and a holiday celebrated at school -often with quite elaborate fiestas. And so, I finally had to deal with it. And oh boy, it made this mama bear jump into action.


It didn’t help that I’ve been noticing that my 5-year-old son is going through a new phase of exploration and processing around the topic. I know he’s processing because I’ve been getting reports from school that he is telling all the other kids that his father was a cop and got shot and was killed. And so it’s clear it’s a time of exploration, experimentation and even a little sadness around the topic for my son. 


Of course, living in the U.S until recently with a very young son, I was easily able to ignore the day entirely. What’s more, having lived in the SF Bay Area, I was surrounded by people, schools and cultures that understand that families come in all shapes and sizes, with varying genders and structures, meaning they would never host "Mother's Day" and “Father's Day" celebrations.


But, that's not the reality here in Mexico. Which means my son and I are forced to figure out how to deal with a celebration that is clearly labeled "Father's Day." This year I’ve had to figure out how to be a single mom on Father’s Day.


Last week, the teachers notified me they were planning a celebration on a Tuesday and asked me how they could accommodate Aiden. “Another father can adopt him for the day,” they suggested.


My response was to burst into tears, completely surprising myself. I rarely feel sadness about our family structure or that we are missing anything. But since Aiden is now old enough that his classmates are asking if he has a dad, and he’s making up outlandish stories, I’m aware it’s something he is actively making sense of at the moment.

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I did not want my son to feel more sadness and confusion around this topic. Having no dad on Father’s Day was going to be difficult enough but this seemed like particularly bad timing to have a big party to celebrate dads. Ugh!


After consulting a few of my single mom friends in my ever-growing community here in Mexico, I decided to give my son a few choices about what we would do on Father's Day--invite someone else, have him hang out with another dad at the school for the day, let me go as his father, or not go to the event at all.

He opted not to go. I tried to have the conversation a few different times in a few different ways but he wasn't having any of it. He was adamant. He would not go!! This seemed reasonable to me and easy enough for us to have a lovely mom and kiddo day.


I let the teacher know our plan. "Why can't you just stand in as his dad?" the teacher asked. "You are his mother and his father." I tried to explain in my broken Spanish that it's not the language we use. I've never referred as myself as my son's father. And, based on Aiden's response, I wasn't going to start now.  I was definitely a little annoyed to have a teacher telling me what to do with my son but I knew she meant well.


All was fine in my mind until that afternoon, the teachers announced that the firefighters would be coming to our school to have the ultimate water fight with the fathers and kids. If you know my son at all, you know he's been obsessed with firefighters for about 80% of his life, literally wearing nothing but a firefighter suit and helmet for about 18 months straight.


My heart broke--was my child really going to have to choose between going to a Father's Day event, and getting to use a firefighter hose to spray his friends and stage rescues? A friend actually suggested I make my son decide between seeing the firefighters and skipping the event as a way to strong arm him into going. Uh, no thanks.


I implored the school to think of a way to separate the firefighter activity from the Father's Day activity. I could tell the other parents were a little taken aback.
After quite a bit of back and forth (using Google translate to convey these complex ideas), some private side conversations, and offering up multiple suggestions for other ways we could structure the day to separate the Father’s Day portion from the firefighter’s arrival, we finally came up with a solution.

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The dads will arrive 30 minutes before the firefighters to receive gifts made by their children. Just before the fathers arrive, I will go get my son, so we can go to the fire station and meet the firefighters. Our school is far out in the “campo” and not easy to find. So we will embrace the very important job of leading the firefighters to our school. My son is over the moon about it.


And the firefighter portion of the day will now include both the mothers and fathers. (I’m so glad I spoke up because truly there was no reason the school shouldn’t be able to separate the portion of the day honoring fathers from the fire fighter portion of the day.)


As a single mom on Father’s Day, my mama bear definitely came out. And I’m so glad I persisted. I sense that I ruffled some feathers by speaking up, feeling a slight undercurrent of ”you chose to have a baby alone. Deal with it. We can’t change our traditions for you.”


As much as I love living in Mexico and I generally feel like people are progressive and inclusive, they are traditional, which means there are a lot of rich cultural events. It’s given me a little taste of what it’s like to live in a less progressive area of the world.


In which ways have you encountered Father’s Day issues or more traditional notions of family in your life? How have you dealt with them?

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Sarah Kowalski is a fertility doula, life coach, former attorney, single mom, and an expert in guiding women along the spiritual, emotional and logistical road of single motherhood. You can read her book, Motherhood Reimagined: When Becoming A Mother Doesn't Go As Planned. If you want more information about how to talk to your children, teachers, fellow parents about alternative  family structures, you download her Guide to Discussing Alternative Family Structures as well as her other informative guides.