I Am Not the Father

Lately, it’s become fashionable to wish single mothers Happy Father’s Day.

Miss me with that.

I am a single mother raising two kids alone. I do it by necessity, since my kids’ father has chosen, for the most part, to be absent from their lives since our divorce.

I also do it a little bit by choice. Some women in my shoes would have initiated a search for Mr. Stepdad a long time ago. Marrying a man for the sole purpose of providing my kids with a replacement father does not interest me in the least.

Being a single mother does not also make me a single father. Or some type of mother-father hybrid. I am a woman, and I can only approach parenting from a woman’s perspective. I grew up with my father and mother, but my mother was the more dominant influence in our home. For better or worse, I adopted her style of parenting even when I was married.

The notion that a woman raising children by herself is acting as both mother and father is misguided and harmful. It does a disservice to all of the fathers – including the single fathers – who are also working hard, every day, to raise their children. We single mothers enjoy the appreciation, but on Father’s Day, fathers, not mothers, deserve all the love.

My kids do benefit from positive male influences. Unfortunately, their father isn’t one. I don’t live near my family, so my children don’t have uncles and older male cousins who take the place of their absent father in providing this influence. They do have teachers. coaches, their friends’ fathers, and my significant other.

None of them can take the place of a loving, caring father, but my ex-husband is not a loving, caring father. They wouldn’t have a nuturing dad in their lives even if their dad were still around. A psychotherapist told me recently, if the absent parent does substantial damage to the child when he or she is present, it is better for that parent to remain absent. My children are not better off without a father, but they are better off without a father who is still so hurt from his own childhood that he inflicts pain upon his own children almost without knowing.

I am not a hero. I am not “holding it down.” I’m doing what I have to do. I take care of my children because I’m supposed to.

I take care of my kids because I love them and I need them and they need me. I do it alone because their father is unwilling and unable to participate. That doesn’t mean I fill both roles.

I am a mother. That’s more than enough.

So while I appreciate the acknowledgment of single mothers on Father’s Day, don’t wish me a Happy Father’s Day. I am a lot of things to my kids, but a father is most certainly not one of them.

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53 Responses to “I Am Not the Father”

  1. Mike Reid Says:

    Well written and super on point Carolyn.

  2. Melissa Chapman Says:

    This post is exactly why I heart u- u r honest,unflinching and raw in your writing- and gosh darn it it is SO refreshing!

  3. Tarana Says:

    I can’t ditto this enough! I’m so tired of deflecting Happy Father’s Day wishes politely. It’s beyond ignorant to me. Thanks CE!

  4. Sonja Says:

    Wonderfully written!

  5. Sarah Yuster Says:

    Your practicality, intelligence and affection for your kids, is why they’ll be fine. A perfect emotional environment is rare; your clear-eyed assessment of what is missing, the reasons for it and your ability to spackle when possible is…as you say, “more than enough”

  6. sawandi777 Says:

    Well said/written!! ….you’re doing an amazing job..

  7. The Real Sean Poe Says:

    bravo…well written

  8. Alonna Says:

    I LOVE this! Very honest…and very necessary! I appreciate you!

  9. Tammy Says:

    …a nice read…thanks!

  10. Andrea Godslovelydaughter Babino Says:

    Wow that was amazing and sooooo true on sooo many levels…. I appreciate the perspective that you gave, because i too, would wish single moms, such as myself, a happy mother’s day. But now after reading this, I will not do it again. And thank you so much Carolyn

  11. Kristina Brooke Says:

    Very good posts. I know so many single parents who say that they are both, but truth be told, it’s not possible to be both. Thanks for your honesty about your parenting experience.

  12. J Hollins Says:

    I love this…simple but profound!!!

  13. Yvonne Bynoe Says:

    Carolyn:

    Another eloquent post. We need to give props where props are due. Father’s Day is for the men who step up and consistently nurture their children (biological or not), emotionally and financially.

  14. Nia Fe Says:

    This is so on point! I feel in the black community we need to be real about missing/absent fathers rather than pretend that a mother can be both. I was raised by a single mother and she is awesome, but a woman can only be a mother, not a father, great post!

  15. ceeshan Says:

    Another great read by you that needed to be posted. I cringe every time someone wishes me “Happy Father’s Day.” We as women can never sucessfully play the role of father because we will never be able to fill that void. We can only do the best we can as mothers. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Elissa Says:

    I’m new to your blog – saw many of your twitter followers mention it today. Loved this powerful post and your important point of view..

  17. Shina WhatGodhasformeitisforme Says:

    Wow!! Such an eye opener!! I now see things in a different light!!! Great post!!

  18. Skip Dogg Says:

    T am the father of four and have raised ALL of them by myself. In addition, I also raised my stepson as his “mother” chose to leave him with me when she disappeared off into the sunset. I seek no accolades. I responded here oly to negate the generalism directed toward fathers.

    • carolynedgar Says:

      What did anyone say that was negative towards fathers? Neither my post nor any of the comments criticized fathers in general. The only father who was criticized was my ex. I specifically made positive mention of single dads, and the whole point of the post was to state that Father’s Day celebrations should be reserved for fathers, not mothers. Don’t read into my words some negative “generalism” that was neither expressed nor implied.

    • Casey Thomas Says:

      Skip, I feel you Bro….another attack on black males slipped in under the guise of kudos. Oprah could not have done it any better.

      We are not going to get anywhere as a people as long as sisters have no qualms about throwing brothers under the bus.

      • carolynedgar Says:

        If you don’t like what I wrote, go read and comment on someone else’s blog.

      • carolynedgar Says:

        And that you read my post as an “attack on black males” just shows how limited your thinking is.

      • Casey Thomas Says:

        Given that you posted your missive on an unrestricted site, I would gather that it means its open to all that should come across it.
        It does not take a degree from Harvard to have an opinion.
        Have a nice day and a cup of chamomile tea – it may take the bitter edge off.

      • carolynedgar Says:

        The only bitter edge on this site exists in your comments.

  19. Yvette Jenkins Says:

    Well said. Thank you for this.

  20. crystal senter brown Says:

    I have been sharing this post since yesterday. Every person should read this! My fav line is “I am not holdin it down. I’m taking care of my children because I’m supposed to.” Love it!

  21. Brneyed1 Says:

    I wish I’d seen this yesterday. I would have posted it 20x on my FB page. This is the most wonderfully written post I’ve seen on this topic; doubly so because it is written by a single mom!!

  22. Chris Moore Says:

    I won’t rehash anything anyone else said other than to say thank you for a well-written, insightful piece that relays a sentiment I feel as well. Single Moms and children of single moms celebrating Fathers’ Day harder than you celebrate Mothers’ Day is born of spite and pain, and in my opinion is disrespectful to the people the day is supposed to be for: Fathers who are doing what they’re supposed to do. Making the day about deadbeats is like talking about soldiers who went AWOL on Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day.

  23. desmond nicholson Says:

    Carolyn, very profound and well articulated

  24. CaliGirlED Says:

    Great post Carolyn!

  25. Ben Says:

    Good stuff and I can dig it…

  26. marshall herring Says:

    **I CONCUR//

  27. nisavidan Says:

    Excellent post. And even though I’m not a mother, I’ve agreed with your point of view for quite some time.
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  28. Digital parenting in the age of Weiner | Married my sugar daddy Says:

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  29. Temeika Says:

    When people wish you a happy fathers day they do it to acknowledge what a wonderful job you are doing as a single parent…I find that it’s usually the close people in my lives that has been there and witness my struggles as a single parent…I don’t see how this can be taken in the negative…accept the compliment and move on…

    • carolynedgar Says:

      If I were a father, I would gladly accept that type of acknowledgement on Father’s Day. I’m not. So I don’t.

  30. Chris Moore Says:

    One more thing…that’s how a generational curse starts….a woman says that she’s “holding it down” and “filling both roles”…their kids start thinking that it’s normal…their sons think less about being a father because they know their mother did it alone, so this chick I got pregnant can too….etc.

  31. Mike Reid Says:

    Good stuff Carolyn.

  32. Casey Thomas Says:

    would need to know more about the circumstances of the divorce before pinning a medal on Ms. Edgar. This is just her side of the story. would be interested in knowing her ex’s side to have a complete opinion.

    • carolynedgar Says:

      I never asked for a medal. Not sure what hearing the other side of the story has to do with the point of the post, which is that Father’s Day should be reserved for celebrating fathers.

      • Casey Thomas Says:

        Then why mention the circumstances of what made you a single mother if it has nothing to do with the overarching thesis of the story ? If celebrating fathers is why the post was written, then why include such perjorative comments about your ex ?

      • carolynedgar Says:

        Because it’s my blog and my story, which I get to tell from my point of view. The fact that my ex doesn’t see his kids is just that – fact. I find it telling that you’re all ready to jump in to defend a man you don’t know against some nonexistent attack.

      • Casey Thomas Says:

        I find it equally telling that you find it necessary to dish dirt on your ex, to the extent of expending an entire paragraph psychiatric diagnosis.

        There is a lot of bitterness in your post, which, as you have stated, is your perogative as owner of the blog.

        True, I know neither of you – thus MY post is probably more unbiased than yours.

  33. byDesign Says:

    I had this same conversation with someone else of Father’s Day. Thanks for posting this. I think the mother/father concept is most harmful to the children. It confuses them.

    • Casey Thomas Says:

      Especially by the authors own admission her “mother was the more dominant influence in our home. For better or worse, I adopted her style of parenting even when I was married.”
      Within that statement is where one can probably find the root of the problems in this particular case.

  34. Nikki V. Says:

    Quick comment on Casey Thomas’ remarks. The persons wishing Ms. Edgar a Happy Father’s Day are able to observe that her children’s father is not present and thus she must parent for the most part alone. She is encouraging the Happy Father’s Day wishes to go where they belong, to the Father’s such as you, who are being good fathers. You said yourself that your wife “went off into the sunset” leaving you to parent alone. It seems you and Ms. Edgar are in the same boat. So why give her a hard time. I don’t understand why you don’t see that.

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  37. Father’s Day For Single Black Moms: Going Too Far? « Carolyn A. Edgar Says:

    […] Carolyn A. Edgar Notes of a lawyer, writer, and single mom « I Am Not the Father […]

  38. shannon kea Says:

    I to am a single mother not by choice but do to the death of one of the best fathers and husband one could ever have.and all around me knew this yet after his death everyone started.with the happy fathers day calls,cards and gifts.it was a bit much to were my seven year old .told my aunt i have a father he is just dead.but he is still my father.so the happy fathers day greeting is due the fathers that are REAL fathers.

    • carolynedgar Says:

      Shannon, I am so sorry for your loss. It would be great to use those cards, etc as a way for you and your children to honor your late husband on Father’s Day.

  39. Father’s Day Cards For Single Black Moms: Going Too Far? | Carolyn Edgar Says:

    […] the heels of my Father’s Day post discussing why I, as a single mom, do not want Father’s Day greetings, we get the news that […]

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