By Heidi Hamm
Yes, I’m going there. Before you naysayers get all up in arms about how Father’s Day is meant for all the great dads out there and not moms, just hear me out.
I get it. I hear you. There are some amazing fathers out there who should be celebrated, my husband included. If you have a great dad, or are a great dad, or know a great dad, go. Celebrate! These men deserve to be recognized, appreciated and loved.
For the rest of you, like me, who grew up with single moms, or are single moms, or know single moms, this one is for you.
“She’s an immaculate conception,” my mom used to joke when people would question where my dad was. I was only a few weeks old when he took my mother out for dinner and told her he was leaving.
Just like that she became a single parent to a six-year-old, a four-year-old and an infant. We moved back to my mom’s hometown and he stayed behind and started a new family. I wouldn’t even meet my father until I was eight-years-old and I can count on my fingers the number of times I have seen him since then.
I have a father and yet, I have never once celebrated Father’s Day with him. I have never made him a card, brought him breakfast in bed or gone on a Father’s Day picnic.
And I am not alone.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014, 23.6 percent of children lived in a fatherless home. That’s 17.4 million kids.
I remember as a child, watching my mom brick a wall in our townhouse kitchen. I was six-years-old. I watched as she wordlessly mixed the mortar, slicing it with a trowel and scraping it onto the brick. One after the other. Dip, scrape, press. She stayed up all night working on that wall until its entire surface was covered. That wall was more than mere brick and mortar. That wall was a testament. When I padded into the kitchen the following morning and saw my mother’s handiwork, I knew. My mom could do just about anything.
Some would argue that she shouldn’t be recognized on Father’s Day. After all, she wasn’t a father. They’re right.
She was so much more.
She was my entire world. My only view of what a parent looks like. She bore it all on her slender shoulders. And she carried us, my sisters and me. She carried us through the days when all she could afford were two pork chops split between the four of us for dinner. She carried us through the months when she returned to university to get her degree in social work. She carried us through the years when she worked full-time and parented all of the time.
When I was sick in the night, it was her cool hand on my fevered forehead. It was her signature on every permission slip and absentee note. She was at every parent teacher interview. It was her butt in the seat at every piano festival and baseball game. It was her steadying hand on the back of my banana seat bike when she taught me how to ride. The doctor, the dentist, the emergency room? It was all her.
And when we got too old to be carried? What then? Then she walked beside us. She bore the brunt of our teenage angst. Through the heartbreaks, rebellions, and the screaming of “I hate you!” she took it all. And somehow she managed to bear the weight. On her own.
She was the one who taught me how to drive a car. In the middle of the night it was she that waited up and worried. She won the hard conversations lottery by default; sex, drugs, dating. She taught me how to balance a checkbook and fill up the car with gas. On my wedding day it was she that walked me down the aisle to marry a man who would prove to be everything my father was not.
She taught me what strong really looks like. And stubborn. She taught me about resilience and determination and true, unadulterated grit. She was the voice in my head, telling me I mattered. That I was loved. She was the face that I saw when I fell down, always extending a hand to help me back up. She was there for me through every failure, every poor decision, every bad choice, and not once did she whisper, “I told you so.”
Not once did she utter a bad word to me about my father, even though she must have had a million of them bumping together inside her head. Not once did I feel as though it was my fault that he left. I harbor no ill will towards my father. He has my mother to thank for that. Some people are meant to be parents. Some are not.
For the critics out there who say I am hijacking Father’s Day, a day meant only for dear old dad, I am guilty as charged.
But for those of you, like me, who grew up without a father, I still have someone who deserves to be recognized. Someone who, while she couldn’t replace a father in my life, always did her best to fill the void. And she was enough.
So to my mom and all the other single moms out there rocking this parenting gig, Happy Father’s Day!
About the Author
Heidi Hamm is a writer, wife and mom of twin boys with the alter egos of the Hulk and Spiderman and their older sister, who is in training to rule a small (or large) country someday. She has been published on Sammiches and Psych Meds, Scary Mommy and Mamalode. You can also find her on Facebook.