The Complex Feelings of Father's Day

Father’s Day is an important time to check in with the complex feelings this day may evoke.

A hand holds a slide up to the light, on which is a dated image of a woman and man posing outside.

The ideal of the wise, patient, loving, all-knowing, provider was never more than a useful television trope. At its best, this ideal gives people a positive role in childrearing to aspire to, but at its worst it casts patriarchy in a benevolent light, as the natural order of things. And, it also creates an impossible standard for new fathers to live up to that denies the messy, frustrating realities and constant failings that are part and parcel of parenthood. Sometimes it feels like Father’s Day is more about enshrining a myth than it is about facing the realities of fatherhood that often fall so far short.

For some of us, the story of fatherhood is about love, acceptance, and guidance, but for others it is a story of rejection, abuse, shame, or abandonment. For some it is a story of nurturance, but for others it is marked by frustration and resentment, a story of burdens and unrealized dreams. For some, fatherhood is the longing for children unborn or lost to death or estrangement. Many of us have no father story at all.

Whatever your story and your feelings about having or not having, being or not being, a father, we honor your unique experience this day. And I invite you to let your experience be what it is without measuring it against false ideals.

While your Father’s Day may be anything but a celebration, the force of this idea of “father” affects us all in one way or another. Let us take a moment to go inward and experience the thoughts and feelings we have around the concept of “father.”

[moment of silence]

If what you’re feeling is love, then I invite you to bask in that warmth and let it fill you.

If what you’re feeling is pain or rage, then hold it gently and listen as it wails its lament.

If what you feel is sorrow, let yourself be slowly rocked by its waves.

And if what you experience is the longing of a child abandoned, then cradle that inner child and offer it the unconditional acceptance and love it yearns for.

Blessed be.