Mother’s Day has all kinds of weight and expectation wrapped up in it.
It can be fun.
It can speak value into someone’s life and vocation.
It can be a giant bust.
It can be a reminder of grief and hurt.
No matter how hard we try, there are expectations that surround the day and around motherhood in general that we can’t quite shake.
One day we have little expectation for is Father’s Day.
In fact, culturally we lack appropriate expectation for fatherhood in general, keeping silent about it or we pour criticism onto fathers and men without giving tools for change. We vacillate between wanting them to “be better” at the vocations of husband, father, brother, neighbor, boyfriend, and friend to setting aside any responsibility and claiming “boys will be boys.” Culturally, we perpetuate situations unsafe for women and unfair to men:
We embrace or at least are ambivalent toward a casual sex culture that holds no honor towards sexuality. We avoid conversations that openly encourage responsibility and practicality in relationships alongside fun and entertainment. We do not discuss the reality that sex is far more pleasurable in committed love in the shape of marriage.
We wait until boys are men and fatherhood is at their doorstep to let them know that fatherhood is to be taken seriously and their role is absolutely vital in the life of a child, as well as a mother.
We become so wrapped up in the mother’s gift to feed and nurture that we don’t leave room for dads to do this work, and when they do, we tell them they do it wrong. (Totally guilty over here.)
We do not create television shows that reveal great qualities of many men and fathers, but rather present one of two versions of men and fathers:
the goofy gallant who can’t think to tie his shoes, and is either mostly unengaged, or is rude and a jerk
the masculine superhero, who doesn’t cry, has no ear hair, and oozes confidence
These are broad generalizations and maybe a little too harsh. I am happy to see more good, more authentic-ish stuff coming out of Hollywood. I see a small cultural shift to tolerating, if not embracing complicated emotions. And there are organizations with awesome initiatives for manhood and fatherhood – working to open the conversation, mentor, and learn alongside.
Still, I really think we leave fathers in second place of importance after mothers.
In our fight for women’s rights (of which I am an active participant) we can be so zealous that we stomp out any male voice, rather than just the ridiculous ones. We do need to be heard, but I don’t want to be heard at the expense of grounding out what good God is doing in someone else who doesn’t look like me, and that includes men.
Dearmen, this is me saying, I want to be honored in the way men are in this country, simply by station of their sex. I want to be seen to have skills, to be strong and able, and I really want to stop having to be so used to various breeds of sexual harassment and demeaning humor.
But I also don’t want you to be less honored as part of the process.
Maybe I should call this male-friendly feminism.
With all of this as background, here is a call to action to rise up on Father’s Day:
Good men are worth celebrating.
Who have been the good men in your life?
What men have changed the world with their kindness, their strength, their skills, and their generosity?
What gifts do the men in your life bring to the roles of husband, brother, father, uncle, grandfather, neighbor, and friend?
Father’s Day is just as important as Mother’s Day, for its own reasons, just as fathers are just as important as mothers, for their own reasons.
We can give them more than steaks on a grill. (Churches, in particular, I’m talking to you.)
We can tell the men among us that they are valuable and necessary. We can build them up. We can point out all the things they are doing well. We can have some appropriate expectations of what relationships with men and fatherhood itself should look like. We can leave space for them to engage and not be critical of every attempt. We can have conversations with the boys and young men in our lives to say,
“Hey, I see your classy qualities. You matter. We need more of these qualities in our world. We need you. See these issues over here – taking advantage of women, men not coming to church with their families, violence – those things are terrible. You can be the difference maker.”
This year, let’s not let Father’s Day fall off the map. Let’s not be afraid that in celebrating men, we’ll take three steps back in celebrating women. Moms work hard. We can expect more and cheer on dads working hard too.
What are your plans this Father’s Day?
What can you do to cheer on the valor you see in manhood and fatherhood around you?
Leave a note to share your ideas for cheering on in the comments. You can also print and share the graphic below, or send it via social media, email, or screen shot to a man or fourteen men in your life.
Men, just keep being you, but aim for the best version of you, not the culturally acceptable version, because you make this world a better place.
Look for more resources on men’s mental, emotional, and relational health on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page through Father’s Day!