One way to criticise the other is to appreciate its binary and vice versa. When we appreciate mothers, we indirectly and unknowingly underappreciated the fathers and their roles. We glorify mothers and motherhood, but we do not even bother to bestow the same sort of glorification upon the fathers. Of course, mothers are great! They are the primary and the most important caregivers to their children. However, the importance of a father and the challenges he constantly faces during his fatherhood should not be underrated and underappreciated too.
When we think of a person, or let’s say a role, we imagine an image or many images. Traditionally, fathers are given the images of breadwinners, disciplinarians, authoritative figures and reserved personalities. Our culture has put particular roles on a father’s shoulder just like the way it has done to the mother. Fathers are less sentimentalised than mothers. At least, they are not supposed to show their emotional outbreak in front of other family members, because, as the proverb goes, “men don’t cry!”
How many of you have seen your mothers cry? I think most of my readers will say, “I have, I have”! I, as a mother, cried several times, even in front of my kids due to the physical and mental toll I had to bear during the early phases of my motherhood. I do not want to hide my fragility, vulnerability and emotions from my children. But fathers are usually conditioned not to show their sentiment, struggles and overburdened feelings of responsibility. Their anguish remains silent. But that does not mean that they cannot feel the fragility of fatherhood.
The unappreciative attitudes towards the fathers have a historical root. Mother's Day goes back to the 1860s. On the other hand, Father’s Day stemmed from an incident that took place in a church in West Virginia in 1908. The church held a sermon to honour 362 men who were killed during the mine explosion in the previous year. The US, through this sermon, honoured the fathers for the very first time. But it was a one-and-done thing. Later on, in 1910, Sonora Smart Dodd pledged to celebrate Father’s Day officially for the first time on 19 June. This is how the day came into being. Still, the day is not celebrated as profoundly as Mother’s Day. Obviously, the history of Mother’s Day is much older.
Historically and culturally, women were financially dependent on their fathers and husbands. The financial dependency drew a fine line between the territories of men and women. As a result, it is, ideologically, taken for granted that women would take care of the household chores, family members, goats and calves and would rear and raise children. On the contrary, men were conditioned to provide food, shelter and security to the family. Men are privileged to do many physically demanding jobs more than women. It let them do difficult jobs even when they did not have educational qualifications. Men did the survival jobs for which they had to remain absent, sometimes, the whole day. As a result, they could not directly involve in child-rearing activities.
Now the time has changed. Women are also working outside to contribute financially to the family expenses. Parenting has become a shared job. It is teamwork. Both mothers and fathers have to share their responsibilities inside and outside of the domestic domains. Still, many fathers often say, “I have never seen my father doing this or that.” This discourse should be changed too. One cannot bring their childhood and previous experience to the current lifestyle. Fortunately, many fathers have taken parenting to the next level. They are getting them involved in children’s affairs more directly and intimately. Their efforts should not be discounted and underappreciated.
A father is a steady institution. He does not always give verbal advice to the children. He goes the way and leaves his footprint for his offspring. Therefore, a father also needs to know that they are the idol to their kids. He may show his tough love when it is necessary. To make a father’s unseen contributions seen, a mother can play a vital role. When a father is doing an extra-time job, a mother, instead of taking all credit on her, needs to make the children understand how much their father loves them that he works so hard to create a better life for them.
We live in a society where we get bewildered to see the news of a father raping his own daughter. We feel shattered and dumbfounded. These deformed creatures cannot even be called 'fathers'. They are the worst example of the human race. There are deformed mothers too. Nonetheless, there are more good fathers than these heinous possessors. Good fathers, who help their children build the personality of by resting their faith on them and creating a safer and better zone for them, deserve much appreciation, gratitude, love and respect.
It is time we redefined fatherhood and appreciate all the wonderful fathers around us. One cannot be a father right after the birth of his biological child. Only one exploding shot of blasted honey during the time of sexual intercourse does not define fatherhood. Fatherhood is a process; one has to become a father. A non-biological father can be a wonderful and responsible parent. Only because he did not contribute his sperms to bring the child to life, his love, care and role cannot be ignored.
A father is a male parent. When we think of the word 'parent', we sincerely imagine an image and responsibilities related to it. We need to make 'sex' irrelevant when we say 'parent'. A father can do everything a mother can do, of course, except bearing the child inside the womb and then breastfeeding it after the delivery. If a female parent or mother deserves to be celebrated, good fathers should be embraced too. Dear biological and non-biological fathers around the world, you are wonderful! Happy Father’s Day!
The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Premier University Chittagong