Squarely claimed as a post-gender era, the very notion of fatherhood is collaterally affected by the active social reconstruction of terms that embed gender heteronormativity. In plain language, what does it mean to be a father in a time when roles ascribed to being a dad transcend the sex of an individual? Traditionally, the male sex is inherent to the term father or dad. In a similar way, the female sex is inherent to the term mother or mom.  Certainly, human biology privileges traditional understandings of mother and father.

In this way, father and mother are heteronormative constructions of the family, that is based on the view that the parenting system is constituted by a man and woman.  Bio-normative psycho-social constructions of the family, embed the female-male binary in conception, birth, identity formation, and subsequently in parenting. In a bio-normative psycho-social construction of family, biological sex and identity are equally relevant, and parenting roles performed are fluid and mixed.

In modern families, dads and moms share more of the direct parenting roles with newborns and young babies than previous generations.  Modern dads are incredibly involved as active parents and at times, may perform most caregiving roles with children. This is a relatively new and wonderful evolution of parenting in modern times that younger parents may in fact take for granted or forget. Merely, one century ago, fathers were exempt from post-work caregiving roles with their children as wives and mothers were clearly relegated to a domestic sphere that usually involved raising several children on a full-time basis.

Many of us must only trace back two generations to our great-grandparents to remember the number of children parents bore together and the ways women shouldered most of this work in the home. Today of course, much has changed both legally and socially. Your adult children may choose:

  • to be single
  • to be married
  • to be married and childless
  • to be married with children
  • to be in a co-parenting partnership with several adults as stepparents
  • to be a single parent
  • to be in a same-sex marriage and childless
  • to be in a same-sex marriage with children
  • to be in same-sex co-parenting arrangement as stepparents
  • to be adoptive parents
  • to be foster parents

In Ontario, Family Laws recognize that children can have more than two parents. The legal language allows the birth parent to list the first and last names of the child, co-parents, and the terms mother or father. Modern legal language aims to protect the legal rights of children to financial support of biological parents who may or may not be listed as parents on birth certificates. Despite this legal evolution, Social Workers can attest to ongoing child-support payment woes of birth parents by individuals who neglect, abandon, or disregard their financial responsibility.  

What are your plans for this upcoming Father’s Day? How will you treat your dad to thank him for the gift of life, unconditional love, guidance, and support in your life? To reduce your personal experiences of fathering to a legal arena of financial responsibility is a sad, yet, persistent test to the parameters of parental accountability in modern times.

Of course, your dad is far more than a person who helped to pay his share for your upkeep and wellbeing. Your dad is so much more, and you deserve at least one day to spend some time together to remind yourselves about the love, respect, and honour you share for one another. Your great grandfather, and perhaps even your grandfather may not have uttered the words, “I love you”, and perhaps even failed to show it! If your dad struggles to say these words, then perhaps you can take a brave new step to tell him first. 

From a therapeutic perspective, love is expressed and felt in ways that far surpass human language and words.  Fathering is an honourable role that unfolds on a daily basis. It is the tender response to the first cries of an infant and then, all of the many tender moments that follow when your daddy was there for you – the steady presence of security that never wavered or failed – the rock upon which healthy families grow despite the obstacles.

Take the occasion of this Father’s Day to reflect upon the ways your own father set the foundation for your sense of stability, security, strength, and care. The bio-psycho-social importance of the Paternal Imago is as critical to your overall sense of wellbeing as your maternal imago. A realm of psychodynamic exploration for years, your relationship with both parents is each fundamental to your psychological health and mental wellbeing. Dive deeply into your personal feelings about your dad, and when you feel ready, let him know verbally or nonverbally.

Accepting the imperfections and failures of your parents is perhaps the main psychological task of psychotherapy. Accepting the imperfections and failures of your own parenting is perhaps the second. Happy Father’s Day Dads – most of your truly deserve a good day!!!!

Sunny dispositions deserve to shine, Dr. Lisa Romano-Dwyer

#wellness #healthy #familytherapy #psychotherapy #Father’sDay

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