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Father’s Day for Single Moms Can Be Tough

Possibly the hardest day of the year: Father’s Day for single moms.

The father of my sons was in their lives, which meant that I was a big part of helping them prepare for that day—picking out a gift, or assisting in the creation of a homemade craft. I would talk about the importance of their father in their lives and fake a big smile as they headed out the door to spend time with their dad. My relationship with their father wasn’t great, so Father’s Day was downright exhausting.

This was especially hard when he didn’t pay his required child support each month—and yet, because I didn’t want my kids involved in this issue, I had to grin and bear it. It was even harder when the kids wanted to spend my money to buy their dad a gift. Resentment definitely reared its ugly head.

For you, maybe your ex has moved on and has a girlfriend or a wife, and the two of them are picking up the kids to enjoy the day together. And you, single and pissed-off, try to talk yourself into being happy for all of them, even as you tear up while waving goodbye.

Or, maybe your kids’ dad is not in the picture, which means you have a whole different laundry list of issues, like trying to make it a wonderful day, in spite of this glaring omission. Maybe your child is feeling very sad as he or she becomes aware of other families with two parent homes. Once again, it all falls on you to be positive, kind, and as loving as possible.

For some of us, our relationship with our own father comes to light here. If he is a positive part of your life, he has likely served as a terrific role model for your kids. If you and your father don’t get along or no longer speak, Father’s Day can be a cruel reminder of what you are sorely lacking.

Surviving Father’s Day

How do people with complicated family lives get through this? Is there really a solution? I’ve gritted my teeth on Father’s Day for most of my sons’ lives, as it seemed like their dad got way more glory than he ever earned. I survived those days by talking it out with other single mom friends, who understood better than anyone else.

As to Father’s Day for single moms—here’s my survival advice. I had one special approach that helped me through Father’s Day. Since I was basically both mom and dad to my boys, I decided that I deserved my own Father’s Day gift. Since I could usually only afford a small gift, I put more energy into the gesture of treating myself rather than what the end result was. Sometimes it was Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream; other times it was new nail polish and a magazine.

The important thing was that I stopped the parenting merry-go-round for a moment and recognized the value of my constant presence in my kids’ lives.

Single parenting equals double the duty, but even better, double the reward.

Renee Brown

Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.