Let’s Make Father’s Day a Big Deal

Let’s face the facts, Dad. Father’s Day doesn’t get nearly the same recognition as Mother’s Day. According to several survey results,
• Mother’s Day fuels 75% more spending than Father’s Day worldwide.
• 141 million greeting cards are purchased each year around Mother’s Day, compared to 90 million for Father’s Day.
80% of respondents acknowledged that Mother’s Day gets more attention than Father’s Day.
• Industry insiders know that restaurants are packed for Mother’s Day brunches and dinners. For Father’s Day, not so much. Dad is probably back home barbecuing over a hot, smoky grill in the back yard.
So why does Father’s Day seem to take a backseat to Mother’s Day?
Perhaps it’s the result of history. The inspiration for creating Father’s Day came from, naturally, Mother’s Day. According to some accounts, Father’s Day was first proposed in the United States by Ms. Sonora Smart-Dodd, who came up with the idea while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. The following year, Ms. Smart-Dodd urged area churches to institute the first Father’s Day, and the idea quickly took off.
Thereafter, many U.S. presidents, from Woodrow Wilson to Richard Nixon, lent their support to the creation of a national Father’s Day. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge approved of the idea of a national holiday recognizing fathers as a way to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
It doesn’t exactly make this dad want to jump for paternal joy knowing that Father’s Day was created, in part, to remind dads of their family obligations.
Still, there must be more to explaining why Father’s Day takes a back-seat to Mother’s Day other than an accident of history. Are there clues in my own family’s experience?
For Mother’s Day, the kids and I plan weeks in advance where we’re taking Mom for dinner. We buy the perfect present for her, spend hours picking out an assortment of gift cards guaranteed to make her laugh, and bring her breakfast in bed on the big day.
Father’s Day, on the other hand, feels like an afterthought. A hastily signed card, or a last-minute wrapped gift that’s accompanied with a shrug and the usual excuse, “We never know what to get you.” To be fair, I’m lucky if I myself remember when it’s Father’s Day.
I asked my wife why everyone seems to celebrate Mother’s Day over Father’s Day. Her response?
“Maybe it’s because only mothers go through the excruciating pain of childbirth!”
Okay, good one. But are there other reasons? This time I got a shrug. “I didn’t think you cared that much about it.”
My wife was on to something! We don’t emphasize Father’s Day at our house because I myself haven’t made it a big deal. Many times I’ve said to my wife and kids, “I don’t want you to spend any money on me.” Or, “Don’t get me anything. I’ve got everything I need.”
I’m guessing most dads are in my shoes. Maybe it’s guilt. Do we feel mom deserves more attention because we’re always working (or in some cases, playing golf), while she’s taking care of the kids? And does this really reflect fatherhood today? While men’s parenting skills were more hands-off twenty or thirty years ago, views of fatherhood are certainly changing. More men than ever are choosing to spend quality time with their children, either by cutting back on work hours or becoming stay-at-home caregivers. They want to be everyday dads, making the sacrifices and choices necessary to ensure they’ll be there to see their kids grow up.
With dads taking a more prominent role in parenting, it’s time to give Father’s Day its proper due. And the change has to start with dad. No one is going to make a fuss over Father’s Day unless we fathers lead the way. So, fellow fathers, here’s what you can do to make Father’s Day a big deal in your home this year:
• Start campaigning now. At every dinnertime from now until Father’s Day, casually remind the family that Father’s Day is only x days away and counting. Some call that nagging; I call it persistent persuasion.
• To make sure no one forgets, mark the day down on the refrigerator calendar. (Pssst! It’s Sunday, June 15!)
• Be vocal in what you want for Father’s Day. I won’t turn this into an article listing the top gift ideas for dad, as nine out of ten internet articles about Father’s Day do just that. Rather, the important thing to remember is not to utter a wishy-washy answer like, “I’ll like whatever you give me.”
• If you still don’t know what to ask for, give the default answer I always offer when I’m not sure what I want – an uninterrupted, two-hour nap. Does wonders for a father’s disposition and frame of mind!
• If you’re the type of father who doesn’t feel comfortable being the focus of attention or being showered with material gifts, then look for family activities centered around something you like to do. Take in a baseball game, go fishing, tell stories together, or participate as a family in a community service project. These are great ways to enjoy a shared family activity while still making you feel special.
• Finally, when in doubt, you can always follow the golden rule: “I loved what we did for Mom this year for Mother’s Day. Please do the same thing for me!”
Let’s make this Father’s Day a real celebration of fatherhood, one befitting dad’s more prominent parenting role in the family and honoring the contributions fathers make every day to the lives of their children. And dads . . . this is no time to be humble. Welcome the recognition and attention your family showers on you. You deserve it!