In Ghana (and elsewhere), many fathers complain that they are not given as much recognition on Father’s Day as is given to mothers on Mother’s Day; Father’s Days are not as hyped as Mother’s Days. In trying to resolve this imbalance, on Mother’s Day this year I posted a Facebook status that said, “Happy Parent’s Day” instead of “Happy Mother’s Day”. Immediately two females commented. One reminded me it was Mother’s Day; the other asked what my status meant and that I should allow mothers to be celebrated.
There have been arguments justifying why, generally, mothers are cherished more than fathers. And there are several stories of some fathers deserting their families. I wasn’t surprised to see a comment from a man who said that he considered his mother as his father because he had nothing to do with his biological father. But we also know of several examples where many fathers have been indispensable in the lives of their children; and where, on the contrary, some mothers have abandoned their children.
I do understand that for many years, mothers generally have been at a disadvantage, so it makes sense that they be cherished beyond measure. However, things have changed now. My wife goes through a lot as a mother, but I also go through a lot as a father. My mother went through a lot to bring us up, but my dad also went through a lot. The difference is that because we were often with our mum, it was easy for us to see what she went through to take care of us, but it was difficult to see that of our father. Things only made sense to us when we grew up.
The point is, despite the limelight increased contact with their children places mothers in, the role fathers play cannot be regarded as second fiddle. And I strongly believe that the two distinct celebrations, rather than acknowledging the equal role played by both mothers and fathers, puts mothers on a pedestal and relegates fathers to the background. But what kind of future do we want to see if the current generation of fathers-to-be feel their role will not be as much appreciated? Evans Adu Gyamfi, author of A Toast to Fatherhood: Sons and Daughters Appreciating the Fatherly Role, has argued that appreciating the institution of fatherhood cannot be ignored if the current fatherhood crisis is going to see an end. Thus, it is important that we acknowledge equally what mothers and fathers do to bring up their children, and not transfer our experiences of the past onto the institution of fatherhood.
But that’s not the only point. I think the current distinction between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, with the recognition of the former as more important than the latter, creates friction—friction in homes and in society at large. It creates some sort of competition, envy, jealousy between father and mother, and it strains our efforts at redefining gender roles and advocating gender equality. I also think that it does not foster forgiveness in situations where fathers or mothers might have hurt their children.
Instead of having two separate days—one for mothers and the other for fathers—I propose a single day to celebrate parents (including single parents). To make the proposal effective, I suggest that neither the day assigned currently to mothers nor fathers should be used; instead a different day should be designated as Parent’s Day. This way, parents can receive equal recognition. I believe this will be a step towards valuing equally the roles mothers and fathers play, and it will encourage fathers (and uncaring mothers) to be more interested in the affairs of their children.
What is more beautiful than reaching out to both parents, if there are, and wishing them a Happy Parent’s Day, and using that day as an opportunity to reconcile differences between mother and father and between parent(s) and child? The need to reunite our families is long overdue and it must start now!
So, on this day I wish all parents a happy Parent’s Day. As long as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day exist, I will celebrate a double Parent’s Day—one in May for both my mum and dad, and the other in June for both my mum and dad. You can also join the cause.
Disclaimer: My wife Patience G. Okyere Asante, with whom I author this blog, does not agree to the merger of Mother’s and Father’s Days into a Parent’s Day, but she does recognize the need to cherish fathers and mothers equally.
Photo Credit: Siir Koby Photography