Saturday, September 3, 2011

Celebrate father’s day proudly! Even if there wasn’t a man around to raise you.

My father is not a part of my life (never was) so I don’t celebrate him on father’s day. But I celebrate anyway! This piece is for all of you out there who sometimes feel left out of the celebration because you were not raised by a man. I propose that you should still celebrate father’s day. All you have to do is give up on the notion that a father should be male. Simple!

Let me explain.

During my childhood and teenage years, my father was severely mentally ill. While he was present in my life, his illness dictated that his contribution as a parent would be 100% negative. Traumatic in the extreme. It took me many years of psychiatric therapy and medication to finally put his memory to rest. But thats another story.

During this nightmare and in the aftermath, my mother was forced to assume the role of father and mother. At least, thats how my sister and I saw it. We lived in a farming community you see, women and men had set traditional roles in the household and on the land. This was a town where it was firmly believed that “Men talk to men and women talk to women. No need for any other kind of talking”. I guess that was their backward way of avoiding adultery.

Even so, our neighbors could see that enforcing tradition upon my family might be somewhat cruel. It was evident the man at the helm was quite mad and not open to reason (they had tried). He developed a reputation for being sadistic even. There was much sympathy. It took time, but our backward, redneck rural Australian community eventually saw that my father was not able to fulfill his traditional fatherly duties. Traditions are powerful in towns like ours, it was a difficult realization for those around us. Eventually, in his mental absence they accepted my mother as the sole, combined male/female representative of our family. But it wasn’t as straight forward as that.

My mother first had to refuse to accept the more traditional role in these situations, the one of suffering wife in search of a new man to replace her failed husband. It was traditional for the men of the neighborhood to perform farm duties on a volunteer basis until she could find a more “permanent arrangement” to replace said husband. That wasn’t mum’s style. She did everything herself.

Slowly, seeing her resolve, the men in the town accepted her as kind of their own and started to approach her when they needed to discuss farm work and other manly tasks. Strangely, it was at this point that rumors went through the town that my mother was a lesbian. I guess that was their way of dealing with the fact that she wasn’t looking for a new husband. Or maybe the rumor was what gave the men in the town permission to talk to my mother about mens jobs. The rumor didn’t bother me. Despite some people telling me it should. If anything it helped mum. I thought it would be kind of cool to have a lesbian mother that shocked ignorant people I didn’t think much of.

We left the farm, our little town and my father behind when I was 17. But as far as I am concerned my mother continues to be both my mother and father today. The things that she doesn’t know, that a man would, I would never ask a father anyway. There is a limit to what you can share with a parent sometimes. I have a partner for those sorts of questions. To be honest, like me, mum was an engineer. She spent 18 years on building sites surrounded only by men. I suspect my mother has probably picked up a few things about men over the years despite my hesitation to ask.

This Sunday is father’s day. Sometimes I receive condolences when people hear about my father. They assume that father’s day is a sad day for me. They don’t know that my sadness when it comes to fathers is in the past. Well in the past.

When I was 18 I decided to buy my mother a gift for fathers day. It was a gesture that felt so right it made me glow with pride. Mum did deserve to be celebrated on fathers day. But it was not all smooth sailing. When I gave mum that first gift she did not take it as well as I had hoped. Mum started to cry. Amongst the tears it all came out. She felt guilt, incompetence and regret that she had not found us a better father. She wanted to give the gift back and explained that I was mistaken in my gesture. I was understandably hurt by her reaction. Nonetheless I obediently promised not to raise the matter again.

Since that day, my mother has gotten over the initial shock. Shock was all it was. She decided that celebratory days are not just for the day’s namesake. “Let’s try again next year” she said. Mum also decided that it was OK for us to see her as a mum and a dad. She had worked hard for the distinction dammit! She’d had to convince a whole community she could be just as good a father! Teach a whole town full of men how to talk to a woman like an equal! To think of all the whispers that came with her achievement! All those salacious rumors.

All worth it.

Celebrate Fathers day proudly! Even if there was no man around to raise you, you have a father. Your father just isn’t a man.


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Feasibility is an engineering based blog designed to reach other STEM people. Non-STEM people are also welcome! I try to give good advice and well-reasoned opinions but please don’t hesitate to disagree with me. This blog exists because I realised that I live in a metaphorical bubble and that simply wont do. Nup.


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