Please Don’t Wish Me A “Happy Father’s Day”

Please Don't Wish Me A "Happy Father's Day"Several years ago my old boss, a married, well-to-do white woman in her late-40s, wished me a “Happy Father’s day”. When I asked her why she’d said this to me, she said it was because she assumed I did “fatherly things with him,” since I was my son’s “mom and dad.”  “What do you think we’d do?” I asked her. “Oh, I don’t know. Fishing or something manly like that,” she struggled to say. A few of my co-workers who were in earshot reacted with blank stares and disgusted sighs. At the end of the conversation, I had to calm one of them down who encouraged me to report her to human resources, a right I was terrified to (and would never) exercise but should have.

I confidently told her that though I was a single parent, I’m not my child’s father. I explained that my son’s father was free and in his life even though she’d assumed otherwise. With a smile on my face, I told her that Mother’s Day had just passed and that I received enough love and celebration on that day to hold me over. Before she walked off embarrassed and red faced, I reminded her that my own father was and has always been an active part in both mine and my son’s life. She anxiously walked away probably rethinking that as the proper way to greet me on a Monday morning. I kept my composure and gave her one of those nice nasty reads that send a message without getting you fired. But when it was all over — and after me and those co-workers talked about it for a couple of hours, one of whom was an actual single father — I was embarrassed and enraged.

In this case, racism and white elitism were the root cause of her backhanded compliment. But in years since, acquaintances have wished me well on Father’s Day, too. I’ve witnessed a multitude of social media posts where single mothers with unresolved issues toward their child’s fathers condemn and attack them while finding solace with each other. While I understand the innocence of the indirect compliment from some — and I politely correct them with a “please don’t wish me Happy Father’s Day” — and the hurt behind father bashing from others, the concept of sending women gratitude on Father’s Day has always made the adult me feel uneasy. It’s unnecessary, ambiguous, and troubling.

Scientifically, I’m not a man, nor do I identify as one. My kid’s dad and I are also cool and trying. Past that, saying those words to a single mother (who finds it offensive, anyway) is more problematic than it is consoling. It is another reminder that the other parent is inactive for reasons that he may or may not be able to control. For a woman with unresolved (and valid) issues, it reopens a deep wound that she desires to be healed with balanced co-parenting, communication, acceptance, and love to at least her child. Truly, this can be painful and I’d wish well meaning or flat out racist and elitist folks would stop this commendation. Being wished a Happy Father’s Day doesn’t make me feel good about myself or lifestyle. Instead, it makes me feel judged and sort of humiliated, which happens on a rare occasion.

My heart goes out to women and children who have been affected to the point of actively (or inactively) celebrating Father’s Day with themselves or their mothers in mind. Again, I empathize and understand they reserve the right to express themselves however they see fit. I wish them peace, healing, and love. All I ask is that we all be mindful and considerate of the compliments we give and receive and tolerate as our hearts can only bear so much.

More Motherhood:


Ariel C. Williams is the founding editor-in-chief of Slay Culture. She’s a millennial who’s down for the culture, loves Netflix, and pegs Master P as one of her entrepreneurial heroes. Buy her book The Girl Talk Chronicles here. Follow her at @ArielSaysNow everywhere. 

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Slay Culture curates content and experiences for smart and lit Black millennials. Follow us online everywhere at @SlayCulture.

  • That is just plain ridiculous! Give the man the credit. Certainly don’t say that to a mom!

    • I agree with you but you’d be surprised how much of a “thing” this is. It’s painful for some and takes away from deserving fathers on the other end.

  • Jay Colby

    I’ve noticed the narrative that has been highly publicized in the media causing many people to assume that majority of black people don’t have fathers in our lives. This is completely uncalled for but you handle the situation with great composure.

    • I love that you mentioned the media thinking black folks don’t have their dads. It’s cruel and often untrue and really needs changing. Thank you for the compliment, Jay!

  • I can’t understand what is going on with people these days. Absent or present, a mother is a mother and a father is a father. One parent may be doing everything for a child but that doesn’t make them both father and mother. It makes them superdad or supermom. Go away Becky.

    • Thank. You. You said it in a nutshell. Mom is mom, dad is dad and #dassit!

    • I agree!

  • That was pretty presumptuous of her. But I’ve noticed that some females want to be acknowledged on Father’s Day. I personally don’t wish any female a Happy Father’s Day.

    • Yeah, it was. (Can we say out of line?!) And neither do I.

  • Antoinette Cain

    I got angry for you just reading about the situation with your supervisor. How ignorant of her.

    • Thanks so much, Antoinette. It was a mess. The #blackwomenatwork hashtag made me remember this (and more) incident that I tried hard to forget.

  • Eva

    Manly things… like women don’t enjoy fishing. I taught my son to play soccer and dribble a basketball, but that by no means made me a father. What are people doing out here? She should stop saying words. All the words. You did well not to tell her about herself.

    • Trust, it was a hard moment to get through…and thinking about having a job to return to was the only thing that kept me. And you’re so right — women do “manly” things all the time, including fishing and scaling them. Chile!

  • LaQuisha Hall

    This is pure truth. Thank you for standing to say this!

  • Some people can be so ignorant, especially when they do it on behalf of their own “good will.” There is often more harm done when people have misguided good intentions then when they keep their mouths shut. I call foul on her b.s. comment.

    • You’re right. Sometimes it’s better to just be quiet. It’s really that simple.

  • Olivia D. Sanders

    I never understood women who wanted to be wished Happy Fathers Day. As a single Mom I love being just that and not taking on roles that were never meant for me. Thanks for echoing my sentiments perfectly! This needed to be said!

    • This is spot on. There’s no need to tell me that because I’m not and don’t aspire to be a father. Reserve that for the men who deserve it. This whole thing is so misguided.

  • This whole wishing any mother a happy fathers day epidemic needs to end. Its not cute and that co-worker should of gotten reported that was lowkey racist of her.

  • Tiffany Heard

    Although im not happy that she said this to you. I think when people make rude comments like this, you are able to a)find out what people are really thinking b)its a moment to teach her and dispel a myth about black mothers. I also really dislike when people wish mothers a happy fathers day. At the end of the day they are not fathers (even if the father is not involved) and they have a whole day dedicated to them..

  • blckberry13

    This has been happening more and more over the past couple of years, but I must admit that I’m surprised to hear a white colleague was the offender. I usually hear people within our own community making this mistake. Either way, wrong is wrong.