One of the toughest holidays for many single mothers each year is Father's Day. No matter how long dad has been out of the picture, it's a day that can be a reminder of all the dread, heartache, pain, and suffering that resulted from his absence.
Being a single mom myself, I can speak from personal experience when it comes to dealing with an absent father. That combination of your own personal thoughts and feelings about the situation, the resulting emotions and behavior of your children, plus the ripple effect that has branched out into almost all other areas of your life because of the situation, is not easy to deal with at all.
If this sounds all too familiar, then it's time to recognize that, as Christian women of faith, it does not have to be this way. We do NOT have to settle for a dreadful Father's Day year after year. It's time to learn how to celebrate Father's Day even when dad is not around.
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What Is An Absent Father?
In 2019, the United States Census reported that 20.2% of all fathers in U.S. (roughly 7 million), are "absent dads" when it comes to all their minor children.
Just to clarify, an absent father or an absent dad, is a man who has little or nothing to do with the parenting of his children. In other words, they are not involved at home, they don't pay child support, they don't show up for birthdays or Christmas, they don't call, and they don't write. Their reasons may vary, but they are literally "absent".
How Do I Deal With An Absent Father?
The effects that an absent father can have on a child are endless. Statistics include everything from low self-esteem, behavioral problems, increased aggression, and random outbursts of anger, to inability to maintain relationships, early sexual activity, anxiety, fear, and drug addiction.
Not to mention the effects an absent father can have on a mother as well. The stress of the situation alone can lead to depression, physical burnout, alcoholism, increased financial difficulties, emotional trauma, and even suicidal thoughts.
But thank God, as Christians we are not left to deal with these situations on our own!
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)
The more time we spend with God and cling to His Word, the more equipped we will be to handle troubling situations when they arise - and to teach our children to do the same. So, let's take a look at how we should handle absent fathers from a biblical perspective.
Acknowledge the Situation and Any Related Issues
Step one is to address the elephant in the room, and have a genuine conversation(s) about your situation with your kids. Too often as single moms, we get so caught up in how the situation has affected us personally, that we neglect to see how it is affecting our kids.
For the longest time, I avoided talking to my son about his father. I would only bring him up, if my son brought him up or asked about him. I didn’t want to ask my son how he felt about his father’s absence. Not because I didn’t care, but because I was afraid and didn’t want to deal with the full reality of it all. But, the reality is we have to talk about it. No matter how hard it may be.
It helps to pray first - for the courage, the words to say, and the approach to take.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Looking back, I realize that although it was difficult to talk to him about it, was the best thing for both of us. In acknowledging the situation, it’s important to discuss the following key things:
- What actually happened - be honest, and depending on their age tell them the story (including your part/faults in the situation if applicable)
- Why dad left - and if you don't know, tell them that
- Reassurance that it's not their fault
- How you, as a mom, are feeling about the situation
- How your children are feeling about the situation and any questions they may have
- The reality that life will be challenging as a result of the situation
- How you're going to get through it all with God's help
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:18-19)
The sooner you have these conversations, the sooner you and your kids will be on the road to healing, living, and enjoying life more, despite dad being out of the picture.
Don't Attempt or Pretend to Be Dad
So often I’ll hear mothers say or even post on social media that they are both mom and dad. But, the fact of the matter, is that we are NOT.
We are single mothers holding it down – YES! But, no matter what we do, we will NEVER be a father to our kids. That’s simply not our role genetically or spiritually. What we can do is strive to be the mothers that God has called us to be in His Word. That is all God requires and expects. The rest is in His hands.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
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Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire. (Proverbs 29:17)
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These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
I promise you, that when you start to parent God’s way, you won’t believe the blessings you will begin to see in your life, your kids’ lives, and in your home!
One of the most challenging things to do as a Christian is forgiving someone who has deeply hurt us. It’s hard to let go of, and move past the pain. We feel like forgiveness somehow lets people off the hook.
But, forgiveness is not absolving someone of their sins, nor does it necessarily pardon them from punishment. Forgiveness is to simply stop harboring anger and resentment. When we extend forgiveness, it’s just as much (if not more) for our benefit, than it is for the person we are forgiving. Not to mention when we forgive, it is an act of obedience to God.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12-13)
When we don’t forgive, we dwell on our hurt, and allow the negative feelings that come with it to fester, and turn into bitterness, rage and hatred. We actually end up hurting ourselves more than anything. Meanwhile, so often, the other person has not only moved on with their life, but they are out enjoying their lives.
I know absent fathers may seem impossible to forgive. In fact, if we are being honest, we don’t really want to forgive them. As far as, we are concerned they don’t deserve it. However, if we don’t extend forgiveness, we will continue to remain in bondage to the situation.
Although it won’t happen overnight, what I can promise you, is that forgiveness is a big piece of the road to healing and moving forward – for you and your kids.
God will give you the power and strength through His holy Spirit to be able to forgive. Let’s not allow unforgiveness to hinder our homes, our prayers, our blessings, or our walk with God.
Ways to Celebrate Father's Day Despite An Absent Father
So once you acknowledge and deal with the situation of an absent father, how exactly do you celebrate father’s day?
It’s all about replacing the negative connotations you have associated with Father’s Day in the past, with new memories, traditions and celebrations.
Honor Other Father Figures
You can start by acknowledging any other father figures that are in your child’s life. Whether it’s a step-father, an uncle, grandfather, pastor, teacher, tutor, guidance counselor, or coach – you can honor those who have essentially been a part of your support system as a parent.
It’s important we teach our kids how to show appreciation for those that play a vital role in their well-being and success.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. (I Thessalonians 1:2)
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Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18)
There are many creative things to do for Father's Day that cost little to nothing, that can be done to express gratitude for other father figures:
- Give them a call or FaceTime to say "thank you"
- Send a heartfelt text message
- Create an appreciation video with your phone
- Write an appreciation letter and hand deliver it
- Create a hand made Father’s Day card
- Create an appreciation certificate (download FREE printables below)
- Spend the afternoon with them doing a fun activity you both enjoy
- Watch a live sports game together on TV
- Pay them a visit just to say thanks and to pray for them
- Offer to help them complete a project, or some household chores
Honor Deceased Father Figures
Perhaps there were some father figures in the life of your kids, that are now deceased. But, how do you honor a dead father on Father’s Day?
You can use the occasion as an opportunity to memorialize and celebrate them.
Whether it’s a visit to a gravesite, a trip to a significant place, or a family outing/event to commemorate the deceased individual, you can honor deceased father figures as well.
Don't Forget to Honor Your Heavenly Father
Whether you have other father figures to honor, or deceased fathers to commemorate or not, ALL of us can honor God - our Heavenly Father.
It is God who wakes us up everyday, who watches over us, leads, guides, protects and provides for us. No matter what we go through in life, God has and will never fail us.
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
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I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
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This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Yes – the sting of an absent father can hurt, in more ways than one. And yes, the aftermath of it all can last for years to come. However, God has not, nor will He ever leave us on our own to deal with any of it.
Whether it's attending a Father's Day church service, having a big family dinner to celebrate God's grace in your lives, or having a family devotional and praise hour where you and your kids share what you are thankful to God for, it never hurts to set aside special quality time just to honor God!
He has provided comfort through His Word, the presence of His Holy Spirit in our lives, and the manifestation of His love each and every day. It’s up to us as Christian mothers to embrace what He has given us and to lean on God for strength and guidance.
No one ever said parenting would be easy. And, I doubt any of us ever planned to do it solo. With dad out of the picture, things may be tough, and we may have to fight a little harder than others. But, one thing is for certain, we have a God who never fails, and who can take care of us and our kids unlike anyone else can.
I hope you will choose, like I have, to put your complete trust in Him, and then watch Him do great an mighty things in your life, and in the lives of your children.
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