Father’s Day is one of those holidays that, as a single mom, has always made me feel guilty. My son’s first Father’s Day, I cried while holding him and looking at his tiny hands and goofy toothless grin. I imagined him at 15 years old, still fatherless, and realizing that our family wasn’t “normal.” He’d no doubt start the day by slamming his bedroom door in my face and screaming that he hated not having a dad. And he’d certainly blame me, because why wouldn’t he?

{By the way, my son at 15 years old is very melodramatic, at least in my imagination. I still have another 12 years to go before I’ll be able to know for sure, but if his behavior at 3 is any indication, I will be a heavy drinker by then.}

Truth be told, I’ve always blamed myself for my son’s biological father deciding to walk away. I did everything in my power to make it easy for him to choose to be a part of his son’s life, but in the end I still feel like maybe I could have tried harder. Maybe I just expected too much from him. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to make him love his son and just let it happen organically. Or maybe there was nothing I could have done to change it. I think that particular “maybe” is the one that stings the most. Maybe he was never meant to be anything more than the genetic material that helped create my son, and maybe my son was just meant to be fatherless.

Mommy guilt, right? It’s debilitating.

Every year there are people I know who go out of their way to wish single moms a happy Father’s Day. It’s a wonderful feeling, actually. Even if they don’t really get it, they at least get it enough to know that single moms are doing a two-person job. We don’t do the job for the recognition, but damn, it does feel good when someone pats us on the back from time to time. It is especially appreciated on the days when it’s glaringly obvious that there is a missing component to our family.

This will be my son’s fourth Father’s Day. It will also be the fourth Father’s Day that his biological father has been completely disconnected from him. So who do we celebrate on Father’s Day? Well, I guess me, a little, but that just doesn’t feel right. Instead, I decided four years ago that we will spend every Father’s Day celebrating the men who have decided to step up and handle some of the dad duties in my son’s life. Although my son doesn’t have his biological dad in his life, he is immensely blessed when it comes to “dads.” All the men in my family have become like extra parents to my son, and all my friends have stepped in to make sure he doesn’t ever miss out on the parts of childhood that a dad helps make possible. These men have been what has completely changed my mind about Father’s Day. It’s no longer a day I regret. It’s the day we celebrate these substitute dads, or  the” Stand-Ins,” if you will.


So, to the men who help our children learn to be tough: thank you. To the men who teach our children that Mom might not always be crazy: thank you. To the men who stepped in, and told us they would accompany us so we wouldn’t have to go somewhere alone with our children, even if it was just that one time: thank you. To the men who have set the example of what a truly selfless and caring man is: thank you. Thank you to the grandpas, the uncles, and the cousins. Thank you to the men who have been “friend zoned” by Mom, but still strive to set a good fatherly example. Thank you for playing with our kids so we can make a quick solo run to the grocery store without the drama of the candy aisle. Thank you for listening, wiping tears, and giving the best bear hugs to both us and our children. Thank you for being an additional shoulder to lean on, another ear to listen, and another voice of reason for our children. Thank you for being dependable. Thank you for loving our children, even without the obligation of genetics, and thank you for picking up the slack where others have left it.

Of course I can’t complete this list of gratitude without including the men who have truly become the greatest Stand-Ins: the men who have decided to navigate the rocky and unpredictable terrain of dating Mom. You gentlemen have taken on the role of not only boyfriend, but also Dad. You didn’t get the luxury of being there from the beginning, so you were labeled as “Temporary Impostor” until your probationary period as parent was complete, and that’s assuming our kids even take you off probation. Men like you belong in a category all their own. I don’t have the proper credentials to officially decide where you rank, but I do believe it is right up there just below Sainthood.

Father’s Day isn’t just about “real” dads. It’s about the men who can’t help but become invested in a child’s upbringing for no other reason than because their hearts are just that big. Those men who love to make children smile, and the men who find joy in teaching a child something new that no one else has the time or ability to teach them. Yup. It’s about them, too. Whether you’re a single mom, you are married and your husband is as hands-on as they come, or your family dynamic lands somewhere in the middle, I think we can all agree that the men in a child’s life play a very important role. It’s not always just about Mom, no matter how much we like to think it is. These men are the ones that will help shape the kind of person our children become. They deserve a hug {or at the very least, a high-five} from all of us on Father’s Day. The day is absolutely about all of them.

We love you, Stand-In Dads!



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