As an engaged father, I find Father's Day to be unsettling. My feelings started the week before Mother's Day when a viral video came out where people were interviewed for an impossible job—working 24/7, no pay, etc. The reveal came when they asked the applicants if they knew someone who did this job. The answer: Your Mother. I believe the video was actually produced by Hallmark. Despite the creative marketing campaign, I couldn't help but feel bad for all those people who were not brought up by their mothers. There is no question that mothers do an unappreciated job—as do many parents and guardians who are not mothers. Of course as a dedicated father, I asked, what about me? I work those same hours and get the same pay.
So sure enough, my day comes along. This year is my first Father's Day, and despite loving my seven-month old (who just achieved the great feat of clapping his hands), I greet the holiday with torn feelings. Apart from Hallmark's obvious business choices, why do we need a separate day for mothers and fathers? And doesn’t it really just make other dedicated legal guardians self-conscious? What of the children with single mothers? How do they feel on Father’s Day?
I have recently become aware of how much our parental leave system in America (or lack thereof) helps define gender roles. As mentioned in my last blog post, I am lucky enough to work at the JCC in Manhattan, which offers equal parental leave to both fathers and mothers. But I am shocked that America has one of the lowest standards for such leave; most workplaces do not offer fathers any parental leave whatsoever. What does this say about how our society respects the job of parenting? Not to mention the statement being made when mothers are given more leave than fathers. The need for parental leave goes beyond healing from the birth process.
We just took our son to Israel for the first time. The attitude towards parenting had a completely different vibe. People were so welcoming towards babies—I mean, he is cute and all, but honestly, we felt like celebrities. In restaurants in Tel Aviv we were not frowned upon for bringing a child, we were celebrated. Best seats in the house! Yet even there, although they offer quite extensive parental leave, it can only be enjoyed by one of the parents.
I find the beauty of a modern marriage is that spouses can truly share the burden—equally. You do not have to be a very modern family to be raising a child outside of the classic 1950s definition of parenting that is upheld by the differentiation between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Both mothers and fathers can be equally dedicated to work and parenting.
So this year, I dedicate my first Father's Day to all the parents who have felt left out or felt forgotten on one of these holidays. I will be celebrating at the JCC, where we have a special screening of a family-friendly Israeli film, Igor and the Cranes' Journey, a father-son story that is part of our Israel Film Center Festival. I hope you can join me—if you are not busy parenting!