Father’s Day: Love Them Through the 3 S’s (Struggling, Stoic & Sad)
Father’s Day can be a tough one when #TTC. Kind of like Mother’s Day, but you know, for the dads yet to be.
Seriously, though, a lot of emotions get stirred up on the third Sunday of June, most especially for the one who’s been hoping and wanting to be a father.
What to Ask Yourself Before You Speak to Him
If you are wondering what he needs and are hoping to help make the day more bearable or even pleasant, then here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Do you know how he feels about this holiday?
Do you know if he considers this day to be about his own dad or himself?
Do you know what he wants to do this Sunday?
Do you know if he’d prefer to discuss the day or ignore any feelings he might have?
Do you know if he’s even fully aware that it is Father’s Day?
Don’t Make Assumptions- Ask
I have a husband who preferred to ignore Father’s Day completely. When asked, he would answer me in one-word answers. What I found was that if I asked him 5 questions, I’d end up with enough information to work with- and it helped. In 6 years of struggling with infertility, we observed the day differently each time.
Consider these points if you’re trying to figure out how the man in your life feels about Father’s Day:
- You don’t really know how he feels about Father’s Day if you don’t ask. You may think you know, and you may very well be right. But if you really want to know how he feels, then ask and truly listen to the answer. My advice? Ask another question when he’s finished speaking and listen again. Because even if you’re a million percent right about his feelings, it can be a relief to him to express himself out loud to someone who’s listening sympathetically- you. You also may hear that his feelings are not precisely what you thought, and it can help inform you about how best to support him.
- If you’re building your support for him based on how he felt last year, that was 365 days ago- a long time ago. A really long time ago. Depending on where the two of you are in treatment, or what test results you’ve received, he may feel very differently than he did last year. Best way to find out how he’s feeling now, ask.
- You’re pretty sure because he hasn’t said anything that he’s not thinking or feeling anything about Father’s Day. Given the unrelenting media around Father’s Day, this is unlikely. There may be any number of reasons why he hasn’t brought it up. A few reasons that I hear regularly, in Ladies Night In (RMACT’s peer support group): he doesn’t want to upset or worry me; he thinks he may feel worse talking about it; he worries that he’s overreacting because he’s already upset; he is being stoic.
The only assumption you can make, in my opinion, is that he knows that it’s Father’s Day. With all the reminders out there in the media, it’s almost impossible not to know.
Offering Men Infertility Support
It comes down to basics and communication, which can be heartbreakingly difficult in the middle of TTC. I worried that I’d bring up the conversation in the one second of peace that Bill was feeling around Father’s Day, that I’d shatter that moment for him. I deliberated over whether it was better to avoid it all or whether I was infantilizing him, and it was really no big deal. What I found out from my lovely husband was that each year, he felt very differently. One year, we stayed home and BBQed in the back yard and played lacrosse (very badly on my part, very patiently on his part). One year, we saw all my cousins and their children, because that’s what he wanted to see- hope.
It does come down to this, if you want to know how they feel about Father's Day, ask. Employ empathetic listening. Listen to the answer and ask them if you understand their answer correctly. Then ask them more about it. They may not want to talk about it. Listen to them tell you that. Look at their faces. Look at their shoulders. Look at them.
Deep into their eyes. Look at them.
What are they saying? What are they not saying?
Our men will have all sorts of feelings about this day. And I know, they may not want to talk about it. They may only answer you with one word. Fine, good, ok. Those are some personal favorites in my house.
That’s ok. Ask anyway.
And listen. With your ears and your heart.
Our hope is that these men will be fathers someday. Fathers to our children. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen to their answers.
Treat them like the fathers that they want to be.
A beautiful poem to contemplate, whether or not God is the perfect term to use (just omit the word God or insert any term that works better for you):
God took the strength of a mountain, The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun, The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature, The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages, The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring, The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity, The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities, When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it … Dad
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.