Column One:
Eye on Unmarried America

June 19,  2006  



Honoring single dads on Father's Day

By Thomas F. Coleman

If anyone thinks of single dads as being on the fringe of Father's Day, think again.  A close look at the historical origins of the occasion reveals that Father's Day was first created as a way to honor a single parent.

In a recent press release, the Census Bureau notes that the idea of Fatherís Day was conceived by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington, while she listened to a Motherís Day sermon in 1909.

Dodd thought there should be a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm.

A day in June was chosen for the first Fatherís Day celebration.  June 19, 1910 was proclaimed "Father's Day" by Spokaneís mayor because it was the month of William Smartís birth.

Lyndon Johnson was the first president to issue a proclamation honoring fathers when, in 1966, he designated the third Sunday in June as Fatherís Day. Fatherís Day has been celebrated annually since 1972 when Congress passed a law to make it a permanent day of commemoration.

About 66 million men who are alive today claim the title of father.  Among these are 26 million men who are part of a married-couple family with minor children at home.

Although married dads predominate, the number of single custodial dads is on the rise.  Some 2.3 million men are single dads who have custody of their children, up from 400,000 in 1970.  Another 4.6 million single men do not have custody but are supporting their minor children financially.

In 2000, more than 3 million children lived in a household headed by a single father.  That's more than triple the 1980 number.

As of last year, the Census Bureau reported that 42 percent of single custodial fathers are divorced; 38 percent have never married; 15 percent are separated; and 5 percent are widowed.

The ratio of single father households to all single parent households has been steadily increasing.  Currently, 1-in-6 single parents is a single father, compared with 1-in-10 in 1970.

According to Hallmark, about 95 million Father's Day cards are given in the United States each year, making it the fourth largest card sending occasion.

Whether someone is married or single, being a parent is not an easy task.  Being a single dad is even more challenging.

Books geared toward single fathers are relatively new to the American book publishing scene.  Just a few years ago, such books were scarce. 

Today, single dads have quite a large selection to choose from.  A quick search on revealed the following recent books for single fathers. (I'm not recommending them, just listing them, so do your own review before you buy.)

Raising My Best Friends: Meeting the Challenge of Being a Single Father (Beckham Publication Group, 2006); How to be a Great Single Dad (Hay House Pub, 2005); Surviving the Single Dad Syndrome (PublishAmerica, 2004); Quality Time for Dad: A Parenting Guide for the Single Father (Authorhouse, 2004); Diary of a Single Dad (Authorhouse, 2003); The Single Dad's Survival Guide: How to Succeed as a One-Man Parenting Team (Waterbrook Press, 2003); Cook Like a Mother, Clean Like a Pro: The Single Dad's Guide to Cooking and Cleaning (PM Wright Communications, 2002).

The list of organizations and websites focusing on the needs of single fathers is also growing.  A Google search came up with the following results. (I'm not vouching for them, just listing them, so check them out before you join or donate to them.)

Fathers' Rights and Equality Exchange:; Responsible Single Fathers:; Parents without Partners:; Resources for Single Dads:; The Single Fathers' Lighthouse:; and MrMoms:

So if you are a single dad, you should know that resources (books and organizations) exist to help you meet the challenges of single parenthood.

And to those dads, single or married, who have been loving, nurturing, and responsible in fulfilling their parental role, there is only one appropriate thing to say.


© Unmarried America 2006

Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.  Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried America. E-mail: Unmarried America is a nonprofit information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and voters.