I like to think of the family as a concept in constant transformation and which, therefore, has no established definition. I believe this is one of the clearest characteristics of the times we live in, where the family is modified towards new forms, all valid and entitled to be valued and respected.
Many times, as a society, we invent celebrations that gradually put us into limiting situations that instead of helping can make our lives more difficult. This happens with commemorations that, as time goes by, no longer have the purpose for which they were created. “Father’s Day” is one of those dates that produces mixed feelings in me.
Today, in addition to traditional families, there are thousands of families with same-sex parents and single-parent families. So, I wonder, shouldn’t we check if Mother’s and Father’s Day fit our reality?
In 1994, the United Nations (UN) established May 15 as the International Day of Families, a way to celebrate the family as a whole, regardless of how it is formed. Unfortunately, this is a date that goes unnoticed by most people. The truth is that our reality is better suited to this kind of celebration, instead of commemorations for fathers or mothers, where the barriers of gender equity are reinforced.
The family is the fundamental piece of society, as it is one of its main foundations. It is on the family that present and future are built. When those foundations are strong, the adversities that life presents us with are faced in a better way. In these times of crisis and pandemic, we need strong families, no matter how they are composed. Complicated and discouraging scenarios become more bearable in an environment where harmony, love and care reign.
Setting dates like Father’s Day marginalizes thousands of girls and boys, as there are millions of stories where fathers are absent figures. The reasons vary: in some cases, they are men who, inexplicably, decided to abandon what I consider one of life’s most wonderful experiences: raising their offspring. The illustrious Nobel Prize winner, José Saramago, said it like this: “God always blesses our children because he has already blessed us with them”.
Men and women are equally responsible when it comes to children. It is essential that we achieve gender equity within the family. Public policies, where women and their children are protected, are urgently needed. One of the saddest and most regrettable effects of the pandemic has been the increase in family violence, a fact that needs to be addressed by our authorities. Educational programs and their dissemination should be increased. Authorities and society must work as a team in order to eradicate the problem of family violence.
From the private sphere, in companies and organizations, strong actions are required to facilitate the construction and development of families. Alternative measures are needed to organize work. Working at home or home office is a reality for thousands of women, but very few parents have this benefit. On the other hand, while paid maternity leave is now offered in almost all countries, only half of them offer it to fathers. If we want to see a world where men and women are equal economically, socially and politically, we must promote equal opportunities for fathers to be in charge of taking care of their children.
It is true that there are functions exclusive to the mother, such as childbirth and breastfeeding, all other aspects of parenting can be exercised by either parent. It is proven that when families are spaces of equality, where their members are respected and love is encouraged, society receives a direct benefit, since the prosperous family and its members have a sense of fulfillment. This is something we must fight for, a goal we must achieve and for which everyone’s active and constructive participation is needed.
It is urgent to integrate fatherhood into the global agenda for gender equity: for the benefit of women, men, boys and girls. It is time to invest in participatory fatherhood