Fathers Day for Single Parents

In case you missed the memo, I’m a single parent.

I was (briefly) married. And now I’m not.

Of course, there’s a story that goes in the middle of those two sentences, but it’s one of those tales that’s oh-so-familiar to many of us, and it certainly isn’t blog fodder. And to an extent – it’s ancient history. I have been divorced since 2007.

Five years down the line, my ex and I are very different people.

For example, since we split up my ex-husband has completed three Masters degrees, just for fun. Recently, he wrote a 10,000 word dissertation on whether it’s rational to be afraid of death.

Since our divorce I’ve watched every episode of Gossip Girl and Gilmore Girls, and written a lot of questionable blog posts about things like accidentally flashing the local headmaster, and singing songs about masturbation in the supermarket.

Like I said, we’re very different people.

But this weekend is Father’s Day and while my ex isn’t tethered to me these days, he’s still a big part of our daughter’s life – and rightly so. I’m not one of those people who wants to cut their former partner out of the family.

I tend to think that Flea has a Dad and it’s part of my job as a parent to protect that relationship as far as I’m able. I know some women remarry five minutes after the ink on the divorce papers is dry and more power to you, if it makes you happy – but it doesn’t feel like the right thing for us. I spent much of my childhood in foster care, and I want Flea to grow up in a family that feels secure, and permanent, even if we’re not all under the same roof. So her Dad is important.

Having said that, I’m not so evolved that the issue of Father’s Day doesn’t bring some headaches. I mean, what’s the etiquette on Father’s Day presents when you’re divorced? Do I buy something and write Flea’s name on it? Should I give Flea some money to choose something herself? Would it really be so wrong to let Flea buy her Dad that ‘Wonder Woman’ t-shirt she’s set her heart on? Would a good Mum spend Father’s Day with her ex? Help make the card? How far do you go?

I’ve always rabbited on that it’s really important for Flea to understand about buying gifts, and the importance of choosing something nice for someone she loves, but I do get a bit itchy and uncomfortable when it comes to choosing what sort of socks my ex-husband might like, or which novel he might enjoy. It feels – intimate – somehow. Which isn’t really a word I think either of us want to associate with our relationship these days.

When you’re a single Mum you’re also basically footing the bill for any gifting that goes on, which means buying your ex-husband a present. Honestly? It’s a far, far better person than me that doesn’t begrudge that – just a little bit.

So – I need advice. Do I suck it up, and buy a present? Send an e-card? Or get Flea to make something artistic and present that on Sunday instead? What do other single parents do on special occasions like these? I’d love to know.



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Ruth
    14th June 2012 / 7:54 pm

    Get Flea to make something using the boxes and tubs in the recycling box.
    That way you get multiple parenting points:
    – doing something creative with your child
    – recycling waste materials (this also doubles/trebles as teaching your child eco concerns AND thriftyness)
    – selflessly making sure there is a Father’s day gift for the ex
    – its a home-made gift and aren’t they ALWAYS the best
    – selflessly smoothing the continuing relationship between Flea and her dad.

    And best of all you get rid of some old tat from the cupboard under the sink!

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:31 am

      You are clearly a genius. However, if I open the under-the-sink cupboard, the resulting chaos might lead to the end of the universe. It’s where I hide *everything*

  2. Emily from My Shitty Twenties
    14th June 2012 / 7:57 pm

    I’ve been dithering over whether to write about this myself this week (and may well do at the weekend.) Mine doesn’t have a dad at all, so wonderful questions often raise their head at this time of year. He’s going to make a card for his Uncle (and hopefully me?!) I reckon just go for the homemade thing from her – it’s not like he’s going to begrudge non-receipt of something more expensive. If he did get something like that, it would be a really obviously forced token gesture. As we all know and have all said many times, home made is best, especially when you’re a parent…

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:33 am

      Oh, you should write something – it’s tough when there’s no contact, even. On a totally unrelated note, your holiday looked gorgeous, so pleased you had a good time.

  3. 14th June 2012 / 7:54 pm

    Never thought too much about it but my clients are single parents. I still make gifts for mothers and fathers day as its important not for them to feel left out, and so far all is well. To be honest, as your little one gets older I would let her make something for him, both happy and not out of begrudging pocket – in the nicest possible sense? go you x
    Annie recently posted..Slow Cooker Nepalese Lamb Curry with Cauliflower and PeasMy Profile

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:31 am

      Thanks – creative it is!

  4. 14th June 2012 / 7:54 pm

    Ok -I am not a single mum but still not really into buying current husband a present – I gave him three kids, I even produced twins – what more can a fella want?

    So for me I am going to get a nice big box, wrap it up nicely and wehn he opens it I will explain it is a box full of love.

    I suggest you take a leaf from my book – who doesnt want a bit more love?

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:31 am

      Evil Genius, you are.

  5. snafflesmummy
    14th June 2012 / 7:56 pm

    What do you usually do. I think its something you and he should discuss for future occasions so you are both doing the same for each other. If you would be happy with a homemade gift and card then get her to do that for him. If you were hoping for something a bit more flash then fairs fair, he should get the same.

    I hate fathers day anyway, buy stuff they don’t need just because you feel you should. We have been painting tonight and making photo frames.

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:32 am

      In the past, we’ve bought stuff but then I get narked if I don’t get a present on Mother’s Day (which I don’t) and on the other hand I feel weird being given a present I know my ex has chosen. I know, I’m hard to please! Maybe a personalised mug is the way to go.

  6. 14th June 2012 / 7:59 pm

    No answers – but what does ‘he’ do on Mothers Day, I guess in my head I’d match that. If not get Flea to make some yummy biscuits – how were you supposed to knpow she used salt instead of sugar 😉
    Emma recently posted..Gestational Diabetes #diabetesweekMy Profile

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:33 am

      He did, erm, nothing.

  7. BorridgePrain (completely anonymous)
    14th June 2012 / 8:01 pm

    I’ve had a couple of years facing this one now, and yep, I’ve gone with buying him something. Christmas and his birthday too. Partly because I’m with you and have worked hard to make sure to preserve my boy’s relationship with his Dad and want to recognise that he’s an important figure in his life, and partly just because I’m REALLY REALLY NICE.

    Saying that, for Mother’s Day this year I was given a biscuit. Which my son ate. Did I mention I was really nice?

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:33 am

      You are indeed REALLY NICE and I got nothing for Mother’s Day. I am also REALLY NICE.

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:34 am

      *does a fancy spin*

  8. Billie
    14th June 2012 / 8:50 pm

    I’m lucky Amelia’s school have stalls that sell gifts for father’s day from £1 – £3. So I give her £3 to take in and pick a present. I did take get to poundland to pick something last year and she picked a Simpsons cup that says dad you’re not perfect but you’re half way there. I couldn’t let her buy it because I KNEW he would think I chose it. It’s ridiculous. You’re not alone I begrudge spending £3. But we do it for the girls not for the dads x x x

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:34 am

      I know what you mean about presents having hidden meanings – you have to be so careful, don’t you? It’s a minefield.

  9. 14th June 2012 / 9:26 pm

    I have always encouraged my daughter to make her father (my ex) a gift, make a card and paint a ceramic mug/photo frame/toilet tube pen pot/coaster etc – basic baker Ross stuff! At Christmas we make him a photo calendar every year. I generally feel I make more effort or him than he does for me but that is a man/woman thing. He gives her a bit of money and says choose, I get the bizarre gifts! I remarried and encourage daughter to do same make things for step-father but the balance of relationship is weighted towards her real father. I think maintaining these relationships with exes for sake of children is difficult, sometimes taxing but ultimately very worth it.

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:36 am

      Yes, I definitely think there’s a man/woman dynamic at play – but there’s no point in me being huffy and saying well, I didn’t get a present so let’s not get him one because, well, that’s not really the point is it. Yes, it’s all about preserving that special relationship. Making is probably the best idea, I agree.

      For me, I wouldn’t remarry while she’s young, because I experienced upheaval as a child and I know how it affected me, and I just feel incredibly strongly that I don’t want to do the same thing to my child, but I know other people feel differently about it. I’d love to know how you make the father relationship ‘special’ if you’re living with someone else though – it’s something I really struggle with.

  10. 14th June 2012 / 9:28 pm

    I’ve followed the boys’ dad’s lead when it comes to father’s day. I’ve never received anything for me from the boys that he’s instigated, so I show him the same courtesy… well, lack of courtesy.
    Mind you, this is a father who sees his children 3, maybe 4 times a year tops, so it’s a different situation (as they all are).
    Marylin recently posted..So, it’s been a while…My Profile

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:37 am

      Crikey, that’s tough – I can see why you’d feel that way, though.

  11. 14th June 2012 / 10:04 pm

    What a great post, it’s very thought provoking and not something that is really talked about. I was brought up by a single mum and Fathers Day was never mentioned in my life, I didnt realise it existed until my 20s! I had a crap father and I never sent a card to him. I totally understand your angst and the only way to get around it is to do it all for Flea! She is the most important person in this and whatever makes her feel happy. I know that sounds a bit flouncy but it is the only way to take the taste of the bitter pill away. If she gives him something and gets a nice big smile she will feel wonderful and that’s the most important thing. Still annoying! 🙁
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    • 15th June 2012 / 9:38 am

      Yes, Flea’s the most important person and I’m lucky in that her Dad (mostly) feels the same way – despite the odd spat, we pretty much make things work for her, I hope *crosses fingers*

      I shall keep in mind ‘big smile = worth it’ and suck it up!

  12. 15th June 2012 / 4:58 am

    Lots of interestinjg issues in the post and in the comments. I would be interested to know if he helped her celebrte Mother’s Day but anyway…
    I would have her make a card and maybe buy a small cake or something fancy for tea. Then let her spend the afternoon (or day) with her father for a special Father’s Day tea. And you get a free afternoon. Result.
    Midlife Singlemum recently posted..#ArtIHeart 13 – Bicycles, Windows and Menus In ChalkMy Profile

    • 16th June 2012 / 1:49 pm

      Yes – she’s with her Dad this weekend so that’ll be nice for them both.

  13. 15th June 2012 / 6:54 am

    I thought I’d commented last night but apparently I hadn’t. I’d let Flea make a card and buy a little cake or something fancy for tea. Then let her go to her Dad for a special Father’s day tea. I bet he doesn’t help her organise something for Mother’s day though.
    Midlife Singlemum recently posted..#ArtIHeart 13 – Bicycles, Windows and Menus In ChalkMy Profile

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:38 am

      Yes, great idea on the special tea. With the added bonus it gives me time to see one of my friends – result!

  14. Rachel Hill
    15th June 2012 / 7:16 am

    Know this one. I would suggest sending a photo of Flea in a cheapo frame. Thoughtful, much wanted by dad (I would hope!) but doesn’t required much effort or cash.

    • 16th June 2012 / 1:50 pm

      Oooh, but he’s never THAT keen on photos I’ve taken, so maybe a sketch. Flea is a *gifted* artist, naturally *cough*

  15. Vic
    15th June 2012 / 8:33 am

    Go for artistic – he’ll have to love it even if he hates it! lol

    Yuri took the boys out to buy nail polish for me on mothers’ day. Since I’ve only just remembered about fathers’ day I may have to slip Tommy a fiver and tell him to get to work.

    • 15th June 2012 / 9:38 am

      I love that Yuri got the boys to buy something you’d love.

  16. 15th June 2012 / 10:05 am

    You know I can’t help you on this one but I was interested to read Emily’s comment (phew – not just me then) and I think something homemade by Flea would work best. Then you’re not spending a fortune on something he probably doesn’t actually need and Flea can spend time doing something for her Dad, which I think is important. That way you step out of the equation and let it be something between the two of them. Waffling slightly. Hot topic in our house at the moment.
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    • 16th June 2012 / 1:50 pm

      I agree – we’ve gone home-made. And hope you two have a good weekend, too.

  17. 15th June 2012 / 12:03 pm

    HavE you tried asking Flea what she wants to do? She looks like a very sensible girl and I think it’s better if it comes from them as much as possible. After all he’s not your father.
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    • 16th June 2012 / 1:50 pm

      She has a new motto at the moment. It’s “I dunno.”

      *not annoying in the slightest*

  18. 15th June 2012 / 3:46 pm

    I’m a little late to this post, Sally, but speaking as a father, the best gifts are the homemade ones, so I totally agree with other comments made. It’s then more from Flea than it is from you (which is actually an issue I have with Father’s Day anyway, but that’s a whole other can of worms…).
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    • 16th June 2012 / 1:51 pm

      Oh, dear. Can of worms?

  19. Jacqueline Ryde
    15th June 2012 / 6:44 pm

    I would definitely get Fleas imput in this and ask her what she would like to do. If she prefers to buy a present all well and good, if she wants to make somthing also all well and good. Either way at least it will be from Flea which is the imporant thing. All the best xx

  20. Terri
    15th June 2012 / 6:30 pm

    Hi Sally,
    Hope this isn’t too late to be useful, but my solution has been to get the children to make a card and then do photographs “so that he can see pictures of them when they’re not there”. That actually works quite well, because the children chose daft poses or outfits or backgrounds (i.e. alongside chalked message to him on patio), or chose a compilation of pics, so it’s personal from them to him, and the price of printing the picture and a clippit photo frame is within what I consider a reasonable budget. I don’t see it a problem that they did the same thing for a number of years, because it gives him a record of their growing.

    • 16th June 2012 / 1:51 pm

      I actually think that’s a really lovely idea, thanks 🙂

  21. Suzanne
    15th June 2012 / 8:13 pm

    What happens on mothers day? Please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t imagine that your ex buys you a present does he? I think the happy compromise would be to get her to make him something or even just make him a card. Most dads don’t expect much on Father’s day, I dont think. They’re not quite as big as us mums on presents! Great post 🙂

    • 16th June 2012 / 1:52 pm

      He doesn’t tend to buy a present – although on the odd occasion he remembers there might be a birthday present from Flea. I can’t imagine not being big on presents – that’s just wrong, isn’t it? So glad I’m female…

  22. 15th June 2012 / 9:25 pm

    I find it really good that you are thinking of doing something for him with Flea, although he didn’t make an effort for Mother’s Day. Shows that you are the more intelligent one. I’d simply let Flea make him a card, so you don’t have to spend anything and it is still something that she put thought, time and creativity into…
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    • 16th June 2012 / 1:52 pm

      Ha – I’m not sure I’m coming out on top in any brainy contests these days, but thanks for the advice.

  23. susie@newdaynewlesson
    22nd June 2012 / 11:42 am

    Can’t answer your question but would love to read your ex’s dissertation about fear of death. Considering my line of work, I find that fascinating.