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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

When Dads are Mothers

Re-shared for all the dads who nurture their children!

This is my day before Mother’s Day epiphany: My dad was my mother. I blogged earlier about the difficulty of buying cards on Mother’s Day. Father’s Day cards never fit either, but for totally different reasons. They didn’t fit because he had to fill the role of the nurturer! Maybe he broke the mold of father’s roles before it became popular? He didn’t cook (but then I don’t either). He didn’t go shopping with me. He didn’t do lots of traditional mother things, but I do understand all he did for me, and why Mother's Day cards might work better.

  • When bad things happened to me at three, he stayed in the emergency room with me and helped me drink the yucky medicine so I would stop crying and fall asleep.

  • He wrapped me in a blanket and carried me down the long hallway, drove me home, and tucked me into bed.

  • When I cried because I didn’t have my little white stuffed puppy, he got it for me.

  • When I screamed in the night with night terrors, he sat beside me and calmed me.

  • When I didn’t feel safe being left anywhere, he took me to work with him.

  • When I got sick, he stayed home with me.

  • When I asked for a story from the Bible storybook, he was the one who read to me.

  • When I brought home my report card home he signed it.

  • When I needed advice he was the one to speak wisdom to me.

  • He showed me how to trust God even when things went very wrong.

  • He delighted in me every single day and woke me gently by opening my door and saying, “Good morning genius.”

  • He loved me unconditionally for who I was and never tried to change me.

  • When I was funny he laughed until tears streamed down his face.

  • When I went against the grain, he smiled and told me to be ready to accept the consequences.

  • He was proud of every single thing I accomplished during my life.

  • Until he died a year ago, his face lit up every time I walked in the room and he always said, “Well, hello Jeannie Ann!”

Yes, so many Mother's Day cards would have worked perfectly for my dad.

On Mother’s Day, I am always sad because I understand—have always understood—that my mother and I never bonded. I honored her, I cared for her, but I could never say wonderful things about who she was to me as a mother. Yet, it didn’t feel as though I had never been nurtured. It wasn’t as if I was clueless as to how to be a mother—albeit not a perfect one.

I realize I learned how to be a mother from my dad. I mothered like my dad. He was my example. He was always busy in ministry but when I needed him, he was there. He loved my mother but understood she was unable to provide the nurturing I needed. I really should not have been able to survive in the ways I did. I give the credit to having the best mother anyone could ever have—my dad.

I think there are many of us who have difficulty on Mother's Day because we can't buy beautiful cards. I know that, as a child, I looked for other mothers to fill the empty place in my heart. There wasn't any way for me to understand all the ways my dad was filling the emptiness. It would have helped me to know how blessed I truly was, but this is an understanding reserved for my adult self who was willing to heal the wounds so I could see my story differently.

I realize my mother could not be the mother I needed. This truth makes me even more grateful for my dad. Since I never do anything traditional, I would like to take this moment to say, Happy Mother’s Day to my dad—the best mother a girl could ever have.

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