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Who is the father in Father's Day?

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

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If we ask ourselves why we celebrate Father's Day, the easy answer may be that, along with Mother's Day, it helps us honor our parents, which is the instruction in the Fifth Commandment. Stripped of the trappings that make these days commercial extravaganzas, that might pass for a reasonable answer.

But things have changed since the holidays were established. Back then, parental roles within the traditional nuclear family were seen as clearly separate, requiring different skills and interests.

Today, these roles can't be as clearly separated. They have become intertwined as a result of economic and social developments such as less stable employment, increased divorce rates, and the growth of extended families with mixed parental loyalties.

Many mothers, in the pursuit of their careers, have to depend on the father or other caregivers. Some must work in response to growing financial needs. And some have moved away from the tradition of separate roles and simply share breadwinning and housekeeping duties while jointly caring for their children.

When we think also of single parents raising a family alone, and of children who have lost their parents, it may help to ask ourselves, Who is the father in Father's Day?

When a man and a woman conceive a child, they become a father and mother, but that does not fully define them any more than it can fully define God, the Father and Mother of us all. Existence would be bleak if God's interest in us ended with the creating. It doesn't, even though it may seem hidden sometimes by the complexities and tragedies we face.

Having a child is only the beginning of a responsibility to love, protect, nourish, inspire, educate, and discipline those in our care. This is what God does – and what human fathering should and can be.

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