Moms, if you want to use guilt as a parenting tool, try this: Put your hand to your heart, sniffle a little and say to your child, “A woman named Anna Jarvis was so devoted to her mom that she proposed a national holiday for mothers in 1908, and you can’t even pick up your socks for me.”
A daughter also spearheaded the nation’s first Father’s Day in Washington State in 1910, so fathers can use guilt as effectively as mothers can. In other words, not very.
Unfortunately, Father’s Day wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm as Mother’s Day had been. One florist claimed that dads don’t have the same “sentimental appeal” mothers have, but I think that’s just florist speak for no one will buy flowers for dad.
Fathers didn’t help the cause though. One historian said men saw the holiday as an attempt to “domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving…” Many also derided it as a gimmick to sell gift items they’d probably be paying for themselves.
Finally in 1972, in the middle of his re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday. Maybe he was courting the dad vote.
That was 58 years after Mother’s Day became official, and Father’s Day has been playing catch up ever since. There’s one measurement that shows just how far it has to go: spending.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent 9 billion dollars more on Mother’s Day gifts than they did on Father’s Day gifts in 2019. Maybe that’s because Mother’s Day comes first. When you spend 26 billion dollars in May, you’re bound to be short on cash come June.
But I think there’s another explanation: Father’s Day gifts are…how can I say this diplomatically…too dumb to buy. At least the ones I can afford are. Many of the things my husband likes would require him to cosign a loan and that would take the surprise out of gift giving.
When I went to the internet to research more affordable Father’s Day gifts, I worried he was going to walk in, see my computer screen and think I was buying him a leather beer holster or a toilet bowl mug. If he really wants one of those, he’s going to have to buy it himself.
Cuff links are also touted as great gifts for fathers. You can get cuff links that look like tiny Rubik’s Cubes, gear shifters and brass 40 caliber bullet casings. I can’t remember the last time my husband wore a shirt that required cufflinks but if he ever does, I just can’t see him accessorizing with bullet casings.
Grilling equipment is another common dad gift and my husband does enjoy grilling, mainly because it involves fire. But I feel like giving him a grill cleaning brush for Father’s Day is a bit like giving me a broom for Mother’s Day.
You also find plenty of alcohol and alcohol accessories when you go searching for gifts for fathers, the inference being we’re all driving dad to drink.
The cliché of a Dad’s Day gift is, of course, the necktie and there are many. I saw a tie that looks like an eyechart, which would be great if your father is an optometrist. Another looked like piano keys, which would work for a musician. And I found one covered with lipstick kisses. I’m not sure what kind of dad that would be good for.
When my husband was an elementary school principal, he had a closet full of goofy ties he wore for the kids. But I think even he would draw the line at a necktie that looks like a giant strip of bacon.
The bacon theme is big for Father’s Day. There are bacon-scented candles, soap and shaving cream all of which you can wrap in bacon-scented wrapping paper. I’m not making those up. Mom gets flowers or jewelry. Dad gets bacon he can’t even eat.
Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact [email protected]
Mother’s Day, guilt trips and parity for parents these days