Father’s day in Jamaica is kind of a touchy topic. Our unconventional (read: non-capitalist) society actually hosts quite a lot of single parent households where the single parent is usually a mother. Absent fathers are part and parcel of Jamaican life; fathers who are present in their children’s lives are usually the exception and not the rule.
Theories abound as to where this structure comes from. One possible origin is the socialization of slaves during the pre-colonial era. Male slaves were not allowed to form strong family ties for fear it would undermine the system – they’d be more likely to put family above master etc. etc.
Another is the emergence of visiting relationships in the colonial and post-colonial eras secondary to male occupations. Men would have jobs that took them away from home (seafarers etc.), making it difficult to form strong family bonds. This visiting relationship would have naturally evolved into the visiting unions of today. Male-female relationships typically develop with partners sharing a sexual relationship but still maintaining separate living arrangements. This may progress to marriage or, more frequently, baby-mother status.
I’ve been lucky to have both parents in my life, and to have the majority of my acquaintance have both parents in their lives, but I’ve come to realize that this is not commonplace within our society. For most people, it is Mummy who acts as Mummy and Daddy. When that’s the case, it’s no surprise that Mother’s Day is a much grander affair than its June counterpart. (No, really. Check the marketing difference).
Far too often, men are content to sire offspring and avoid being fathers. The numerous media campaigns encouraging men to take pride in being a father to their children are depressing in their necessity. But they are necessary.
Which is why on this Father’s Day, I propose a toast, a universal salute, to all the men who are fathers biologically or otherwise. They need to know that they are appreciated.
If you take care of your sister’s kids
If you’re helping your baby mother’s first two children through school
If you’re divorced and still take care of your children
If you have to be Mummy and Daddy too
And if you’re one of the conventional Dadas who love and live with their kids, who are there for every poopy diaper and graduation day:
Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen.
Keep it up.