Yesterday we had a wonderful Mothering Sunday (and once again, sorry for the wrong use of title - I blame my mothering). The whole day was a perfect reminder to pray for family life in all its array of colour, for the Blessed Virgin - that beguiling teenager who gave herself away for the greater cause, the life of Mother Church in all her work of care and comfort, support and sustenance for the world at large. Flowers were duly distributed to all members of the congregation, without care for their status as parent or indeed gender. Mothering Sunday is a day for all, I think.
One of the great things about being a father to twins is that as a parent couple with two new babies, we both became single parents in tandem. In other words, we were called very often in the early days to one-on-one with a child while the other did the other. For one of the girls I did everything, and for the other, Mrs Acular did likewise. Despite the pressures that brought with it, it also presented a perfect opportunity for me as Dad to also be Mum - or put another way, to do everything, not just dip in and out to pick up the bits the other couldn't manage. I know several mates whose wives did or do the child-rearing while they did the bread-winning, bison-slaughtering and lawn-mowing - only to grasp a few minutes with junior at bath time.
This causes me, often, to think of parents who are left alone with children - through death, through separation, through many factors. More often than not, this arrangement is manifest in single-mums with their kids. Less often do we hear of fathers left to raise their children alone.
The thing is, it just isn't the same. Arrangements for children (social, medical, educational, societal) are very mum-centric. I know the reasons why and I subscribe to them. However, being a dad with a kid (even if it is as a dad with kids just for the day while mum works) is tough at times. You only need try pitching up to a toddler group and you fast learn that as a testicular creature, you are in a tiny minority of (often) one. Even the toddler group in my last parish where I served as curate had me as the only male parent present. The school playground is another such place although to a lesser extent. You already know of my experiences trying to register my own children with a doctor surgery - "not without mum". Taking babies to clinics is much the same. I know why this is, and I accept it all - but neither is it easy.
And I am a man with a wife. I find it hard to comprehend how hard it must be to be a single-dad in this day and age. When toddler-groups are still familiarly known as "mother and toddler" groups, and many school networks find their genesis in NCT groups, it is easy to see that life doesn't easily provide for single dads without those men feeling like odd-ones out. The church is the same too, in part. The prayer and work for the maintenance of the family exists is whose Union? Not the Father's!
Anyway, my reasons for writing this post (itself no more than a rumination typed) is not to judge the status quo, but to simply observe. I prayed for many facets more evidently presented in a normal Mothering Sunday, but overlooked to pray for those men who have to be mum too. For them I pray now.