As the first Sunday in September approaches and we’re surrounded by images of happy families celebrating the fathers in their lives, it is important to remember that there will be some men around us who find Father’s Day difficult. For couples going through fertility treatment, Father’s Day can be a challenging one, even if they have their own fathers and fathers-in-law to celebrate with. It serves as a painful reminder that they are not yet fathers themselves, which can trigger feelings of sadness and perhaps fear that they may never get to experience fatherhood.
Even though women bear the brunt of fertility treatment from a physical perspective, the mental and emotional burden is shared within a couple. Yet, men often don’t receive the support that they need; perhaps because they are so focused on remaining strong for their partners, which can lead those around them to assume that they are “holding up ok”. But what we know is that infertility takes a toll on men, just as much as it does on women, and that there are many men out there who would give anything to be woken up on Father’s Day to burnt toast breakfast in bed and a handmade card.
This includes single men and men in same-sex relationships, who are going through fertility treatment. For men who have embarked on the long and often arduous process of having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement, Father’s Day may be a difficult one for them, and possibly trigger feelings of invisibility, exclusion and loss.
So what can we do to acknowledge and support men on Father’s Day?
- Ask them how they are feeling about Father’s Day. Some men may appreciate the opportunity to share their feelings. Even if they don’t feel like talking, it can be nice to know that those around them are mindful that it might be a tough day for them.
- Ask them if there is anything special they would like to do on Sunday. This may involve time on their own or time together as a couple; doing something that you wouldn’t ordinarily do on the weekend, e.g. a day trip. It might also be nice to spend time with friends who don’t have children.
- Ask them if they are comfortable joining family Father’s Day celebrations. Sometimes it’s okay to avoid situations and gatherings if you know it’s going to make you feel sad, uncomfortable or left out. Saying “no” is part of self-care – something of utmost importance when you’re going through fertility treatment.
Remind them that becoming a father does not define them; that they are loved and respected as partners, sons, brothers, uncles, friends and colleagues.