A member of the Men’s Resources International Network and the Canadian Association of Male Survivor Services

A Father's Rights
This Sunday is Father’s Day. In North America this means a lot of different things; for some it means ties, brunches, BBQs and golf. For others, it may signal an occasion for reflection – a time to reflect on how fathering has been changing and continues to change. Perhaps we are thinking about how well we are doing at keeping up with the changing expectations of fathers by society, our partners and our children.

As a society, we have a very complicated relationship with fathers. We celebrate the ideal of the hardworking father who is more committed to family than he is to career advancement, yet many workplaces are not supportive of fathers who practise this ideal. We expect that men will not repeat the mistakes some of their fathers made, but mock men who ask for help in shifting direction. We admire the courage of some men in becoming stay-at-home fathers, yet label them as “Mr. Mom.”

From time to time in the media and the courts, we hear about something called fathers’ rights. These rights are not well defined and sometimes they are presented in direct opposition to mothers’ rights. There are organizations in Canada that purport to stand for fathers’ rights, but they do not represent all fathers. Indeed, their notions of fathers' rights are often lopsided, judgmental and ambiguous. Therefore, in honour of Father’s Day, I would like to propose a fathers’ bill of rights for consideration. It surely is not an exhaustive list, but maybe it provides a starting point.

Fathers' Bill of Rights

Fathers have the right to express their feelings in private or public and in front of their partners and their children freely and openly. This includes crying and expressing fear.

Fathers have the right to express anger, frustration and impatience in ways that are not abusive to others.

Fathers have the right to say “no” to extra work, extra pay, and even career advancement when it means having less contact with their families.

Fathers have the right to teach their children that racism, homophobia and sexism are wrong – no matter what their drinking buddies might say.

Fathers have the right to use the words “I don’t know” when they don’t know something rather than pretending they are expert in every subject on earth.

Fathers have the right to ask for directions when lost, help when in need, caring and compassion when desired and guidance when struggling.

Fathers have the right to hold their son or daughters hands in public without getting strange looks (of course the sons or daughters may have something to say about this).

Fathers have the right to listen to their children without feeling compelled to “fix” everything that is worrying or challenging them.

Fathers have the right to support their children in whatever legitimate recreation, sport, pastime or other pursuit they choose without attempting to relive their own unsuccessful careers through their sons and daughters.

Fathers have the right to love their children without reservation regardless of their career choices, physical appearance, lifestyles, sexual orientation or sexual identity, religious or political beliefs or any other aspect of their life that may be different from their own.

Fathers have the right to model a healthy lifestyle for their children through diet, exercise, avoidance of substance abuse and regular visits to health care practitioners.

Fathers have the right to model and teach non-violent forms of conflict resolution.

Fathers have the right to enjoy the company of their children, to laugh, sing and dance, and to be playful until our daughters and sons roll their eyes back in their heads and plead, “Oh dad, you’re silly.”

A bill of rights like this one could just be the best Father’s Day gift of all. Better than a cell phone or a set of golf clubs. Better even than breakfast in bed. This gift would help the next generation of fathers to start out on the right path!

At the Men’s Resource Centre of Saskatoon, we are committed to supporting men in becoming even better fathers, partners and members of society. To find out more about us please visit www.saskatoonmenscenter.com

Bruce Wood
Men’s Resource Centre of Saskatoon


Posted June 16, 2005.