To the dads celebrating Father’s Day without a father, my sympathy is with you. Navigating parenthood alone can be painful—even frustrating at times. And as a man, fathering without your father can be tough and lonely. Especially when the yearly holiday comes around, because then you are reminded of the fact that your father is not present. So to any father who relates to this experience, I feel for you.

Because this narrative shifts the entire dynamic of parenting for you. You don’t get the joy of picking up the phone whenever you want and talking with your dad about fatherhood. You don’t have the comfort of leaning on him for consolation when it gets rough. Those moments between father, son and grandchild are something that you don’t have the pleasure of experiencing. And when you spend yet another Father’s Day without a father, it can complicate your emotions.

And it hurts. 

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You are their reason. And I hope that they are yours.

Sure, you may be surrounded by loving and supportive partners, mothers and other family members. You may have father figures in your life: a father-in-law, uncles, father friends. But it doesn’t amount to the relationship between father and son.

My husband was a child when he lost his father. While we were dating, he would share stories with me of the things that he loved most about his dad and the traits that he one day hoped to adopt when he became a father himself. Now here we are, married and with a child, and witnessing my husband transform from a man into a father has been the most beautiful experience. But though he makes fatherhood look easy, I know that beyond what he lets on, it can get hard for him sometimes.

As much as he pours into our family and into our son, I know that there are heart-wrenching moments where he wishes his father could be here to pour that wisdom and advice back into him. And so this journey has filled my heart with a lot more sympathy for those who share this story. 

As someone who still has both parents in my life, I can’t possibly understand the extent of grief that accompanies parenting without your parents’ support along your journey. As a mama who has an involved mom, I can’t wrap my mind around mothering without her guidance. It has been my anchor. So for those who have navigated parenthood without their mother or father—even though it must get hard—I hope you know that you are doing an amazing job.

Parenting is hard. Fathering is hard—beyond what I, as a mother, can even comprehend. But you are who your children look up to, depend on and need. You are their reason. And I hope that they are yours.

This Father’s Day without a father may be similar to all the others. Or maybe it may hurt a little deeper this year. Because maybe your father never got to see you become a father—because he has passed away or just isn’t physically or emotionally in your life right now. Maybe your father’s absence has made you question yourself as a father. And now you never get to lean on him when fatherhood gets tough and when you need a father’s reassurance that you are doing the best you can. 

Perhaps you silently long for just another minute with him. Perhaps you wish he was more involved in his grandkids’ lives so he could experience their bubbling personalities for himself. Perhaps you’d appreciate his reassurance or his validation—or even just his embrace.

Whatever your reason may be, I want to encourage you to spend this Father’s Day with the loved ones around you. Because though your dad may not be here to witness the man and the father that you are today, the loved ones around you are. And we assure you—you are doing an amazing job.

Don’t give up. Because you’ve got this. And we’ve got you.

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So if you are spending Father’s Day without a father—whatever the reason might be—I hope that you find comfort and love on this bittersweet day. I hope that those around you spend time reassuring you that you are doing the best you can. Because being a father comes with big shoes to fill. But the joy that fills your heart when your child looks up to you is even bigger.

So to any man who is spending Father’s Day without a father, we are here for you. If you are fathering without your father, never forget that your children are blessed to have you. They are your reason. And you have a monumental role in shaping them into kind and respectable humans. So even when it gets tough, remember the purpose of your fatherhood. And don’t give up. Because you’ve got this. And we’ve got you

A version of this post was published May 11, 2022. It has been updated.