Father and Handicap: A difficult combination?
On Father's Day, fathers celebrate their fatherhood. And how can being a father and having a disability work together?
A few weeks after Mother's Day, always on Ascension Day, there is the male counterpart: Father's Day. 2009, it fell on 21st May. So one day in honour of the patriarchy? Hardly. First, patriarchal structures are – thanks to Enlightenment – in this country rare to find, and secondly on Father's Day, rather different things stand in the centre: the family or male bonding.
A Berlin tradition: men days
The so-called “Herrentagen” (Gentlemen days), as many East Germans like to refer to Father's Day, play an important role in the introduction of young men to manhood. But also in the West, men usually take trips. Groups of men hop from one inn to the next or have barbecues at the lake’s side. And usually, a lot of alcohol is consumed. This is confirmed by the Federal Statistical Office with a sad record: alcohol-related accidents happen on Father's Day three times more often than the annual average - and this unfortunately can turn non-disabled dads into disabled ones.
Men can help it
But there are also men who experience Father's Day quite differently. Namely, with their family - whether as a father or as grown-up son with his dad. Klaus, wheelchair user and father of an eight year old daughter for example. He goes on vacation with his parents. Also Edmund, deaf, will spend Father's Day without his teenage children and probably take a bike ride or go hiking.
What Father's Day means for men leaves minds divided. Edmund attaches high value to this date, even though he sees a certain commercial aspect, especially on Mother's Day. He feels this certainly recognised as the father on Father’s Day, because he too, takes care of the children. Klaus on the other hand considers Father's Day to be "complete rubbish". For him, every day is Father's Day anyway. Critical opinion from Gunther*, who lives with an amputation and is father of a nine year old boy. He cannot understand Father's Day, contrary to Mother’s Day, "this only ends up in a drinking orgy."
Becoming a father is not difficult ... right?
Almost all of these fathers had the wish to have children which they realised someday - despite disability. Edmund did not feel his hearing disability to be an obstacle for becoming a father. For him and his also deaf wife, it did not matter whether they will have deaf or hearing children. "
A handicap is only a question of organising life", says Gunther. Only Klaus had doubts - he thought at first that it would not work. His wife helped him to overcome these concerns.
Is this only clap speaking? No
Especially with people who have deal with their offspring in addition to their disability, often from a certain vitality, a healthy dose of optimism. Not infrequently, children of parents with disabilities become open, self-confident people. Even though the social awareness for people with disabilities gradually rises, they still face barriers. But many a father knows: It’s worth the fight. Especially if you have children with a disability .
Never “asked for help”
Claims Gunther. However, not all disabled fathers can go without external support as he does. Sometimes, it is simply the physical limitations that complicate "normal" life - as for example when changing nappies or going to the paediatrician. To this, strong support could come in the form of an educational assistance. Specific educational issues, or even one's own psychological coping is why organisations and service centres offer counselling. For more information about educational assistance, please visit the links below.
A well-deserved day for Dads
Each of these fathers - Gunther, Edmund, and Klaus - will celebrate the day in their own way: with the family, on a trip or a vacation.
You and all the other fathers - especially those with a disability - we wish you a great Father's Day, have a nice Ascension Day or simply a pleasant 21st May!
* Names have been changed
Text: Thomas Mitterhuber