I remember as a kid growing up in Singapore in the 1980s, there wasn't a buzz about Father's Day in school or the shopping centre. Perhaps Dad was just less important than Mum. According to Insure.com's 2012 Father's Day Index in the US, Dad is valued less at home than Mum with his domestic contributions rated at just over USD20,000 compared to Mum's USD60,182. It kind of makes sense when Dad is assigned tasks like barbequing, helping with homework, moving furniture and performing maintenance around the house while Mum received visible recognition for shopping for her family, nursing wounds, giving haircuts, and cleaning up. It is generally believed that mothers get more attention than fathers. According to the Associated Press, US President Barack Obama told his campaign supporters that Father's Day was a forgotten holiday and he had observed that people make a bigger deal out of Mother's Day. IBISWorld general manager Karen Dobie said her figures revealed that the average Australian will spend only AUD29.50 on dad compared to almost double that amount on mum when Father's Day comes around.
Despite Dad's lower profile at home, it did not stop Ms Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington from honouring her own father and everyone else's by lobbying for a Father's Day festival in the early 20th century. Inspired by an American Mother's Day celebration in 1909 and the hardships her father experienced in raising her and her 5 siblings alone, Sonora began a campaign to honour fathers. The first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane, Washington on 19 June 1910. The growing popularity of Father's Day attracted the approval of President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, a Presidential Proclamation by President Lyndon Johnson declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day in 1966, and a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the third Sunday of June by President Richard Nixon in 24 April 1972. Today, the commercialisation of Father's Day with Hallmark cards and Dad-centric shopping has Sonora's noble idea celebrated around the world.
Today, Dad is definitely getting his fair share of attention and gifts. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the US retail industry's trade group, Father's Day has turned into a nearly USD12.7 billion holiday with the average American spending USD117.14 on gifts for their fathers. With T-shirts and ceramic mugs saying "World's Best Dad" on the least list, most in the NRF survey would be splurging on electronic gift items, apparel, sporting goods, books and music. Hallmark shared that Father's Day is the fourth-largest card-sending holiday in the US, with 94 million cards exchanged annually.
In Australia, the government's gift to fathers is legislation passed by parliament on 27 June 2012 helping Dads take time off work to bond with their babies from 1 January 2013. According to Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and Disability Reform, the Dad and Partner Pay provides a dedicated payment to give dads and partners financial support to stay at home for two weeks with their new baby, especially relevant to dads and partners who work in casual jobs without annual leave entitlements, and self-employed people such as tradespeople, small business owners and farmers. It is available to eligible fathers and partners, including adopting parents and parents in same-sex couples who are full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers who have worked at least 330 hours (just over one day a week) in 10 of the 13 months before the birth of their baby and who earned $150,000 or less in the previous financial year. Eligible dads will have access to two weeks' government-funded Dad and Partner Pay at the rate of the national minimum wage ($606 a week before tax).
The vital role fathers play in the development and well-being of their children in Australia is also celebrated by the Australian Father's Day Council and The Shepherd Centre. Both organisations host an Australian Father of the Year Award, recognising two outstanding fathers for their achievements and contribution to family and community life. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston was awarded the 2011 Australian Father of the Year and Allan Dabbagh was awarded the 2011 NSW Community Father of the Year at the annual Father of the Year Awards Luncheon on Friday 26 August 2011 at the Sydney Opera House. The 2012 winners will be announced at The Australian Father of the Year Awards luncheon to be held ahead of Fathers' Day on Tuesday 28 August 2012.
Happy Father's Day / Image by edenpictures of Flickr
I missed Father's Day in Singapore due to work-related travels but my dad's decision to visit me in Australia in September has given me a second opportunity. Instead of just heading out to the mall and buying a gift, I've decided to search Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane and the surrounds of Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland for the best ways to spend quality time with him. Perhaps the best personal award you can give to dad is simply you.