- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

Dad, it’s not your imagination: Americans pay more attention to their mothers than their fathers, particularly as Mother’s Day looms — awash in flowers, candy and cards.

Sixty-three percent of people say “love” is the strongest emotion they feel toward their mother, compared with 41 percent who said the same about their father, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults of baby-boomer age released yesterday by the AARP.

The survey also found that 40 percent named Mom as their favored parent, compared with 20 percent who said the same of Dad.

It’s not that fathers are unfeeling slugs, though.

Dad has some heart, according to a statistical portrait of American mothers and fathers by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The data found, for example, that 78 percent of fathers said watching children grow up was “life’s greatest joy.” Eighty-three percent of mothers agreed.

The numbers also revealed that — across all ages and races — three-quarters of fathers hugged their children, while two-thirds regularly told their children they loved them.

Culture does not necessarily reflect such sentimental findings, though. Mother’s Day became an official annual national holiday by presidential proclamation in 1914; Father’s Day didn’t make the list until 1972. There’s also a divide between how we celebrate the occasions.

Hallmark will sell an estimated 152 million greetings cards to Mom this year, and 95 million to Dad.

A poll of 1,035 consumers by American Airlines and Omni Hotels found that half of them were willing to “splurge” on a Mother’s Day gift, while 38 percent would do the same for Dad on his day. They’re also more willing to travel farther to see their mother.

But such is Dad’s lot in life, apparently.

The National Retail Federation also notes an enthusiasm gap between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Last year, for example, Americans spent $8 billion on their dads and $10 billion on their moms on the occasions.

Spending on mothers is up by almost 10 percent from what it was at this time last year — while spending on fathers is down by about 15 percent.

In recent years, some have argued that popular culture is marginalizing and even trivializing fathers — “distancing Dad,” in the words of Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard University education specialist.

Whether Mother’s Day is a manifestation of that remains to be seen, though.

“Much of this goes right back to the umbilical cord. There’s a biological bond with mother that goes beyond words,” said psychologist Robert Butterworth. “We hear lots of expressions of ‘mother’s love’ rather than ‘father’s love.’ … I don’t know if it’s proof fathers have been marginalized in our society.

“But one thing I would advise. During all the celebrations Sunday, Mom needs to lean over to her kids and whisper, ‘Now, don’t you forget about Father’s Day’.”

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