When I think about my father, I think of him first as a provider. He’s the one who helped me figure out financial aid at school, told me what a W-9 is, and helped me figure out my taxes. My dad, like so many others, works a 9 to 5 and takes care of the family finances. As a teenager, when I wanted to cry, I turned to my mom; when I wanted to buy a car and get insurance, I turned to my dad. 

The coronavirus lockdowns have caused the unemployment rates to skyrocket. While men and women are both suffering from these cutbacks, and women seem to be losing more jobs than men, middle aged men are already facing an epidemic of loneliness. They tend to have few friends outside and social connections outside of work. Social science shows that many are living for their careers. They go to work and have a community of colleagues and a way to support their families.

A 2017 study at the University of Oxford found that men bond better through face-to-face interactions while women are much more competent at maintaining relationships through phone calls and social media. Robin Dunbar, the leader of the study, summarized the study saying that “What determined whether [friendships] survived with girls was whether they made the effort to talk more to each other on the phone. What held up [male] friendships was doing stuff together – going to a football match, going to the pub for a drink, playing five-a-side. They had to make the effort. It was a very striking sex difference.”

During a global pandemic, most relationships are now screen-to-screen. Women are better equipped to keep friends remotely than men. I spend several hours every week on Facetime and phone calls with friends. On top of that, I use a whole slew of other social media to keep in regular contact with most of the people that I would have been hanging out with in the
“real world.” But without physical workspaces, social distancing can too easily become social isolation.

Father’s Day is extra important this year. Fathers who have lost their jobs or are working remotely may feel a loss of self. The state of the economy makes it difficult to feel like a strong provider for their families. Unemployment and remote work may detach them from their only regular community outside of their homes. 

Coming into this weekend, there is an opportunity to remind your Father of their value in your life, not just his value as a breadwinner, but as a member of your community. A father’s value isn’t just dollar signs. It’s in the support they’ve given you, the shared memories, the love that binds a family. Take this holiday and celebrate anyone who has served as a father figure, from your actual dad to your family friend to a boss, priest, or teacher. It’s always good to spread joy and right now all the fathers in your life might need it more than most.