Are Fathers and Dads the Same?

Not all of us are raised in a nurturing environment. Not all people have a dad who is healthy in mind, body, and spirit. I am thankful that my husband is a man who loves our children unconditionally. I deeply appreciate his significant, positive impact on our family.

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By Dara Levan

Leisurely breakfasts and lively dinners will celebrate dads on Sunday. For many of us, Father’s Day is joyous and jovial. However, this is not the experience for all children, regardless of age.

This is a tough topic about which to write. But it is a painful reality for many in our world. The seemingly perfect, posed pictures on social media can unintentionally hurt. Chipper cards and sappy commercials can also become unexpected triggers. Whether you lost your dad years ago or recently, this holiday can resurrect painful emotions. And I know others who ache because their father may be living, but he is not part of their life.


There are some sons and daughters who never had the love and/or physical presence of a father. If you were raised by a single mother, this is for you. If you had a male figure in your life who wasn’t emotionally present or supportive, this is for you. If you are awakening in your adulthood and realizing your dad was not who you thought (or hoped) he was, this is also for you. 

I’ve used the terms “father” and “dad” interchangeably. Although the dictionary definitions are the same, to me, the heart-centered meanings are not. A father is one who contributes to the creation of human being. It’s easy to father a child. But it takes dedication, commitment, and intention to be a dad. In my opinion, you can certainly be a father yet not be a dad.

A dad, similar to a mom, is an earned term of endearment. Perceptions of paternity are formed based on our experiences. And they can be positive, negative, and quite often, a fusion of both.

Dads are not always biological. Stepdads and those generous men who adopt or foster children are dads, too. Father figures may appear in the form of a teacher. Or perhaps another type of personal or professional mentor. A father-in-law, older cousin, friend, or uncle can be like a dad to you.


I told my incredible husband that I wanted to write an article about him. He said absolutely not. His humility is one of the attributes I love most about him. My husband is both a father and a dad. So as promised, I won’t write an entire piece (yet) about him. But I cannot publish this post without including a few paragraphs. It would be incomplete!

My husband is an ethical, loving, loyal, intelligent, and kind man. I am grateful every morning I kiss him hello and every evening when we hug goodnight. Our teenagers, although I doubt they truly get it yet, are beyond blessed to have an extraordinary role model and devoted dad. (I tell them this constantly, which I’m sure is annoying. Insert the eye roll here!)


Not all of us are born and raised in a nurturing environment. Not all kids have a dad with whom they can share openly and live honestly. Not all people have a dad who is healthy in mind, body, and spirit. I am forever thankful that my husband is a man who loves our children unconditionally. I value and deeply appreciate his significant, positive impact on our family.

Kids and adults can certainly cultivate relationship(s) with others who become like a dad to them. Fostering father-figure relationships, like all others, requires emotional receptivity. You may feel vulnerable and scared. It may be a reminder of what you did not, do not, or never will have. And it will certainly not replace the natural bond of a father/dad and child. I encourage you to open your heart and let others in. It is not easy, especially if you are stuck in the quicksand of traditional parental paradigms. 

Rather than wallow in the “why nots,” consider who could await you! When you unlock your heart’s protective doors, you may be surprised who enters. My Father’s Day wish for you, no matter where or who you are, is to cherish typical father and/or dad relationships. I hope you also celebrate father-like figures who are in your life now and welcome those who may emerge in the future.

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