For many single fathers, "Happy Fathers' Day" is a wish rather than a reality, as the social resources that could help to alleviate the economic and psychological pressures they face every day are unavailable to them.
"There are as many as 740,000 single-parent households nationwide, of which 40 percent to 45 percent are single-father families," said Chu Chien-fung (
Chu is a single father himself.
"The numbers are from last year, but the figures are from three years ago. I think it must have gone up since," he said.
In Taichung, a citywide survey conducted last year by the Child Welfare League Foundation with elementary students in the fifth and the sixth grades found 120,000 single-father families in the city alone, Taichung City Shiang Ching Family Center director Wu Ying-chi (
The center was created by the foundation and Taichung City.
Although the number of single fathers is high, the help available to them is small.
"The government's single-parent services are available only through women's welfare departments," Wu said.
Chu agreed it was a serious problem and recalled that the association had once applied for funds to organize a single-father support event, but "the application was rejected because they said the money is only for single mothers."
Single fathers face heavy economic and psychological pressures, Chu said.
Although single fathers earn on average NT$6,000 (US$180) more than single mothers per month, "we [single fathers] have to support our parents in addition to supporting our children," Chu said, adding that the study showed that 60 percent of single fathers take care of their parents as well.
However, being a single father could also mean unstable employment.
"Single fathers have to take leave from their jobs when something happens to their children at school. We can't work overtime as much either," Chu said. "This means that you don't have as many opportunities for promotion and you can lose your job if the boss does not understand the situation you're in."
In addition to economic pressures are the emotional ones.
"When my wife passed away, I felt the family had collapsed," Chu said. "When I went to bed at night, there was no one to talk to and I often just stared at the ceiling until morning came."
Another single father, surnamed Chen, had a similar emotional breakdown.
"I drank every night, but it didn't help," Chen said. "I couldn't sleep at night, but still had to work during the day and take care of my children after work. It was horrible."
Chu later found support from other single parents at the association, while Chen resolved to see a psychiatrist.
Although the two have overcome their difficulties, many others are still unable to.
"A lot of single fathers became melancholic and end up committing suicide. Some even take their children with them," Chu said.
"I have been a volunteer suicide prevention councilor for 11 years, but I almost committed suicide myself when I was in that situation," Michael Lien, another single father, said. "It was total psychological destruction."
As he was about to jump into a river, a blind street musician nearby inspired him to live on, Lien said.
Meanwhile, single fathers feel they often face discrimination.
"A lot of people would think that your wife left you because you've done something wrong," Chu said. "But that isn't necessarily the case."
"My parents were ashamed [about my divorce] and could not accept it," Lien said. "They asked me to hide it from our relatives."
Chen, for his part, said that following the divorce, his children were often made fun of at school.
"We need a single-father-friendly environment," Chu said. "The government should take single-parent services out of women's welfare departments so that single fathers can be helped, too."
Chu also said the government should create help centers across the country so that single parents -- fathers and mothers alike -- could support each other.
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