“I played a father for a 12-year-old with a single mother. The girl was bullied because she didn’t have a dad, so the mother rented me. I’ve acted as the girl’s father ever since. I am the only real father that she knows… ” Yuichi, rental father (in an interview with The Atlantic)
In Japan, Family Romance employs 800 actors, all hired by clients to play roles: Mothers, spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, friends, doting colleagues, and fathers. It feels confounding, but in our increasingly isolated and fragmented world, is this an anomaly or a new normal?
Either way, the rental dad phenomena invites us to consider an important question: Just what is a dad?
Yuichi serves as a father figure, no doubt. Hired by a mom who was abused and abandoned by her daughter’s biological father, Yuichi does his job well. He fulfills the order form. He is always kind. He is a good listener. He’s taken his “daughter” to dinner and Disneyland. To this girl, he is Dad.
To be a dad does not demand shared DNA. My dad adopted my older brother and younger brother. My wife and I are foster parents. I have a nephew and niece who do not share DNA with their father, my brother-in-law.
But as we witness the genesis of the rental dad industry, it’s important we state what being a dad is. And it’s not this.
Morin (interviewer): Does any aspect of your real self seep in?
Yuichi: I don’t allow it to, otherwise I would become self-conscious.
Morin: Do you feel like you have a responsibility to the daughter, because of your connection to her now?
Yuichi: Depending on the situation, it’s different. The heaviness is different, but everywhere I go, I feel it—the responsibility.
Morin: When you’re working, is it purely acting, or do the feelings ever become real?
Yuichi: It’s a business. I’m not going to be her father for 24 hours. It’s a set time. When I am acting with her, I don’t really feel that I love her, but when the session is over and I have to go, I do feel a little sad…
At dadcraft, we believe the foundation for fatherhood, we believe, is love. Fathering—whether through biology, foster care, or adoption—begins with love. It is sustained by love. It hangs in there because of love. It isn’t always easy [LINK TO NEW ADW POST]. You might not always like your kids. Your kids might not always like you. But fatherhood is defined by enduring, self-sacrificial, forever love. A rental dad can serve a role in a child’s life, but he is never dad. Because fatherhood is defined by love.
P.S. We would love to hear how you define fatherhood. Find us on Twitter and let us know what you think.