It's Black Fathers' Week in several cities across the country -- a time to encourage, celebrate, and support black fathers everywhere.
Kimberly Seals Allers: Remembering the importance of black fathers is so important in our community, where black women are disproportionately single parents. According to census data, 45.4% of black homes are headed by a single female, compared to 13.7% for whites and 22.3% for Latinas. Other studies show that black children are eight times more likely than white children to live with an unwed mother.
If you're one of these single moms, like I am, I want to talk to you about the importance of keeping your "wasband" in the picture. We women are notorious for taking good care of our families -- and the list of prominent, successful adults raised by single mothers runs long -- but our children still need their fathers. I've seen too many black single moms let off a triumphant, "My child doesn't need his father." "Her father doesn't deserve to see her." And it just isn't true. And we should never want that to be our truth.
My girlfriend and I have been having an ongoing debate ever since my husband moved out and I joined the ranks of the single moms. She has been one for years. She laughs at all my efforts to keep the wasband involved in the children's lives -- continuing to notify him of doctor's appointments, school conferences, recitals, and soccer practices, even though he doesn't show up half the time. She thinks I'm foolish for letting him see the children after he breaks the appointments, doesn't call, or has some other lame excuse.
Of course, it annoys the hell out of me. Sometimes it makes me cry. But the truth is, my son still breaks into the biggest Kool-Aid smile when he sees his Dad pull up in the driveway. He often gets so giddy at pickup that he starts running around like crazy. At five years old, his memory is short and his standards for what a Daddy should be are pretty low. My husband won't have this luxury for long. My 9-year-old daughter is already hip to his game and very much less enthusiastic about his arrival and pickup. But that is a call for my children to make. Pretty soon, they will see their father for who he is, good and bad -- children are so discerning, aren't they? But it is not my place to paint that picture for them. Their dad will have to deal with that himself when the time comes.
My girlfriend, on the other hand, has a laundry list of the things she dislikes about her child's father, which she points to as "character issues" and "lack of responsibility" -- which, quite frankly, are the farthest things from her 3-year-old's mind. That little girl just wants to run and play with her daddy, and my girlfriend's anger about their broken relationship gets in the way. She's caught in a control game, insisting on him playing by her rules. Her daughter is the biggest loser in this one. Now, I don't play when it comes to safety issues of any sort. But outside of a child being in some sort of physical or emotional danger, there isn't much reason, in my opinion, to keep children away from their dads. And as my mother will quickly tell me, when I launch into a complaining tirade about the wasband, "Well, you picked him and you slept with him." There's not much I can say to her after that.
So this week, I ask all single mothers to think about their children. Recognize the importance of our black men in our children's lives. Not everyone has a perfect dad. This is the reality of the world. But do something, even if it's small, this week to support and encourage the presence of your child's father in your little one's life -- despite his shortcomings. When it comes to raising strong, confident black children and revitalizing our communities -- we need our men.
|Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning business journalist and founder and editor-in-chief of MochaManual.com, a weekly online magazine for moms of color. She is the author of "The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy" and "The Mocha Manual to Turning Your Passion into Profit." Kimberly is a divorcing mother of two and lives on Long Island, NY.|