On September 20, 2019, Andrew Sullivan on Real Time: With Bill Maher stated that "70% of black children are born without a father." While there's a statistic that states 72% of black children are born into single-parent households, that does not validate the stereotype that black fathers are not present in their children's life. According to Statista, in 2019 there were about 15.76 million children living with a single mother and about 3.23 million children living with a single father. While the numbers are much lower for single fathers compared to single mothers, fathers are very much present in their children's lives, despite marital statuses.
I want to shine light on the black men we know and love. The black men that may be overlooked who are proof that they are an active father.
I had the chance to sit down with a good friend of mine, Matthew Carothers, who was able to talk with me about his experience as a full-time single father. Originally from the west side of Chicago, Matthew currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his two sons Aaron (9) and Alvin (7). While being granted full custody of the children, given the circumstances, Matthew was ready to step up as the sole provider for his sons.
While parenthood is different for everyone, Matt and I were able to highlight three key areas on what life is like being a father.
“Fatherhood definitely showed me where I was lacking and where I needed to be.”
Becoming a parent can be one of the greatest and one of the most challenging experiences. You have to be able to shift your priorities because now it isn't all about you, but about you and your family. As a father, Matt explains that one of the biggest challenges is finances. "You have to make sure everything you get for yourself, you get for your children too. Like I can be lazy and say, I don't want to go to work. But, if I don't go to work, I don't get paid. If I don't get paid, who is going to provide for my boys?"
Managing purchases and even managing time can definitely be a wake-up call for most parents, but with challenge comes opportunity. Becoming a parent, you're able to tap into skills you perhaps would've never known you had without having children. "There is an instinct that you have when raising your kids that you later understand why your parents did what they did when raising you," he revealed.
Being a parent, especially a father, lets you see yourself in a new and different way. Now even with struggles, there are always rewards that keep you motivated.
"The best part about being a father is whenever I talk to my kids, they look at me like I'm a superhero. Like I am the strongest person ever and there is nothing that I can't do in their eyes. In my opinion, nothing can beat that."
Hearing this, I can only imagine how it feels to create someone who depends on you, looks up to you, and thinks the world of you. With that kind of responsibility, it helps you become more selfless and to think more about the future.
“In dating, I’m not looking for just anyone to date, I’m looking at the bigger picture."
We all need love, right? Whether you're a parent or not, we all search for someone we can share our life with. For Matt, dating hasn't necessarily halted. For him, it's important to be more intentional when dating.
"Dating as a single father is different for me. When I say different, I mean my mentality has changed. In dating, I'm not looking for just anyone to date, I'm looking at the bigger picture."
When you're a parent, dating becomes more serious. While you're balancing work and family life, finding someone isn't about who can vibe with you, but who can vibe with you and your kids. You are a package deal. As a father, Matt prioritizes if a woman he's dating will get along with his sons in the long run. He wants to make sure that if he does develop feelings for someone, they're already prepared to welcome his family with an open mind and heart.
Even if dating can become more serious, dating has to be fun too. "My mom taught me when I became a father that yes you are a dad, but you still have to find time for yourself."
“Do not try to be perfect, because you are going to make mistakes.”
When children are young, they look to their parents to teach them everything about the world. For a father and son, it can be about learning how to be strong and confident, how to navigate the world when you get older, and how to be one another's support system. A father and son bond is just as impactful as the bond between a mother and daughter. Since Matt is raising two sons, he mentioned that the biggest lesson for him as a father is how to raise them the right way.
"It's important to instill things in them when they are young or it will not catch. The biggest things I teach my boys is how to act when they are around other people and how to be respectful."
Whatever lesson a father passes down to his son, without a doubt, shapes how the son grows into a man. Fatherhood for Matt, ironically, is what helped him become a better man. The one piece of advice Matt has for soon-to-be fathers is: "Do not try to be perfect, because you are going to make mistakes."
We as humans put a lot of pressure on ourselves. After trial and error, it isn't about being the perfect person or parent; it's about doing the best we can. We must remember to always learn from our mistakes and keep getting better with our hearts in the right place.
That is what counts.
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