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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'K' is a multi-hyphenated free spirit from Chicago. She is a lover of stories and the people who tell them. As a writer, 9-5er, and Safe Space Curator, she values creating the life she wants and enjoying the journey along the way. You can follow her on Instagram @theletter__k_.
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7 Black Women Bookstagrammers To Follow And The Reads By Black Authors That Empower Us
I've always been a stan for reading, and I've been a so-called book geek since kindergarten. My mom would always reward good grades and behavior with a trip to the local library, something my siblings loved more than any new toys or free time to play outside. We would spend hours at the tall stone building in the downtown area of the small town I spent my childhood in, first in the downstairs "Children's Room" (which only had books for readers 5-13). I later graduated to going (i.e., snuck) upstairs to find all the juicy celebrity autobiographies, travel books, and classics like Sula, Moby Dick, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
So today, when I see so many Black women part of #bookstagram, I feel seen because many of us love not only to read but to drown in books by Black authors, poets, historians, and researchers who continue to add to the narrative and reflection of what it truly means to be a Black person---a Black woman---in America.
Check out (and follow) a few of my favorite Black women bookstagrammers and the books that empower us:
Zora Neale Hurston is clearly an icon, and she's one of my favorite authors, thought leaders, and scholars, so this is an obvious choice for me. What I love, specifically, about this bookstagrammer's page is that it lacks pretension, is super-relatable, and includes a nice mix of nonfiction books, something I'm trying to boost in my collection.
2.Kayla Starr @blackgirlbookadventures
Another classic, Beloved was a book I unsuccessfully tried to read as a 12-year-old, tried again in my 20s (and failed), saw the film, and then fell back in love with again reading in my 30s. Black Girl Book Adventures is a page that just screams brightness, positivity, and a love for books that draws you near.
3.Black Girl With Books @blackgirlwithbooks
This book had a profound effect on me, as it connected the dots between Ghana (a place that has held a special place in my heart since my 2016 visit) and Black America in a way that blew my mind. It also helps that the storytelling and timelines are captivating and thoughtful in a way that any editor who just loves good writing--in an online content environment that seems to reward robotic, vapid, Grammarly-informed, copycat writing---would appreciate.) The founder of this page also offers info on bookstores and other interesting updates for bibliophile baes.
4.Shani Akilah @_shaniakilah
A love of travel and books? Yes, please! Shani's page is refreshing and welcoming, inviting you in on her global adventures along with her journeys through her latest reads. I'm a huge fan of books that feature Black women protagonists in Caribbean or African settings who are able to come into a higher sense of themselves through challenge or hardship. For some reason, I'm always drawn to those books, which is why this one is a top pick for me.
5.Boipelo Lecha @boipelo.reads.books
I'm not big on romance novels (after having grown out of an early obsession with Danielle Steele). At one point, I'd been yearning for a book that offered an elevated sense of the Black love experience (beyond the esteemed OGs like Terry McMillan, Eric Jerome Dickey, and Zane) and stumbled upon Love In Color. It was just what I needed because it's a collection of classic love stories retold through the lens of the author, and the tales centrally feature women.
Biopelo is an up-and-comer in the #bookstagrammer space.
I've been consumed by Black historical fiction, and this is a good one for the collection. It tells the story of a Black southern family through generations in a way that doesn't feel like a book you were forced to read for a college project. It screams, "Turn me into a six-part Netflix saga," and was a surprise hit for me because I made some very ignorant assumptions about a poet being able to write such a story. (Ah, like Maya Angelou isn't literally a queen in my head.)
Virginia-based Semiyah is literally like my reading tastes twin, down to the mix of types of books she showcases on her page, from romance fiction to new YA titles.
Lex serves up book events and information about new releases to boot, and her page doesn't scream, "Hey, I'm going to just promo books sent to me for free by publishers." On top of that, I support any and everything with the name Tiffany D. Jackson stamped on it. She's a graduate of the other HU (heeeey all my Hampton *cough*, I mean, Howard folk), and the way she puts her special stank on YA will have you wanting to actually relive your own teenage years.
Dare I say, reading her work is like the first time I read Judy Blume, Sister Souljah, and Candy Dawson Boyd---all pioneers in what is now known as young adult fiction. It's authentic, truthful, kind, real, and has a living soul, all elements I yearned for back in the late '80s and '90s as a confused, geeky, Black girl at the library and that I still yearn for as an award-winning editor, editorial manager, and self-employed woman at my big age.
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