The picture above is from 5th grade. It’s an important picture because my dad did my hair that day. My dad… …was tall and slender. …could throw down in the kitchen. …was artistic and musical, and was the person who taught me how to sign my name. …did drugs. …hit my mom. …made empty promises. […]
Single mother doing an amazing job but I can’t and won’t do your job. “Saying ‘daddy’ feels funny to me because he doesn’t call and I don’t see him, Mommy.” Bedtime conversations where she wonders why she even calls you dad. While her expressing her point of view affects me, really, it should affect […]
Today’s Community Blogger Jerdi writes a powerful, compelling account about the various ways in which her family is coping with the incarceration of her daughters’ father, their paternal grandmother, and other relatives. For single mothers of children with incarcerated fathers, Father’s Day can be complex and challenging. Our thoughts and support are with you this […]
Editor’s note: The following post does not discuss the permanent loss of a parent through death, though we do intend to devote a future post to this topic.
Though it wasn’t often part of direct story lines, single motherhood was very much at the heart of the hit 1990s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In fact, aside from The Bernie Mac Show, it’s one of the only high-profile, pop culture examples of black communal parenting. As the show’s iconic theme song explains, Will’s single mom sacrificially sends him to live with wealthy relatives in a better neighborhood because their own West Philadelphia community is a riskier space for young black men to navigate.
The show only touches on the complexities of this arrangement a handful of times. On episodes where Will’s mother visits, she is quick to remind him of his roots and that this highfalutin living situation is only temporary. At one point, after seriously dating and contemplating remarriage, she asks Will to return home (presumably because, a marriage would mean a live-in father figure for him). And it becomes clear over the course of the series that sharing custody of one’s child with extended family can be a real gamble.
But there are also times when having male role models or “social fathers” as a consistent presence is an indisputable win, no matter how complicated. And the above clip, where Will’s biological dad shows up and vanishes, is an example.
… We’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.
Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home. It is also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world. — President Obama, 2013 State of the Union address
The brief chastisement of absentee dads that President Obama ticked off during last night’s State of the Union address quickly became the sound byte and retweet heard ’round the country. Which is fine. Because if there are fathers who were watching who are completely uninvolved (or underinvolved) with their children — and they are absent because marriage or remaining present and engaged presented financial impediments, then they may’ve needed to hear that. I’m all for taking any parent to task who’s willfully refusing to pull his or her own weight.
I also won’t pretend that single mothers don’t appreciate statements like this; it validates the experiences of those whose partners are not invested in parenting. Perhaps it even makes them feel as though they alone aren’t being “blamed” for their single parenthood.