A Working Deadbeat Dad. : ThyBlackMan

Sunday, January 19, 2020

A Working Deadbeat Dad.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Everyone has heard the horror stories about the deadbeat dad who refuses to work and/or take care of his children by any reasonable means.This unfortunately is an all too true stereotype when it fits the model. Low employment rates and high unemployment, poor education and life skills, or simply being unaware of many unconventional opportunities that may exist (even for felons) are all very good reasons for this unfortunate circumstance. However, the outcome is usually the same…an absentee father.

Of course, it would be great to acknowledge that so many Black men have been disenfranchised by unfair laws placed on non-violent offenses (but should we be committing these offenses?), yet that’s another topic.     Today, I invite you to the round table of folding chairs placed in a circle. A few stories have already been shared when a Black man raises his hand to speak, then stands to say:

Hello, my name is Jonathan and I am a deadbeat dad. I, being a divorced father of three children (two teenage boys and a baby girl), work an average of seventy to eighty hours a week to provide food, clothing and shelter for my burgeoning young boys and precious daughter(s). I also am blessed to have two additional (step)sons and another daughter as well. Doing my best to include the well-being of mom, I occasionally calculate “an increase” for extra living expenses when figuring cost of my child support.

I also consider myself fortunate to be able to maintain a somewhat cordial relationship with mom, and that I only adhere to personal agreements made and kept between co-parents (which I have not needed the assistance of the attorney general to enforce). I guess it goes without saying that I make financial responsibility over my children a top priority. That makes me better than any dad struggling to provide support, right? It definitely separates me from fitting the stereotypical portrayal of a deadbeat, right…no, absolutely wrong!

Although being gainfully employed and currently without a case number for CP (child support) in the rears…I admittedly, still may be very much at risk of becoming a working deadbeat dad. The first step (after denial) is of course acceptance. I can’t accept the fact, but I do acknowledge the problem and risk associated. When I was young, me and my peers knew very well what the responsibilities of our parents were: clothes on our backs, food on the table and a roof over our heads (with a place to sleep). If our parents went to work nearly everyday, mission accomplished. We smiled when mom showed up to our award programs and if dad didn’t sleep through when it was time to pick us up (before he had to run off to the next job).

My father was a hardworking, proud Black man who refused to sit still in fear of being called lazy. I admired those qualities even as a young child, but my siblings and I still greatly missed him. He worked so hard to provide a future and to improve the present, but unfortunately died at 43. The point I am trying to establish here is…we needed much more than money. We needed more advice, recreation, and yes, even correction (not so much as punishment) from our father. I remember days when he would take us on impromptu trips to the beach in the early years. Yet, I recall far more days he’d seem depressed and disconnected.

Now as a father myself, I’m am in touch with how that must have felt. You know, wanting to connect with a family you helped make, but really don’t know. Now that I share custody…It is this example that revealed to me the obvious points unwrapping my truth. Children need tons more emotional support, guidance, attention and just plain ol’ fun with dad. Working my fingers to the bone, concentrated on securing the future can potentially be the greatest mistake. I have learned “…any plan for the future can only be executed in the present”. This thought went off in my head like a lightbulb and jump started my heart.

It was then that I realized, while my oldest two are only teen and pre-teen now…they would graduate in only a few short semesters. Time definitely exposed itself to not be on my side, and if I didn’t make the necessary investment today (and every day moving forward) I could lose the attention of my children. The respect I have from them comes from them watching my every move, as I prove my steps and words in deed.

Although I am sure most Black men have figured out some sort of balance with these critical life problems; I was without understanding. Having the partnership of a spouse, I portrayed the ignorant notion that all a father owed his male children was inheritance, and a manhood training course. Furthermore, the oath to his daughter(s) was  to be understood, “…she should get everything she wants”. I never consciously supported these old ridiculous parenting models, but perpetuated them in where i placed both my efforts and priority.

My value was quantified by what I could and/or could not afford. More than a materialistic mindset, it was, a deep rooted ideology of finance being the most important measure of my function as a Black man, and father. How misguided I must be carrying out such short sighted vision. ], he says as he again takes his seat.

There were no applause held for the end of his confession, nor a cascade of participants standing to validate the prevalence of his problem as anything more than a singular event. The problem resides in the fact that he (nor I) is not alone in the manifestation of such a skewed conscious concerning male self worth, based on ability to duplicate societal norms (rooted almost exclusively in England, as far back as the 1300’s.), while the rest of the world understood “it takes a village to raise a child. Still, these are perilous time for the “soon to be” young Black man and so much more is required of you, of me, of us all, as working (single or wed) Black fathers.

Staff Writer; J. Zacharite Davis-Brent

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