Last week, my good friend Daddy Doin’ Work called me a week ago and asked me if I would answer an important question as part of a guest posting on his blog. He wanted to capture the opinion of Mom’s he respected on what it meant to be a good Dad. At first, I laughed and told him, “Doyin…seriously…you know my story! What makes you think I would be in the position to preach about what it means to be a good father?” I probably couldn’t have consciously picked a worse Dad than the man who was my son’s father – even if I had tried. After some thought, however, I realized that having scraped the bottom of the barrel of fatherhood I had learned some important lessons about what my son’s father should have been.
While I kept my comments somewhat brief for the DDW guest post, I wanted to take the time to elaborate on some lessons I have learned for my readers. Some of you might think that having been through such a terrible experience with a man, a person would naturally turn into a man-hater. Though I am in no rush to get into another relationship, I look forward to someday meeting a man who is capable of being the type of father that every woman should expect for her children. Let’s jump right in…
1) Selflessness: While the rest of this list is in no particular order, this particular characteristic should always come first. Lucifer was one of the most selfish people I have ever met. At first, he didn’t seem this way. He knew it was not a good quality so he hid it well in the first few months we were together. That said, when selfish rears its ugly head – you better run. There is no room for this trait in parenting. Children need their parents to ALWAYS put them first. You don’t eat before your children have eaten. You don’t sleep before you know they are safe, warm, and have what they need. A selfish person is not capable of being a good parent. When I was a kid, my mother showed up at just about every kid event. I know she couldn’t have enjoyed watching my middle school basketball team lose or the terrible singing that went on in the Christmas shows; however, it didn’t matter because she came to show me how much she loved me despite how painful the show.
2) Presence: Some parents think that if they are physically present that is enough. Some think that if they are financially present that is enough. Lucifer believed that just because he claimed a child was his and “was around”, that made him a good father. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. A good father is a man who is all the way present – physically, financially, and emotionally. A good father is present for his entire family. When Mom comes home after a hard day at work, a good father makes a point to help her feel better. A good father knows that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” One of the biggest mistakes that I see many women making is that they believe that if Dad is present in one of these areas, he is good enough. I would argue, however, if he is absent in at least one of these areas he is dead weight and likely a bad Dad. (Note: the exception to the physically present rule would be someone who cannot be as physically present because the only way they can be financially present is to be away sometimes – i.e. men and women in the military. That said, when they are home with family they can make the most of their physically present time and this is key.)
3) Responsibility: Last week a Facebook friend of mine posted a picture of her husband with one of their children. The caption on the photo explained that he was “babysitting”. A parent is never a babysitter. The differences between a parent and a babysitter are abundant but the most obvious difference between a parent and a babysitter is responsibility. A parent is responsible for raising a child in a way that a babysitter will never be. A babysitter is merely around to make sure the child doesn’t get hurt while the parents cannot be there. A parent is responsible for raising a productive member of society. A good Dad will not only accept this great responsibility, but he will embrace it and enjoy it. You should never have to ask the father of your child to take responsibility. You shouldn’t have to ask him to help you make important decisions because he should want to.
Finally, one of the hardest lessons I have learned in the past few years is the importance of boundaries and standards. I was with someone who pushed my boundaries and consistently drained me physically, emotionally, and financially. I didn’t hold the father of my child to the same standards to which I held myself. The father of your children should be your best friend, the love of your life, and your partner. He should respect your opinion as much as you respect his. He should be the person you want to consult with. He should make you feel safe, and you should never be scared of him. He should push you to be the best version of yourself without making you feel like you are less than wonderful.
There was a time when I settled for much less than what I have outlined above. I have paid the ultimate price for my mistakes. When you are choosing a partner, realize that you are not just choosing for yourself – you are choosing for your unborn child. No matter how terrible this person turns out to be, the child will never have the choice to walk away from them. A mother can divorce the father of her child, but the child will not have this luxury.