One of my absolute favorite movies is Tyler Perry’s “Daddy’s Little Girls”, a romantic comedy starring Gabrielle Union and Idris Elba who play a couple that falls in love despite the circumstances: Monty (Idris Elba) is a single dad with a working-class background and Julia (Gabrielle Union) is a successful Black Woman who is a lawyer that represents Monty in his custody battle for his three daughters. Despite the fact that Julia’s friends try to insist that she associates with a man of her “status”, Julia falls in love with Monty because he is a man of integrity who truly cares about her.
In the movie, Daddy’s Little Girls, one of my favorite lines is when Monty tells Julia, “I know the world may have you thinking that brothers in the hood don’t look after their kids, but I do”
This line says it all for me in so many ways…here are some considerations:
I have been a successful single Black professional woman and over time I knew that the longer that I have remained single, it meant that the likelihood of me dating (and perhaps marrying) a Black man who had children would increase over time.
Before I get into sharing my perspectives and experiences, I would like to share a few facts:
- In recent studies, at least according to the Bowling Green State University National Center for Marriage and Family Research, the average age for Black men to become fathers is 25 years of age whether they are married or not.
- Given that Black Women like myself tend to put off getting married and having children until we are done with school and are working typically by 27-30 years of age, the likelihood of dating a Black Man with a child (or children) is a reality.
- There are a lot of Black Men who are very active in their children’s lives, more so than it may seem despite the horrific stereotype that most Black Men are “Deadbeat Dads.”
Growing up I heard many perspectives from single mothers as I had cousins and aunts who were single mothers and the struggle was real, it’s not easy to raise kids on one income and not have the presence of a father around.
I did not become as exposed to single dads until I started dating in college and continued to meet men and befriend men who were single dads. Many of my high school friends were single dads and several of my college friends ended up being single dads. I will share some of the feedback that I have received from them about the realities of the experience:
- Being a single dad does not make dating any easier, in fact, many men feel that women are less inclined to pursue a relationship with them because they have kids and do not want to experience “Baby Mama Drama” or deal with his lack of time (and income) because of his obligations.
- Child Support payments are no joke: Child support money is completely tax-free income for the recipient but is NOT tax-deductible for the person paying child support. Failure to pay child support can lead to serious consequences, including wage garnishment, asset seizure, credit bureau reporting, driver’s license suspension, passport denial, withholding of unemployment benefits, and even arrest or jail time.
- There are also other “costs” unrelated to child support: birthdays, school supplies and activities, and college tuition that men must pay for.
In my dating experience with single dads, I have been witness to the negotiations that they go through to be available to go on dates with me and there have been occasions when the children come with us on dates to dinner and the movies.
I have also had those heart to heart talks with men about the pain they experienced if they went through a divorce or a very painful breakup with the mother of their children (Yes, men have feelings too).
Most of them still want to eventually marry or get married again as they do believe in commitment. They just tend to wait until their children are older so they have the time to date.
As mentioned, given the fact that I will more than likely marry a man who already has children, there are additional traits and signs that I look for as well to know that I am connecting with a good man:
- I look to see that he truly does put his children first, this is so important to me because it speaks to what his priorities should be: the well being and stability of his children who not only need his financial support but also need his support to be a father so that they grow up to be responsible, emotionally healthy adults.
- I look at how he prioritizes his finances and assets for a good balance: in other words, a man who is spending tons of money on extravagant materialistic things but is constantly behind on his child support payments gets no respect from me and I probably would not even be his friend.
- I respect a man who spends time with his kids and supports them with their school and church activities, it means the world to children to have both their parents present at events.
- I evaluate his emotional stability: if I sense and experience that his emotional damage from his situation with the children and their mother is beyond repair, I end the relationship.
I just watched “Daddy’s Little Girls” again tonight and each time I watch it I am more convinced that Black Men and Women can connect and build a relationship when they allow themselves to be vulnerable no matter the circumstances.
Lastly, I want to say to all of the Keepers who are single parents (both male and female) that my hat does go off to you all, it’s not easy to raise children in the world we live in and it does take a village…the vision of Keeping it 100 is to build healthier Black Communities by creating families and that includes blending families as well.
Let’s keep it moving…