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Last year, I sat down with three fathers to explore their perspectives on fatherhood. In particular, I wanted to understand what being a father meant to each of the men. All three interviews for Miguel Morrison, Kristofferson Nunes and Delroy Beckford are available on this website. It’s one year since the interviews, and I wanted to go back and see what I have learnt from these three amazing Jamaican dads about what it means to be a father.
In this article, I present the 6 things I learned from Jamaican dads about what it means to be a father.
1. Fatherhood Changed Men
Fatherhood changed men in the way that they look at and experienced the world. For one father, it was seeing the world from his child’s perspective.
For another, Miguel, fatherhood changed how he experienced love. That love is love in its purest form, how a child loves a parent unconditionally.
In reflecting on the lessons they had learnt from being a father, one dad, Delroy, said fatherhood changed him to have more “patience and tolerance, and how to slow down and listen”.
This is something that was also echoed by another dad, Kristofferson, when he said that fatherhood is “really about slowing down in those moments where time is spent, not trying to get to the next and the next because those moments pass you by so quickly. If you sit down and appreciate those moments, you realise that for a young child, their world is very slow”.
2. Being a Father Means Making Sacrifices for Your Children and Family
Being a father means making sacrifices to provide the best life for your children and families. For the men I interviewed, making sacrifices for the family was part and parcel of what it meant to be a father.
The men also had a better understanding, now as fathers, of the sacrifices their parents made to make life better for them. In their full-circle moment, they have used that understanding of making sacrifices for the family to guide them in their journey of fatherhood.
3. Having Positive Male Role Models is Important for Fathers
Having positive male role models was important for these fathers. Positive role models provided a guide to fatherhood that the men could emulate as they stepped into their roles as fathers. For Kristofferson, his early experiences of interacting with men who took their roles as fathers seriously positively impacted him.
Also important were the conversations he had with the positive male role models in his life, what he learned, and how later, those lessons influenced him as a father.
4. Being a Father Means Being a Man
For Miguel, being a father was an introduction to manhood. Miguel described how fatherhood made him realise the difference between being a man and a boy. That is, once he became a father, his priorities changed. He could no longer carry on his life like before when he did not have his child as his number one priority.
5. Being a Father Means Giving and Getting Support
Support for fathers was very important for the men I interviewed. They were supported by family, friends and a network of other fathers.
Support often took the form of having man-to-man conversations and dealing with issues together as men.
Support also meant that experienced fathers took it as their responsibility to invite new dads into their fold to guide their success through fatherhood.
Additionally, when support was offered, it was invaluable, especially coming from the family.
On the other hand, the men noted that more could be done to support fathers. Miguel noted that as a society, we could take a different approach in how we engage fathers.
He said that someone who wants to support fathers should begin with having good conversations and a non-judgmental attitude which are keys to engaging fathers.
Also, the difference between getting support and not getting it could be as simple as asking.
6. We Need to Amplify Good Fathers to Counteract the Narrative of Absentee Fathers
All the fathers I interviewed agreed that there are more good fathers than bad fathers. They all agreed that the narrative of the absentee father in our society is a negative stereotype that does not reflect reality.
To counter this narrative, as a society, firstly, we have to create spaces for more positive representations of fatherhood.
Secondly, we need to highlight the fathers who are good fathers rather than perpetuating a narrative of the stereotypical absentee father.
Lastly, we should also be aware of our language when we offer support to fathers. As Kristofferson noted, “The narrative should not be “you’re doing your job bad” but should instead be “these are some suggestions”.
Did you agree with the points our fathers make? What are your thoughts on fatherhood? Please share and leave a comment.
We are kicking off June with a celebration of fathers. All month long we will be sharing content and information for and from dads. Here is the first of these.