Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

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

Father and daughter. What does it mean to be a father?
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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.

“I like just seeing the world from his eye level, his perspective, and seeing things that he might fear that I overlook.”

Kristofferson Nunes

For another, Miguel, fatherhood changed how he experienced love. That love is a love in its purest form, how a child loves a parent unconditionally.

“It’s the mere fact that there is no one in this world who authentically loves me more than my child.”

Miguel Morrison

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

Smiling black family with mother, father and two sons. What does it mean to be a father?
Photo by Shawnee D on Unsplash

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.

“I have really learnt that when you are a father, a parent, you tend to make sacrifices and, you understand the true meaning of sacrifice as a father.”

Miguel Morrison

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.  

“I had a family that sacrificed and worked hard to put food on the table. I appreciate and support it, and I’m grateful for something like that because it shows that self-sacrifice is monumental in relationships, whether it’s your parents or in intimate relationships. So when you get older and going through the process, you’re pulling from these various resources.”

Kristofferson Nunes

3. Having Positive Male Role Models is Important for Fathers

Power image of Black dad and son with their heads held high. What does it mean to be a father?
Photo by Kaysha on Unsplash

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.

“I got to have conversations, picked up things, became familiar, and added to these conversations…I learned a lot of things on a subconscious level. I learned about discipline, hard work and the sacrifices fathers made for their family.”

Kristofferson Nunes

4. Being a Father Means Being a Man

Dad and two children lying in high grass. What does it mean to be a father?
Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

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.

“When you are a man, you have to step up to the table and do mature stuff.”

Miguel Morrison

 “It took an interesting twist because it brought out that father inside me that wasn’t so strong before.”

Miguel Morrison

5. Being a Father Means Giving and Getting Support

Father and son pose for camera. What does it mean to be a father?
Photo by Kaysha on Unsplash

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.

“Trust me, conversations are good because I have so many friends, and I am the one they turn to. You would be surprised by what men are going through.”

Miguel Morrison

Support also meant that experienced fathers took it as their responsibility to invite new dads into their fold to guide their success through fatherhood.

“I think support found me initially. In the sense that other fathers extended the invitation to say, “We are fathers here; we know it’s going to be an interesting journey for you; we’ve done this.”

Kristofferson

Additionally, when support was offered, it was invaluable, especially coming from the family.

“As a new father, I needed and got support from family, particularly, from my mother-in-law who moved in with us for a few weeks. This was very invaluable.”

Delroy Beckford

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.

 “The important thing is that the person needs to be authentic and can sit down and hold a reason. Men are more likely to open up if they feel comfortable with the person they are talking to.”

Miguel Morrison

Also, the difference between getting support and not getting it could be as simple as asking.

“I think the support is there whether you know it or not. It could be in friends or family, or friends of the family. Sometimes we just need to put away our egos and not be afraid to ask for help.”

Kristofferson Nunes

6. We Need to Amplify Good Fathers to Counteract the Narrative of Absentee Fathers

Father and mother with toddler walking on the beach. What does it mean to be a father?
Photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash

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.

“I have seen good fathers, excellent fathers. I see many men every day on the worksite, the reason they are there is not because they want to work, they have responsibilities, and they are working because of the children. So I would say that that’s a good look. There are a lot of good fathers. There are a lot of unsung heroes.”

Miguel Morrison

To counter this narrative, as a society, firstly, we have to create spaces for more positive representations of fatherhood.

[Men] “wouldn’t seek out the chance to so say, “Hey, I want to do that interview”, someone might have to encourage them to share their story, similar to how you have approached me.”

Kristofferson Nunes

Secondly, we need to highlight the fathers who are good fathers rather than perpetuating a narrative of the stereotypical absentee father.

“I would like people to know that Jamaican fathers can be very supportive in the home as a mother would be.”

Delroy Beckford

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.


3 Replies to “What Does It Mean to Be a Father? 6 Things I Learned from My Interview with Fathers”

  1. The narrative being portrayed about black fathers not being there is not balanced. There are a lot more of them taking care of their children than the ones that aren’t. But of course that’s not what the media shows us. Big up to all the fathers who are present and the mothers who are fathers.
    Thanks for the blog. Very timely.

    1. Thank you for that comment it is true. That’s why I think as the fathers said, we should give more space and platform to those great fathers.

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