Yes, their mothers may be capable of doing without you. Those women who courageously take on the challenge of being both mother and father are deserving of respect and appreciation for their efforts. But it’s important to not confuse your children’s ability to survive in your absence with their need to thrive in your presence. You must reject the commonly accepted notion that while motherhood is necessary, fatherhood is optional, superfluous, a luxury reserved only for a fortunate few children. My challenge to fathers is to show up, step up, and man up.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this message is aimed solely at absentee fathers and deadbeat dads, let me be clear—there is more than one way to be absent from your child’s life. Too many of us are missing in action as fathers for what seem like perfectly sensible reasons in the moment. After all, time is scarce and the demands on your schedule and attention can seem endless. You can’t make it to your son’s basketball game because you have to take that late afternoon flight to the West Coast to close the deal that will help you to provide for his needs. And what about your daughter’s junior prom—wait—that was last week? You totally forgot to put it on your calendar, but no worries—you’ll be there for the real prom next year. Besides, the extra money you made on your side business is what paid for her prom gown. So what if, because of the long hours you put in, you barely see your children during the week and you’re too tired or in need of relaxation to pay attention to them on the weekends? After all, you’re doing it all for them, right?
But here’s the challenge: When all is said and done, neither you nor your children will remember that big business deal you closed in Los Angeles, or the cost of that prom gown. What they will remember is whether or not you showed love and appreciation for them, and made the sacrifices to be engaged in their lives, both for special occasions and on a day-to-day basis. It’s not about how many points your son scores or whether or not you like your daughter’s prom date. It’s about you being present. Love is showing up.
Love is also stepping up. Far too many people in business see their family and their careers as competing aspects of their lives. I don’t. I believe that the pursuit of your ambitions, whether as an entrepreneur or in a professional career, is critical to creating opportunities that can help you provide for and improve the quality of life for your family. But your children should not be neglected in the pursuit of business and career success. Rather, they should have equal standing in your approach to your life. Stepping up as a father means incorporating them into your life so that they are not competition, but constant motivation for achieving your goals. That may mean sacrificing opportunities, other activities, and even money in exchange for time with your children.
Finally, being a present father may require you to man up—especially if you are struggling financially or if you have an unhealthy or nonexistent relationship with the mother(s) of your children. Despite the legal, emotional, and financial challenges, we need fathers to make the sacrifices and put in the extra effort to overcome them and to be present for their children—even though they themselves may not appreciate your efforts in that moment. In such circumstance, your children need a hero—someone who shows up and comes through for them, no matter what.
by Earl G. Graves, Sr., Publisher of Black Enterprise