As a woman who has been blessed to have grown up with not only my father in my life, I also had the beautiful experience of having my grandfather and many uncles who filled a father role in my life-I had many fathers. I have always been and am still to this day surrounded by men in my family who are great fathers.
Because of my experience with my “fathers”, I’m so pleased to see many resources available to assist men in being better fathers. Just search the internet and you will find everything from blogs to websites to videos all designed to help men learn to be better fathers. the movement to spark dialog between men on fatherhood is definitely in motion (and has been for some time). There are forums, panels, conferences and radio show’s on the topic of fatherhood being hosted everywhere to encourage men to share their thoughts and experiences about being a father and what it takes to be effective at it.
One crucial element that I think is missing from the conversation though is the role that we women play in fatherhood. And there IS a role-a very important role- that women play in men being fathers. Whether they are our fathers, husbands, sons, or male friends, women have so much influence on the men in their lives and we are often the difference in whether a man believes he can be an effective father or not.
With our words, we can either tear a man down and make him think he’s the worst person to walk the face of the earth (which unfortunately so many of us do) which could render him discouraged or we can build him up and make him believe that he can walk on water! Either way, how a man feels about himself directly affects whether he thinks he can be a good father. I in no way am attempting to make excuses for men who don’t step up to be in the lives of their children but I do hope to offer some insight into why some men feel like their children are better off without them.
Absentee fatherhood is at epidemic proportions in our country particularly in the African-American communities. The numbers of our children that are being raised in households with only their mother are staggering. The reasons for this are numerous and worthy of discussion but I’m choosing to focus on only one today- a man’s image of himself and how we women can directly impact that image-positively or negatively.
Men need encouragement! No matter what society says about a man being “a real man”, men suffer with insecurities, fear and doubts about themselves just as much as we women do. The image and expectation of men that we have is that men aren’t allowed to show emotion or fear lest they be considered a “wuss” or weak. We women say we want a sensitive man who is not afraid to show emotion or cry in front of us but the moment that we see a grown man (or boy for that matter) cry we often are the first ones to call him weak. Most times our “manly” image of him shifts at the sight of his tears.
How the women (mother, wife, friends) in a man’s life see’s him is very important to a man! Whether he will tell you that or not, believe that it is. He often feels that he has to have all the answers and be able to solve any problem, fix anything around the house and make sure his family is provided for in order to be considered a man. If any of these elements are missing a man may feel less than a man and think he is no good as a man and especially as a father.
We women can make the difference by telling the men in our lives how much we appreciate them and luv them. We can acknowledge the effort (not focusing on the results)that they put forth and thank them for trying even if the results are not that great. We can tell them that they are great men; awesome men even! We have the ability to build a mans self-worth or destroy it! Men need to know that a woman believes in them, trusts them and needs them. If a man believes in himself and knows that a woman believes in him he will be more confident in his ability and he will step up to the plate of life and take a swing at it. But if he is discouraged and doesn’t believe in himself and is told by the women in his life just how much of a man he isn’t, he just may choose to sit the bench.
Whether they are our son’s, husbands, ex-husbands (That’s a post in itself), fathers, friends or men in our communities, women hold the verbal key to their belief in themselves and their ability to be men. I hope that we will choose to use that key to build our men’s self-worth and self-image thus building our communities as only we can!