Many years ago I was cool with this woman (and since here at the 5 we like to give pseudonyms, I’ll call her Erica) who was a single mother with a four year old daughter. She worked at a hotel for a pitiful hourly wage + shared tips. The job was not your typical 9-5, and she usually worked the early morning shift (clock in at 6 am) and weekends. When summer began she found herself in a bind. She couldn’t afford child care and could barely pay for her basic living expenses. Her child’s father who lived 3.5 hours away offered relief. He suggested that their daughter live with him throughout the summer (instead of her usual two weeks) and maybe even during the school year so that Erica could get on her feet. He worked a decent job and had a family support system aka his momma who could watch the child during the day for free. The offer seemed reasonable to me, but Erica turned it down. It seemed that she a. she took some twisted pride in skruggling and b. thought that sending the child to her father would give the illusion that she was a bad mother. I don’t even have time to get into the chorus of naysayers, her mother included, who told her not to send that child down to her father.
I could never truly wrap my mind around her decision. Surely if you had laid down and made a baby with this man then he could and should have to provide more than just monetary support, especially if he were more than capable. I’m not down with sending a child to live with crazy, but then that leads to a whole ‘nother post full of questions about making babies with crazy. But as usual I digress… Now, while Erica's situation was happening I was a pseudo nanny to my cousin’s daughter. He was her main caregiver while the mother of his child was attending school two hours away. He had a family support system which included me and his grandparents, and we worked together to take care of the baby while he was at work. Here in the midst of my single, no kids, life were two women handling the same situation completely differently.
Of course I was on the side of ‘send that chile to his daddy.’ But that’s just how I was raised. My momma would leave us with our daddy in a heartbeat. She would go get her weekly manicure, hair did, hang out with her sisters, work, pursue her PhD, whatever. She tells stories of how when I was a baby, and she was without me, people would ask, “Where is lil’ Rum Punch?” “With her father,” she would respond. Blasphemy! Was their reaction. "You left her with him," they would ask. "Um yeah," she would say.
I know that I have seen one too many talk shows where women (usually married) are lamenting about having to do the child rearing by themselves while the husband works too much, or golfs every weekend, or just lays on the couch and waits for dinner. I have even heard wives say, “I have three children, my husband included.” What the hell? Now he’s a child? No, he’s a grown ass man. Don’t go letting him off the hook from taking responsibility for raising y’alls child(ren).
I know that as women we like to carry that cross and that load around. Why is anyone’s guess. I, Rum Punch don’t get down that way. And so as I get serious about selecting a mate, I like to learn about a man’s idea of parenting. Oh the discussions I have had! I recently got into a heated argument with a man who tried to tell me that I was being selfish for even saying and thinking what I know which is that I will have to have some time away from the kids. Apparently me stating that I will have to get my hair done made me selfish cause I wasn't thinking about the kids. Excuse me? I'm just stating facts. Am I supposed to look broke down and not get my hair done? Oh I'm getting my hair done. And when I do I ain't taking the kids. Do y'all know I saw a woman bring a toddler and a baby in a big ass carriage to the hair dresser on a Saturday morning? What in the world? Couldn't no one watch them kids? Oh no, that is not the business and I am not the one! And then I asked him, what about if I have to run to the grocery store? If you are at home, I know you don't think I'm taking the kids. The conversation was not pretty y'all, there was a lot of yelling and him saying something about "You do whatever you want, those ain't my kids..." Ok my pressure is going up just thinking bout this, let me focus.
So while I know that those were hypothetical situations and that no one knows what they’ll do or won’t do until they get in the moment. But I know that when I think about who and what I want as a husband and hopefully, eventually father of our children, I envision a co-parent, a hands-on dad, a mothafuckin helpmate-someone who’s down (or clearly understands he has a role in this too) to change diapers, get up for feedings, dress the kids, handle the carpool, help with homework, feed the kids if I ain't home yet and on, and on. Some people I've met have called me crazy, said I was reaching for the stars, but I say, that I know how I was raised and what I saw growing up. A man can be a parent too. If us women would just let him.
That’s my time y’all! Happy Rum Punch Friday!