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Dinosaur Lovers: The Mighty T-REX Roams the Newark Museum on May 3

Jurassic Park comes to the Newark Museum when the “Mighty T-Rex” headlines a day of activities at the 7thannual Dinosaur Day on Saturday, May 3 from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Dinosaur Day engages children through hands-on experiences, games, performances and presentations.  Children will meet and interact with the “Mighty T-Rex,” a 15-foot long mechanical dinosaur [...]

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ManDay! Chris Rock to Single Moms: Stop Driving A Car With Your Feet

I admit, Chris Rock is one of my favorite comedians. In one of his ROFL performances he talks candidly (how else would he do?) about parenting and women who think it is just fine to raise their children without the father. Here is the cleaned up version of his comments, to the best of my ability: “A bunch of girls think that you don’t need a man to raise no child. Shut up! (expletive expletive) …Yeah, you can do it without a man, but it don’t mean it’s to be done. You can drive a car with your feet if you want to, it don’t mean it’s a good (expletive) idea!”

I couldn’t agree more. Not everything that can be done, should be done. Here’s a better idea: For us to end the cycle of poor health, poverty,  under achievement in schools and irreparable emotional scars on our young boys and girls,  we need to end the dangerous narrative in our community that we don’t need our men and that our children will be just fine without their fathers. This is a lie.

Men are critically important to infant health and childhood development.  Women need the support of their male partner to give their babies the optimal nutrition from birth–breast milk. Children need their fathers from infancy, point blank.

But let’s face it from the baby showers to so-called family supportive posters with no dad to be found, men often get pushed out of the picture.  Add to this an “I got this” mentality among black women and a dangerous thinking in our community that glorifies the single moms that do it all without a father and you’ve got the makings of a serious problem–one that can impact the health outcomes for black infants.

A while ago, I (jokingly) wrote that I feared Essence magazine might cancel my subscription or ban me from the office building (I’m a former senior editor) for saying something that may sound harsh on black women but needed to be said. It was this (no joking): Black women may be unknowingly contributing to the breakdown of the black family by continuing a cultural legacy of acting like we don’t need our men.  Saying, “forget him” or that we will be just fine. This is dangerous thinking on our part (read my full post here). Yes there was a time during slavery when we couldn’t count on our men as caregivers and providers because they could be taken away from the family at any given time.  Later many of our men went North for work and women had to run the family on their own. But those days are over. But ideas that our men are unreliable and unnecessary linger like a painful scar–and our children pay the price.

Last week I was in San Antonio at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation‘s First Food Forum, an annual gathering of breastfeeding-related grantees. I had the pleasure of moderating a dynamic panel discussion on the role of male caregivers with some amazing men involved with male engagement in various ways. Here’s what I learned:

We have to stop assuming absent or distant dad’s just don’t care and allow that feelings of inadequacy (men are told to provide and protect.  If he can’t do that he may feel be has nothing to offer and just stay away), his own fears or perhaps the mothers attitude may also play a part.

A few weeks ago, I attended the screening of a documentary called Spit’in Anger, produced by the non-profit, Father’s Incorporated. The powerful film chronicles the impact of absent or distant fathers on the lives of several men of different ages. The story included the journey of Kenneth Braswell himself, the founder and executive director of Fathers Incorporated, who has spent over 23 years advocating for fathers and creating father support programs but never dealt with the impact of his own absent father .  Too many black men have grown up without present fathers and have never had a safe space to express that pain –many men at the screening opened up that night (read Kenneth’s recent letter to LeBron James). It was a powerful evening. But it became very clear to me that when it comes to fatherhood, men can be what they didn’t see.  And, more to the point, “Hurt people hurt people.”

So we need to create space for understanding black men beyond “he ain’t isht” judgments and valuing their contribution only in dollar amounts.

We have to stop saying our men “don’t care” when that is our assessment not their actual words. When I work with young moms and they say the father “doesn’t care” I always ask ‘what makes you feel that way?’  A  young mother of a two-month old in Milwaukee told me, the father showed up at the birth and that was it.  I shared that showing up at the birth sounds like someone who cares to me. After we talked she realized that after he showed up at the hospital nobody in her family spoke to him. Some members were very rude and that he might have felt pushed away.

And my good friend Kuroji Patrick, a devoted father of five and a powerful advocate for male caregivers particularly as it relates to breastfeeding support, always talks about being ignored or not addressed by doctors and nurses while actually standing next to his wife. By and large negative stereotypes about our black men affect doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and other healthcare professionals.  This has to stop.

As women we have to stop confusing our relationship with the father with the child’s relationship with the father.  Those are two separate things.  As a divorced mother, I learned this lesson myself. One has nothing to do with the other.  Neither does child support.  Whether or not my ex-husband had given me a dime has never come in between my children spending time with their father.  My children being with their dad is priceless to them (and me) and I could never equate that to money or material things.

We need a new way of being and a new mantra for the sake of our babies. It goes like this: We need our men. We need our men.  Our children need their fathers.  Breastfeeding mothers need their men.

And until we have tried everything, put aside our baggage, asked ourselves the tough questions, let go of our judgment, and opened up every opportunity for our child’s father to be in that child’s life–that we are not driving cars with our feet anymore.

In motherhood,

Kimberly Seals Allers

 

Kimberly is a Food and Community Fellow with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation increasing awareness of the first food–breast milk.  
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Credit: The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation

Your Kid Can Apprentice with Steve Harvey! Enter Coca- Cola’s ‘Pay it Forward’ by March 15th to Win

Now through March 15, parents, relatives, friends and mentors may nominate an aspiring young person for the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward program by visiting www.coke.com/payitforward. The program is open to teens and young adults between the ages of 16-21 (as of May 1, 2014).  Nominators must be 16 years of age or older. Eligible youth also [...]

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An Open Letter to LeBron James: Does Father Anger Motivate You or Destroy You?

By Kenneth Braswell, Executive Director, Fathers Incorporated Hello Beloved Brother, My name is Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Fathers Incorporated. My work for the last 23 years has been in business and not-for-profit leadership on behalf of vulnerable communities and Black men and boys. Today, I read with pain, excitement, angst, horror, delight, fear, concern [...]

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Winter Travel Special: Set Sail on Freedom of the Seas with Royal Caribbean

By Tiffany Forte Enjoy the innovative dining and entertainment options and children’s programming on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship as part of the Royal Advantage revitalization and enhancement program. Freedom of the Seas alternates an Eastern and a Western Caribbean seven-night, round-trip itinerary from Port Canaveral on Florida’s Space Coast. Added bonus: [...]

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Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

Winter Travel Special: Universal Orlando Resort Reveals The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

By Tiffany Forte This summer Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment are partnering up to launch 2014’s most anticipated new theme park experience. Harry Potter’s wonderland and adventures are brought to life in a new expansive area, which will feature The Hogwarts Express ride, spectacular shops, dining and more. After climbing aboard the Hogwarts [...]

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Winter Travel Special: Universal Orlando Unveils New Cabana Beach Bay Resort

By Tiffany Forte Need a break from the polar vortex or ice-ageddon? Check out our winter travel special this week featuring the latest news and fresh reviews from Universal Orlando and Royal Caribbean. In need of a winter break? Hop on a flight down to Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., for affordable family fun and [...]

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Photo Credit: Scott

A Valentine’s Day Poem: Finding a Superlative Love

By Micheal Ellis Today you find the best of love. Big and bright blue as the planet Venus over the morning horizon; all that love has to give, you will encounter. Whether in Walmart, Central Park, a wheat farm in middle America or surrounded by a thousand lilies under a cherry-colored sky. Today is the [...]

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6 Ways to Get Over A Breakup

By Tiffany Forte Don’t worry about being alone this Valentine’s Day. Focus on loving you and give yourself a healthy makeover for a new start. Breakups can be a time to reflect and embark on a new life chapter, says Jay Ryan, co-founder of breakupgems.com, an online retailer specializing in breakup and divorce jewelry that [...]

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Trapped in Your Relationship?: A 5-Question Quiz

By Tiffany Forte Yes, yes, we know that many people may be busy planning for Valentine’s Day, but what if your relationship is strained around this holiday? No one should hang on to a romance that’s making them miserable. “When people seem mentally healthy and it looks like they could easily make a change that [...]

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