A Conversation on Evolving Black Fatherhood and Debunking Stereotypes9/03/2014
Blogger turned Author Doyin Richards is on a mission to change the way we think and talk about fath...
Blogger turned Author Doyin Richards is on a mission to change the way we think and talk about fatherhood. His first book, Daddy Doin' Work: Empowering Mothers to Evolve Fatherhood, is in stores now. I spoke with Doyin about his stereotypes about black dads and what we can do to not only change the conversation but change some of the potentially destructive family dynamics.
FH: I checked out Daddy Doin Work, and I love the premise of this blog. What made you decide to start it?
DR: Well, I started my blog when my oldest daughter, who is now 3 1/2 years old, was 18 months old. And it was just an outlet for me to share my passion for being a dad. It’s not that I’m the greatest dad in the world or anything close to that. I just have a passion for fatherhood that is really, outside of writing, the thing that I’m good at. I really enjoyed it, and it started to grow into something a little bigger than just an outlet for me to share my thoughts about fatherhood. It became a platform for me to really share my thoughts on how we can evolve fatherhood and make modern fatherhood cool again. I think it already is cool but, you know, [it's] for the mainstream people to realize that this is something that a lot of dads are doing and a lot of dads really take the responsibility of being the primary male role model to their children very seriously.
You mentioned you’re offering a perspective we don’t often see. Why do you think we don’t really see men enjoy fatherhood and taking on the roles so often prescribed to women?
I think it’s just due to the fact that mainstream media has just been--it takes a while for a paradigm to shift, and I think that society sits around and they are like, "Hey dads are bumbling buffoons who can’t change diapers or can’t do their daughter’s hair or can’t cook or can’t clean or can’t give their kids baths." We’ve been fed that rhetoric for so long. I think that’s where social media comes in. I think social media influencers, people like me and others, are saying “Whoa, whoa wait a second. That’s not right." We actually do our daughters hair. We do get them dressed. We take them out. We go shopping with them. We do all the things that are traditionally mom stereotypes--which is kind of ridiculous because the only thing that a woman can do that a dad can’t do is breastfeed. Everything else is equal playing field, so I think now with social media at play, people are saying, "Whoa check out this guy, I do the same thing for my kids. I really like him, and I want to get behind him." And the other dad bloggers are the same way. They have a platform and people look to them for influences about what fatherhood should look like, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
You mentioned earlier this stereotype of dads as bumbling buffoons why do you think that is so harmful?
It’s harmful for a lot of reasons. 1) people will look to us as dads and say, "I don’t know if I want to have my kids around a man when his wife isn’t around because I don’t think he can handle my kid on top of his kid." Or there are the men who aren’t really the great dads of the world where when they do something like changing a diaper or giving a bath or taking the kids to the park, they expect parade routes planned for them like, “Listen society says I shouldn’t be doing this but I did it, so where’s my statue?" Where moms do that kind of stuff blindfolded. I think we just have to get to a point in society where men and women can do the exact same parenting tasks and its not viewed as a monumental occasion for either party. It’s just something that we do. It’s part of the job description. The analogy that I use is if you have a job and you show up to work on time and you’re like, "Hey I show up to work on time, dawg. I show up to work on time." Well you’re supposed to show up to work on time. You don’t get extra credit for showing up to work on time. You don’t get extra credit for changing diapers and doing things you’re supposed to do as a dad. It’s just really damaging when I hear that philosophy thrown out that men aren’t supposed to be doing this or men are bumbling buffoons who can’t handle things because we’re so far from that. The vast majority of us are very involved.
I might consider your viewpoint about child rearing and caretaking to be a little bit progressive. Do you consider it to be progressive?
In this day and age, I’d say no, I would think if you were interviewing me 10 years ago, 15 years ago maybe. But I think that with the emergence of social media, it just brings to the forefront the men who have been doing this and now instead of being what I call the "closet good dad," where like they change diapers but they don’t really talk about it, now when they see people mainstream [and] on social media seeing all the things that dads should doing, It’s not as much being progressive as reaffirming like, "Whoa! Hey I do the same thing. That’s so awesome. I do the same thing!” And we’re getting to the point where people are going to look at this like, “This is not a big deal.” This is not a big deal that a guy changes diapers. This is not a big deal that a guy does his daughter’s hair. It’s not a big deal that he takes her to the park and goes shopping and does tea parties with her. But we’re not there yet. But I think that there are more dads who are like. "You know what? Good for him. This is what he should be doing." As opposed to, "Whoa this guy is a trailblazer, or he’s an innovator." That’s just giving more credence to the fact that this is what should be done.
People say they’re parenting the way they were parented. Do you think that your dad’s influence in your life influenced you to have this viewpoint or are you blazing your own trail?
Absolutely my dad played a role in me being the man that I am today. He was a university professor, and he worked a lot of long, crazy hours, but when he came home he was always involved. He always was there for us. He saved my mom’s sanity because between myself and my two brothers, we drove that poor woman insane. He wasn’t the guy that wasn’t involved. He’s not the guy that said, "Hey where’s my beer? Where’s my sandwich?" He wasn’t that guy. He’s "let me help with dinner. Let me help give the kids a bath. Let me read a story to them. He was always involved and that helped ingrain in me and my two brothers [that] this is what fatherhood looks like. Fatherhood is not "Hey I have a full-time job, and I bring money home, and that’s the extent of my parenting duties." That’s not being a dad. That’s just being a human ATM machine, so my dad is someone who taught me morals, how to treat women, how to be a true parenting partner, and I’m so thankful that he’s around in my life today and in the past. He’s just the greatest.
That’s so wonderful to hear because there is a stereotype about black men and their lack of involvement in their kids lives. Do you think that you are defying that defying or creating a new narrative?
I’m so glad you asked me that question, and the funny thing is that I was actually talking to a few of my black friends, and we were just sitting around like, "I don’t know that guy." I don’t know that uninvolved black stereotypical dad. I don’t even know of him. I’ve never seen him. I’ve seen him on TV. I’ve seen him in movies. I’ve seen him on the 6 o’clock news, but I’ve never seen him or interacted with him because every black man I know--every black dad I know is one of the greatest dads I’ve ever been around. Bar none. 10/10 rated dad. I think that’s just so sad because people who aren’t able to think critically are going to say “Yeah, what I see on the news is what’s going on” and that actually works against me for people who probably wouldn’t listen to a word I have to say about fatherhood because they’re looking at the color of my skin like, “What’s this black guy going to teach me about fatherhood” without even doing any research. That happens but in today’s world there are more good dads out there than there are bad dads, and that crosses color lines, party lines, whatever lines. There are just a lot more good dads then bad dads and when it comes to African American dads, I do not know one--not even in passing--one black dad who is not excellent.
I am interested in the community that you’ve built around Daddy Doin Work. Who primarily reads the blog?
Right now I would say that the vast majority, anywhere between 75 and 80%, of my readers are female. And that’s not really surprising because it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. When it comes to parenting, people are online to look for information. A lot of times women go after things they identify with, and they identify with parenting. And men, stereotypically speaking, may not identify with parenting as a place that they would want to go and get information on. They may look for sports or lifestyle or music or what have you, so my job is to try to change that paradigm so men will find it more interesting to talk about parenting and talk about fatherhood. As the blog grows more people are coming along to check out what I have to say about being a dad, and that’s good. We’re getting more men involved and more men to the table, but right now the overwhelming majority of my readers are female.
I truthfully don’t find that surprising. That’s one of the reasons why I asked that question, but I am really interested in how you change the paradigm. Have you had any success in doing that? How can we change the conversation around parenting?
As far as the whole thing of active and involved dads, I posted a blog post that was very popular [of] 21 photos that depict true modern fatherhood. And it's basically photos from my Instagram feed. Basically my Instagram feed is dads who submit pictures of them with their children, and it bucks the stereotypes of dads just being buffoons or just not interested or clueless. It shows them being really involved and nurturing toward their children. Sometimes seeing pictures of it in action can be a lot more powerful, so I decided to do that. And I think that’s what I’m going to be doing more of--just getting pictures and videos of dads in action to show my readers that these aren’t just words. These men actually exist. They’re not like the abominable snowman. These are men that you see every single day on your streets or in your communities--who really love their kids and take fatherhood very seriously.
Do you think men should have a more important or prominent place in these discussions to try to change the narrative?
Oh yeah. No doubt. In order for the narrative to be changed, we have to have a seat at the table. We have to have a seat at the table to talk about what is important in the family dynamic, the role of the dad in the black family dynamic, and how we impact the roles of the family dynamic. There are so many things that we don’t have the opportunity to talk about sometimes in parenting because, again, our culture is predisposed to having women lead the discussion on parenting, but I think that paradigm is starting to shift and the narrative is starting to change as more dads are staying home with their kids. More dads are even adopting kids. We have gay dads who are adopting kids. We have single dads with their children. It's a different world that we live in now, so by getting more dads involved, it’s really getting to the point where we have more input on what’s important and how the family dynamic has changed. I think we’re making some serious progress there.
I definitely want to talk about your book because you’ve written a book about this as well. what is the book entail? is it a guide? is it a reflection on your own experiences?
Well basically my book is called Daddy Doin' Work: Empowering Mothers to Evolve Fatherhood. And so often any book that’s about fatherhood is written by a man to men, but there’s no book that talks about the role women play in evolving fatherhood. Because often times women know their men better than men know themselves. At least that’s the case with my wife. Sometimes men can be resistant to hearing advice on how to do things, but really the goal of it is to try to tell women [that] if you’re getting involved with a man whose not really stepping up at home--he’s either aloof or he has a full time day job while the woman stays at home and he just walks through the door and says, "Hey where’s my dinner? Where’s my food? My job is to make money. Your job is to watch TV all day." To give her tips to handle that guy and to let him know that that’s actually not what goes on in your world and to help to evolve [him] to knowing that what she does at home is arguably more important than what he does outside of the home at his day jobs. And secondly for a woman who’s involved with a great man who’s doing great things is really helpful and involved not to fall into those potholes that will demotivate her man from doing what he’s supposed to do. Sometimes women do things subconsciously that demotivate their man. Whether it’s nitpicking or snide remarks the list goes on and on. The man is doing the best he can, and he wants to help out his kids and he may not do it how you do, ladies, but as long as he’s doing it and the kid is happy, it doesn’t really matter so it talks about all the different dynamics between a mom and a dad and how we can ensure that they dad is always the best man he can be for the family unit.
Would you ever consider in the future writing a book for men?
Yeah. I’m actually in talks now to try to get a second book written. I can’t say what it's about, unfortunately, but the second book would be for dads. That’s all I can say about that.
If there is one piece of advise you’d give for women who are looking to help their partner evolve on fatherhood or help their partners take a more active role in parenting their kids, what would you say?
I would just simply state, don’t settle. Because when you think that your man is at the point where he can’t get better or he won’t get better, it’s your job to not settle and demand the best, not only for you but for your kids, because somewhere there are men who are doing the work that they should be doing for their kids so your man should be one of them. And if he’s not, then you really need to reevaluate the state of your relationship, and do what’s best for your children
Doyin Richards' book Daddy Doin' Work: Empowering Mothers to Evolve Fatherhood. Is available here.
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