Statistic show many black families are headed by a single woman, and children of these families face inherent challenges as a result of being raised in a home without a father or male role model.
I spoke with teens from various cultures and backgrounds about their families, many who were raised in a two-parent home. They also have many of the inherent challenges children raised in single-parent homes face.
Kristina is a 17-year-old black girl raised with her brother by a single mother. When asked how she might have made different decisions and choices had she been raised in a two-parent home, she said, “A father in the home could have helped me in male-female relationships. I would not have to guess if a guy is cool or full or crap. I would have had someone to ask what he is thinking or what he is doing, instead of trying to figure it out on my own.”
Asked if she thought her self-esteem is directly tied to not having a father figure in the household, Kristina said, “No, self-esteem is something which you have to do for yourself. It must come from within. If you don’t feel good about yourself, no one else can do it for you. Knowing your self-worth is up to you.”
Asked if she thought she had missed something by not having a father in the house, she, like so many other teen women, said no. She felt that her mother did a great job of teaching her the important things in life and the rest “I learned on my own,” she added.
Danielle, an 18-year-old black college freshman, says that if her father had been in her life, she would probably be dead. “I know I wouldn’t be in school, “she said. “My father was a liar. He was never there. He never gave me encouragement to go or stay in school,” she added. “That came from my mother.”
Danielle is angry and misses having a father. She feels that because of his absence and lying, she has a hard time trusting men. “I only trust my mom and my sister,” she said. “My father would make a whole bunch of promises, but never kept them.” She remembers happier times when she was in kindergarten. “He would come around on weekends. One time, he took me to the movies and out to eat with his girlfriend. That was the last time he has taken me anywhere,” she said.
When asked what she would say if she could have a conversation with him today, Danielle said the conversation would be direct. “I would be respectful,” she said, “because my mom taught me to be respectful. But if the conversation was held behind closed doors, it would not be pretty. I’d ask him, ‘Why did you lie?’ ”
Danielle feels that her poor relationship with her father has not shaped who she is today. “I am not a liar,” she said. “I will work hard to be in a good relationship with my future husband and children so they can have a mother and a father,” she added.
Ramona, an 18-year-old Hispanic college student, said that although she was not raised in a two-parent home, she has benefited from a 10-year relationship with her mother’s boyfriend, who now lives with them. Ramona says she is enjoying a good relationship with her biological father, whom she met at age 8.
“I didn’t miss a lot by my father not being around when I was younger,” Ramona said. “I think it affected my brothers more than it affected my sister and me. They can’t stand him. My father use to pick me up on weekends and take me out. I’m a daddy’s girl. I love my daddy,” she added.
Ramona says her father still picks her up on weekends. They go shopping and to the movies. As an American Airline employee, he also takes on her frequent trips to New York and other exciting places. When asked if her mother’s relationship helped shape her relationship with her father, she said, “My mom and dad would argue often when he came over, but my mom would always say, ‘You have to have your own experience with your father and you have to judge him for yourself.’ “
Leon, an 18-year old black college freshman, said that if he had had his father around while growing up, he would probably be more adventurous. “My mom was too protective,” he said. “I would have had more experiences. My father came around, he just didn’t stay. He took me to Kiddyland once when I was 5. I remember just the two of us playing basketball once,” he added. “If I had a conversation with him today,” he said, “it would be angry and hostile. I would demand to know why he didn’t stay.”
Carlton, a 19-year old white student at Triton College, spoke of his dad, who is now deceased. “My father was married and he had another family, so he didn’t spend a lot of time with my mother and me,” he said. “When he did come around, he would tell me to stay in school and get good grades. My father was big and he threatened me. I was really scared of him,” he said half laughing. “Because of how he threatened me, I am still afraid to mess up in school. I guess you can say he had a good affect on me,” he said.
I talked with several young women, who felt that they would probably be in better love relationships had their fathers been around. Monica, 17, said she has had so many bad relationships which started when she was 14, just after she had her first of three children.” My baby daddy is a dog,” she said. “He had two girls pregnant at the same time,” she added. “My new baby daddy is no better, that’s why I’m in school so I can give my kids the best.”
I spoke with a few teens who were raised with their father in the home. Oscar, 16, says his father worked so much that it was like he lived only with his mother and sister. Oscar, the oldest of three teens, says his father was a trucker who was only home on weekends, would sleep most of the day, then play poker all night.
Holly, a 15 year-old Westsider, said her father is her hero. “He has always been there for me, even in grammar school. I play basketball and run track. He made it to all my games and meets. He would be there cheering and screaming my name,” she said. “I was so proud because most times I was the only one whose father was there.”
Overall, the teens seem to have a handle on their lives in spite of what they feel about their dads. Statistics may speak to inherent problems like fatherless children being most likely to drop out of high school or have low self-esteem; however, the young people interviewed here suggest not all are negatively affected. They are not out enjoying themselves. They are in school and striving to become something better.