Grown Fatherhood Is A Choice, Not An Accident
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Reason. Season. Lifetime. These are widely shared terms for why a person or experience has been brought into your life, and how long they are meant to stay. Our ability to discern what or who belongs in what category is considered a sign of wisdom and discernment—or, in Grown Zone terms, evidence of a commitment to personal growth. The opposite is also true. When we make choices with lifetime consequences, but for short-term reasons and temporary seasons, the result is anything but Grown. In fact, the inability or unwillingness to anticipate future consequences of current decisions is the foundation of adult-and-messy decision-making.
For this reason, Father’s Day can be one of the most difficult, complicated and painful days for many relationships, especially for fatherless sons, daddyless daughters, and single mothers. For every Hallmark card-worthy sentiment of love and admiration for the Cosby-perfect dad, there are feelings of indifference, ambivalence and bitter resentment toward absent or ineffective fathers, the likes of which are rarely directed toward mothers (and certainly not on Mother’s Day).
So let’s apply the reason, season, lifetime decision-making framework to choices that lead to one of the most unfortunate outcomes of unhealthy relationships: Unintended fatherhood.
Reason: Sexual Intimacy. When it comes to reasons to have sex, it doesn’t take much. On average, couples have sex within four to six dates—with 29 percent knocking boots on the first date. According to a study of more than 10,000 speed daters, most people make a decision regarding a person’s attraction within three seconds. From there, it’s just a hop, skip and a romp to unintended fatherhood. In our adult-and-messy society, almost anything is justification to get naked and get busy. He’s hot. She’s horny. His wife is out of town. She’s mad at her boyfriend. He’s bored. She’s drunk. He’s a committed player. She’s a reluctant virgin. He asked for it. She offered it. Whatever. It’s all fun and games. Until meaningless sex becomes, “I’m pregnant and you’re the father” and choices driven by a fleeting reason delivers a lifetime result—a child (or children).
Season: Romantic Relationship. Two people are now having regular sex. Whether in an exclusive, committed relationship, an extra-marital affair or friends with benefits, both partners are regularly consenting adult sexual partners. They may even believe they are in love with each other. However, none of that translates to lifetime status, because the vast majority of romantic relationships will not last. As a matter of fact, the most common time for break-ups is only three to five months after a love affair has begun. Falling in love alone is not justification for the lifetime consequences of unintended fatherhood.
Lifetime: Fatherhood. Childbirth, whether intended or not, produces a life, and therefore a lifetime of emotional, financial and other consequences, many of which ripple through multiple generations and throughout society—for better or worse. If a pregnancy is the result of a man’s true commitment to parent for the life of a child—not to be confused with the desire for sex or a relationship, with pregnancy as an unplanned for outcome—then fatherhood is an intended, and rightly celebrated, lifetime result.
Unfortunately, too many men become fathers (and women, mothers) with no intention beyond satisfying their immediate sexual urges or enjoying intimacy as an entitlement of a relationship. The inconvenient truth: Just because a man has a reason, or a season, to lay with a woman, does not mean he is prepared, qualified and willing to take on the lifetime commitment of fatherhood. Sexually active men and women who believe otherwise are playing Russian Roulette with their bodies—with unintended fatherhood just one of the likely results. On the other hand, if the commitment to fatherhood was made before the pregnancy, that commitment is far more likely to last a lifetime, even if the relationship that produced it does not.
What does all of this mean to the Grown Zone mission of healthy relationships—in this case, for Father’s Day—not only between romantic partners, but between women and the fathers of their children, as well as fathers and their children?
For women, Grown decision-making means accepting that not every man who meets your standard for sex and relationships is ready, willing and able to assume the mantle of fatherhood. It is your job to screen out those unqualified for the latter, not by lowering your requirements for the privilege of fathering your children, but by raising the bar of access to your body. A Grown woman recognizes that (with the exception of sexual assault), no man can plant seeds in her garden of procreation without her consent. (Hint: If he is unwilling and/or unable to responsibly father children he already has, it’s foolery to assume he’ll transform into an ideal father to any children you bear for him.) Grown women take responsibility for guarding against “accidental” procreation, especially with men seeking anything but a lifetime commitment from sexual encounters driven by reason or season. They recognize that, regardless of love declared or assumed, siring a baby does not magically qualify a man to be a father, nor can it compel him to commit to fatherhood. Any male capable of producing semen can get a woman pregnant; it takes a Grown man, ideally in partnership with a Grown woman, to raise a child.
On the other hand, Grown men simply do not produce babies they don’t intend to make. They do not leave the outcomes of their sexual choices to chance; they plant no seeds that they do not intend to raise and cultivate. (A Grown woman recognizes the difference between men who want to pluck her flowers and those prepared to tend her garden.) If he is not prepared for fatherhood, or doesn’t intend to father the children of a particular woman, a Grown man takes steps to ensure that “accidental” fatherhood does not happen. And when a Grown man is committed to responsible fatherhood, it is evident long before he enters a relationship, and he remains devoted to parenting his children even if the union that produced his offspring has ended.
The result of this Grown decision-making? Fewer fatherless sons and daddyless daughters. Fewer unfairly burdened, bitter and abandoned mothers. Fewer absent, resented and guilt-ridden fathers. And more celebrations of healthy, loving relationships for Father’s Day.
Remember: Reason. Season. Lifetime. Happy Father’s Day. Live in the Grown Zone.
For a FREE copy of 9 Keys To Living In The Grown Zone, click here.
Zara Green and Alfred Edmond Jr., named to Black Love Forum’s “14 Most Inspiring Black Couples” list for 2014, are co-principals of A2Z Personal Growth Enterprises, producer of The Grown Zone. Zara is a speaker/trainer & author. Alfred is an award-winning journalist and expert on business and personal finance. The couple, both “Do-Better Fanatics”, lead sessions on personal growth, self-love and resiliency, healthy relationships and “grown” decision-making at live events across the country.
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