When deciding to start a family, we typically have an idea of how we want things to go. Unfortunately, it rarely works out exactly how we planned it.
Sometimes, when you find yourself dealing with adverse situations it may feel uncomfortable but in actuality, you could be introducing yourself to a new level of strength necessary to get you through that particular stage of your life.
When Melanated Fathers of America spoke with Nashville, TN single father Donte, it was obvious he was using his past experiences to make him a better person.
During our Interview, we talked about how he became a single father, dealing with his divorce, his relationship with his Father and much more…..
Talk to us about your childhood and the Dynamics of your household growing up?
I grew up primarily with a single mom. I grew up with one of my brothers in the house with me, but I actually have four other siblings. I’m the oldest of us all, the four other siblings are by my dad. However, I did grow up with my maternal grandmother because she got sick and ended up moving in with us. I was raised in Nashville, TN with them. I felt like I had a really good childhood.
When I look at other friends and how they describe their childhood and how at times they may not have had enough to eat, or they had to deal with the lights being cut off or other things of that nature. I realize growing up that I never had those issues because my mother worked so hard. She went to college and graduated to become a nurse and really became successful in her field.
So, for me, it was amazing as well as an eye-opening experience to see a single parent do what she was able to do. So, that has transferred over into my life with me being a single parent now. My mom understood that as a woman, it could be difficult at times raising boys alone. I do have a relationship with my father and I did see him, but it wasn’t as often as I would have liked.
He was in another state, so I was only able to see him on holidays and during summer break. However, I had a lot of men around who were instrumental in helping me understand things, as far as being a young man in this society who would eventually grow up to be a man. I had several uncles, cousins, and my grandfathers were all in the military as well as a few deacons in my church.
So, I always had male figures around who would teach me things and because of that, I became pretty handy. My mom was very a strong woman, but she would pass me off to men that she knew could help me become a man.
Ok. You were definitely fortunate to have a mother that understood the importance of a positive male influence. What kind of relationship did you have with your father?
My parents were never married, and I never lived in the house with both of them. However, I would go up there for the summer and he would come down to Nashville and visit me. So, there was definitely a relationship there, but it wasn’t that every day in the home type of thing.
He kept an open line of communication with me, he would always write letters and send money. He tried his best to keep in contact with me and make sure that I was growing up and matriculating in the way that I should.
How’s your relationship with him today?
Our relationship is better. And it’s really because I have bridged the gap, not just between him and I but between him and my children. He’s become really close with my children, they are his only grandchildren. Just like me and my brother did as kids, my kids now go up to Cleveland to visit him during the summer with my mom.
He takes them and keeps them busy with different extracurricular activities. So, I’m the liaison between him and my children but I definitely want to keep a close relationship between all of us.
It’s great that you’ve given your father an opportunity to be apart of your kid’s life. You mentioned your children, how many kids do you?
Two kids. I have a 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.
When thinking about your childhood and the influences that you had. What lessons did you learn from them that you use with your children today?
To be quite honest, I don’t think I consciously use it, it’s more of an innate type of thing, a subconscious thing. I was a divorced single parent. After I got married it was interesting because I was doing things that I never thought I would do. I even began doing my daughter’s hair. While I was in Atlanta a girl I was involved with taught me how. So, when I moved back to Nashville I reflected on that.
I said man, I can’t believe that I was doing everything on my own from getting them up in the morning and getting them ready for school, taking them to school, going to work then coming back home and getting everything ready to do it again the next day. I even had to learn how to cook, I knew how to do everything else, but I never learned how to cook.
I always tell people through adversity there is so much unfounded strength that we never knew we had. So, for me, that’s a period of time that I realize how strong I was. Even though I was built up to be a confident person, those are things that I never I thought that I would have to do. My mother was a strong person and she raised us to be strong as well. The maternal side of my family is really resilient people who are very strong and confident. They pride themselves on being able to get things done, even through adversity. So, subconsciously that’s just something that I took in.
You mentioned that you have been a single parent since 2009. Talk to me about what led up to you becoming a single father?
I got married at 22 years old and honestly, it was just a very huge mistake. I tell people all the time, don’t get married out of circumstance because that’s what I did. I just didn’t realize it until a year into the marriage. So, I stuck in there and I tried my best but there were a lot of difficult situations I faced and being married to the wrong person- primarily because of her choices and actions- made it a very daunting task.
I realized towards the end of the marriage that I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like a single parent anyway, we had a live-in nanny who helped us tremendously, but I still felt like I was there doing things for my kids alone. I always told myself that I never wanted my kids to grow up in a single parent home which is why I stuck in as long as I could. However, after I had gone through so much as a result of the marriage and became severely depressed. I then made one of the most difficult decisions in my life to continue being a father yet no longer be a husband.
Okay, last question in your opinion how important is the black family to the overall health of the black community??
The black family is very important the black community. It’s unfortunate that the divorce rates are so high and there are so many single-parent homes in our community. I try to help reinforce that if we don’t have anything else, we have family. Ironically, I plan on going back to school to take marriage and family therapy. I want to get out of Corporate America and help the family unit, help the black family unit.
People always say that a child will be more successful coming from a two-parent home, compared to a child that comes from a one parent home, which I do think that counts but you have to be careful. Sometimes there is a lot of dysfunction in two-parent homes as well, look at my situation. In our communities, we have churches on every corner, but people are not engaged as a collective. It’s so much divisiveness.
Candidly speaking, even in this last election everybody on the other side of the fence was together. Everybody on our side we’re fighting over emails and whether or not to vote for Hillary or Bernie. There has to be a voice. The old Vanguard of civil rights is dying out. Some of the people who are trying to uphold it now are not the right leaders to me.
There has to be a change when it comes to how we vote. If it’s for our school district leaders or our city council members, whoever it may be. We have to be a collective voice to make these changes. Until we do this I don’t think the black family unit will thrive.
Ok Donte, thank you for giving Melanated Fathers of America your input today!!. The information you provided was greatly appreciated!!!