I am turning 30 this year. For millennial men and women, becoming 30, like turning 18 or 21, comes with an expectation. You've lived for three decades now and seen some stuff. By this point, you have mostly experienced every feeling a person experiences; love, heartbreak, friendships, broken friendships, death, promotion, job losses, etc. The one thing most almost-30 millennials have yet to experience is parenthood.
It’s no secret that millennials are having sex (Tinder is ubiquitous among my generation for a reason) and becoming vegans in droves, but millennials are not starting families. When I look at my social circle, I am the only one who has a child. And I have a big social circle.
For me, becoming a father was an accident. If I typed on this post that I wanted to be a father so desperately at 27 and that I was beyond excited to bring my daughter into this world, it would be an outright lie. Don't get me wrong, in hindsight; my daughter is a blessing and one of the best things to happen to my life. But initially, I was not ready at all to be a father, and because of that, there was a lot of drama between myself and my partner. It was a volatile period which has since settled.
When my male friends, often those who are in their late twenties, come to me and say to me "I am thinking about having a child," I look them dead in the eye and ask: "Why?"
Instead of asking that question, I have outlined four questions the millennial man needs to ask himself honestly before making this incredibly life-changing decision to have a child. Doing so will save young men from experiencing the regret and anger that I felt because I didn't fully think about the implications of fatherhood before throwing myself into it.
Have you accomplished your goals?
A man in his late twenties must have goals in his life so that by the time he is in his mid-thirties, he is stable in all critical areas of his life.
If having a child is not part of your goals or does not help you accomplish them, you don't need to have a child, especially if you're still in your twenties.
Now some of you men might say to me "But my girlfriend/wife" really wants a child. My retort is: "It doesn't matter." Having a child will bring such a massive upheaval to your life that you need to be utterly confident that becoming a father is a goal of yours at this stage in your life. If it isn't, then don't have a child. If that means your girlfriend or wife leaves you, then so be it. The two of you weren't on the same page.
Never have a child just because it's what your girlfriend or wife desires. I can't stress how important this is. When it comes to having children, you need to be selfish because the impact of children is too high.
Does your girlfriend or wife desperately want to be a mother and is she willing to put her career aside for a short period?
So, you’ve done a deep-dive into your soul and found that you do want to have children in your late twenties. Good for you, mate. The second question you need to ask yourself is: Would your girlfriend or wife make a great mother?
I've dated girls in the past that were fun. We had a laugh and a great time. But they would not have made good mothers at the time; their mentality was ill-suited for the demands that motherhood requires.
I honestly thank God that my partner is a natural mother. She is maternal to a fault. Our daughter's priorities come first. She has sacrificed a great deal to ensure our daughter is healthy and happy.
Although mainstream media says otherwise, a very ambitious woman who wants to be a director of a large company by 35 will probably be miserable if she becomes a mother at 30. I know the media is proclaiming “women can have it all” but in reality, they can’t - not straight away anyway. Show me an unstressed mother who is a full-time director; working 40 hours a week, while also being a full-time mother and isn't outsourcing her child rearing duties to nannies every week.
If your girlfriend is under 30 and wants children, as a man, you need to make sure that she is willing to put the needs of her child first and foremost before her career. If she can't, I don't see why she should have your child.
Depending on what kind of man you are, you might be happy taking a backseat in your career to stay at home and look after your child while your girlfriend or wife goes to work. While I could never sit at home and look after my child without working, if you decide to do that, then please make sure you're with a woman who won't lose respect for you overtime for being a stay-at-home Dad and appreciates your role.
Have you moved in with your girlfriend or wife for more than two years?
You want to have a child in your twenties. You can confidently say yes.
Your girlfriend/wife is willing to be a mother first and a career woman second or she is happy for you to stay at home and will not lose respect for you. You can confidently say yes.
Are you good to go? Better get procreating? Not quite.
In my personal experience, you want to raise your child in a stable household. I am very conservative about this. Although it's not the only way to build a healthy and emotionally stable child, it is still the most effective way in my opinion. It's going to be much harder to raise a child in a stable household if you haven't even lived with your girlfriend as stable housemates for at least two years.
I always roll my eyes when my mates, who have never lived with their girlfriends, say to me "we never argue, and we always get along." Well, of course you do, because you only see her three times a week. When you move in with a woman, you will see sides of her that will annoy you, and it's the same thing for her as well.
" Never have a child just because it's what your girlfriend or wife desires. I can't stress how important this is. When it comes to having children, you need to be selfish because the impact of children is too high. "
Live with your girlfriend for at least two years to fully understand her character, and she understands yours. Living together will smooth out the creases in your relationship so that when you do have a child together, your child is entering a home that is peaceful instead of one with constant arguments and slammed doors.
Are you financially stable?
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but I have seen couples have children they cannot afford -myself included. If my bank balance had eyebrows, it would have raised them incredulously when I ignorantly decided to have a child with my girlfriend.
If you don't have sound finances, having a child is going to test you as a man in a way you want to avoid. Again, take it from me. Raising children is ridiculously expensive. Overpriced clothes. Overpriced toys. Overpriced nappies. Overpriced nursery fees. If you're a vegan, forget about all that costly vegan food you love eating from Whole Foods. Having a child will bleed your bank account quicker than an ill-advised, drunken trip to the Casino.
Sit down with your partner and calculate your monthly income. All your outgoings and what you both need to cut now that you have both decided to have a child. Make sure you have emergency funds. Failure to do due diligence on your finances will make you stressed out and unhappy during a period where you should be happy and joyful.
Are you willing to sacrifice a lot of your money; time, energy, and opportunities?
Probably my most significant oversight was that I did not fully comprehend how much sacrifice would be required when raising children. Spending my disposable income on new trainers and weekly night outs. No more of that. Travelling whenever I want. No more of that. Eight hours of sleep. Ciao.
If you want to be a decent father, a lot of your time and energy will be spent supporting your partner in raising your child because you're also responsible for that child's growth. It's a gigantic shift in your priorities especially for men in their twenties, heck any man at any age. Raising a kid is one of the biggest responsibilities a man can have, right next to being the US President and look what happens when you mess up that role.
Are you happy to no longer be your partner's priority?
Understand this, as soon as your child is born, all the attention you used to receive from your partner will decrease, especially in the child's early years. While you should expect to be a priority to some degree, you're not going to be THE priority to your partner when she becomes a mother. As a man, you must be comfortable with this. If you still want to spend more time solely enjoying the love of your girlfriend while you both travel the world, then don't have a child with her yet.
To all my male, millennial friends who ask me if they should have children, I will now point you in the direction of this blog. Having a child is beautiful but have your eyes opened. It's not all fun, games, and trips to the park. It's a real responsibility. Don't make my mistake of blindly going through with it. Make sure you're ready.
A few years ago, I was on a date with this pretty, young girl. She had winked at me from across the table and with a cheeky smile said:
"I know you have a baby mama."
I smiled at her and, in a playful tone, I replied:
“Maybe I do, and maybe I don't, so what?”
By the way, I didn’t have a daughter at this point in my life. I was newly single after ending my three-year relationship with my girlfriend I had met and dated at Uni.
This girl I was on a date with laughed at my response and we continued the rest of our evening, talking very casually about our past sexual experiences. I don’t need to spell out what happened after we got the bill.
A year later, I recall speaking with a close friend of mine about a young woman from Liverpool that he had met in Bournemouth. They had slept with each other. I was sitting in the passenger seat of his car when I asked him:
“Bro, what happened to that nice girl from Liverpool you were kinda seeing? She was alright?”
A wry smile formed on my friend’s face.
“She didn’t want to date because I am a black guy and she thinks I’ll cheat on her. Can you imagine.” His tone was thick with mockery. Of course, he would.
Looking back at these two exchanges from my past, it got me thinking. Why is it that many heterosexual, westernised women and men think black men are cheaters? The word ‘player’ is synonymous with the phrase ‘young black men" but why is that? Why do many black men feel like they are supposed to be very sexual? Are infidelity and sexual prowess somehow innate within the DNA of black men or is this a myth perpetuated by western culture and the media?
I love girls, girls, girls
Most heterosexual men love women. Most heterosexual men are capable of cheating. Infidelity is universal across all types of men and women as well (but this post is not about that). But yet, I’ve heard many women tell me they would never date a black guy because they honestly believe nearly all black men are players. To them, white men are more loyal. More faithful. Whenever I hear it, I always roll my eyes. Where does this notion come from? It must be from black culture of course.
Culture is like an invisible language that we all understand. It gives us a common reference point in which to provide some meaning to the things around us. Hip Hop and R'n'B culture is arguably the most visible black culture across western society. And in this culture, men portray themselves as highly sexual and highly promiscuous. Listen to Jay-Z's "girls, girls, girls," for example. Listen to almost any song by Trey Songz. Watch most of the rap videos from the 90s and noughties. Heck, even the recent furor around Offset cheating on Cardi B. Black male rappers are singing about cheating on women (and doing it), sleeping with an abundance of women and boasting about their unrivalled sexual prowess under the sheets. A lot of women have swallowed this image of black men whole and therefore view them as highly sexual and highly promiscuous.
Now, if you look at music genres dominated by Caucasian men such as rock or pop music, their subject matter is rarely about how many women they have slept with or how many times they will make a woman orgasm. If they sing about women, it’s in a way that is admiring and rarely misogynistic. David Bowie never oversexualised himself the same way R Kelly did.
Over the years, with the introduction of more sensitive and less sexual rappers like Drake and Kanye West, we have seen this oversexualised image of black men diminish in Hip-hop and R'n'B music and culture. But still, the legacy of hypersexual black male rap artists and singers from the 90s and 2000s still lingers.
Are some women oversexualising black men to their detriment?
Going back to the scene of the date I had years ago, would my date had made a joke about me having a baby mama if I was a white man? Even though I had been coy about it for humorous effect, what if I did have a baby mother I wasn't taking care of? Would she have cared? A big part of me doesn't think she would have because to her "black men have baby mamas" and this is what she expected from a black man.
I am not saying black men don't leave a trail of women with their children behind. But this is not a behaviour typical to only black men in the way society and our culture continuously perpetuates. And I'll concede that absent fathers happens more in black communities but this is the result of a lack of education and not because "it's what black men do."
The myth that all black men have the biggest penis (I've spoken to a few girls who have told me this isn't even true), is another way that women overly sexualise black men. I remember the first time sleeping with one particular girl, and she said to me:
"I hope it doesn't hurt. I know what you black guys have down there."
At the time, being in my late teens, this inflated my ego but, looking back at it now, it irritates me. To be reduced to the size of my penis.
On another occasion, following a holiday fling in Ibiza in my early 20s, the girl who I had slept with, while putting on her clothes, had said to me:
“I thought you’d be more aggressive in bed?”
“Really? Why?” I asked.
"Because black men are usually proper aggressive in bed, right?" She told me that she had only slept with three black guys, which included me, so how could she make such a wide-spread statement about how black men are 'supposed to be' in bed?
What some women are inadvertently doing is giving some black men a free pass to cheat on them without even realising it. When women tell black men “I know you have a big dick” or “I know you’re a player” or “I know you’ve slept with so many girls” and yet still sleep with him, she’s objectifying him by sexualising his blackness. What happens when they do this? Many black men think that because these women will still sleep with them anyway because they like the fact he behaves in a very sexual and promiscuous way, they continue acting like this. Simply put, these women don’t expect any other standard from black men and black men know this.
A caveat though. This objectification and over-sexualisation of black men are often carried out by women who aren't black. In my experience, black women don't examine black men the same way. Of course, they too can find a black man attractive because he has a nice body that is appealing and he looks like he might be good in bed (I still don’t understand how a woman can tell), but this is rarely assumed just because he has black skin.
We need more representations of black men that aren't hypersexual or hyperaggressive
As I touched on earlier, if there is one development that I am thankful for in Hip Hop and R'n'B culture, it's that black men are no longer portraying themselves as hypersexual and hyperaggressive. There is more humanity in black popular culture. Citing examples such as Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, these rappers speak more about their emotions rather than just their sexual dominance and sexual exploits. Even films like the Academy-Award winning Moonlight, directed by the talented Barry Jenkins, are deconstructing this stereotype, portraying the sensitive sides of black men rather than only showing our sexual or aggressive sides as was the case in the past.
" When women tell black men “I know you have a big dick” or “I know you’re a player” or “I know you’ve slept with so many girls” and yet still sleep with him, she’s objectifying him by sexualising his blackness. "
One of the main reasons I wanted to become a writer on the side was because I wanted to write stories which portray black men as flawed, complex, funny and multi-faceted humans. I want to move away from this caricature of black men as overly sexual and overly aggressive.
Promiscuity is not something that occurs mostly in black communities. Watch an episode of Jeremy Kyle, and you will see stories of white men cheating as well. It’s not a black man thing.
Lastly, black artists have a responsibility not to oversexualise themselves through our art by only talking, writing and rapping about sex with women. That's so 90s, and we must continue to move past that.
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