Fatherhood Is A Privilege

"It has not been easy, but I know of nothing beautiful that has come from ease."

I put my daughter to bed five nights out of the week. I turn off the overhead light, turn on the lamp, put her now 19-month-old self in her crib, go and microwave her almond milk with a pinch of turmeric, give her her three kisses, grab my tote bag, and head home. Those 15–20 minutes are some of the best minutes I get throughout my day.

I do not live with my daughter. Her mother, Dariana and I, have been working hard to provide a safe, nurturing, loving and compassionate environment for our unicorn. It has not been easy, but I know of nothing beautiful that has come from ease. Lilah is proof of that.



I was scared shit-less when I found out that I was having a child. I was semi-suicidal, afraid and embarrassed of the circumstances, fearful of the responsibility, and unsure of how well I could parent and protect this human would look to myself and her mother for love, for food, for shelter, for everything. 

But, I also knew and felt that this was the evolutionary next step of my life. And I also knew this magic person would be a girl. In fact, my spirit told me so. I had been writing raps mentioning a little girl since I began my voyage as an emcee in my early 20s, name-dropping the parts of her that would embody her future mother, whoever that person would be.

Joel L. Daniels
Joel L. Daniels

We were not expecting Lilah, but I believe she was expecting us. She came quietly, rumbling firmly but yet gently. The nurses laid her atop her mother's chest, and her heartbeat hum sounded like the rhythmic drum-roll of the night-time, it reverberating off the walls of the birthing unit.

I write better because I am a father. I see the world clearer because I am a father. I am a better employee because I am a father. I love better because I am a father.

Fatherly recently posted an article advocating for celebrities to take up the cause for paternity leave and I am here for it. For far too long, the idea of the doting, loving and compassionate parent was laid solely upon the shoulders of the maternal, or at least female-identifying parent. Fatherhood, especially fatherhood that is centered around me as a Black father, is empowering. We continue to see more and more fathers who look like me — braiding their children's hair, reading bedtime stories, playing with their little girl's dolls (or, Tonka trucks) and their little boy's Tonka trucks (or, dolls). The narrative is shifting.

Joel L. Daniels
Joel L. Daniels

"Responsibility" is not an ugly word. I am responsible for my daughter, and it is hard, but it is also beautiful, and rewarding. We are pivoting, we are shifting; fatherhood, and the role of the father, differs greatly from the Everybody Loves Raymond days. Dads would rather stay and help their children with their homework than hit a few rounds at the golf course (is that how you say it? I don't play golf, soooo…) Fatherhood is an honor. Fatherhood is a privilege. Lucky me.

Joel L. Daniels is a writer, actor, and emcee. You can check out more of his writing on Medium and follow him on Twitter. 

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