Should people raise their boys and girls differently? Is it easy to date when children are involved? What does love really mean? These are just some of the questions that parents are often faced with and have to answer as they are trekking along on their journey in the realm of parenting. One man who is currently on this journey and sharing his experience with the masses is our resident dad, Jeff Johnson.
A media maverick by day as the principal and chief of strategy of JIJ Communications, Jeff is a father of five 24 hours a day and he loves it. From dubbing himself a bootleg doula (he helped deliver his last two sons during home births which he suggested to his wife and encouraged) to navigating life as the parent of babies and college-aged children, Jeff’s learned a lot, but more importantly, he has made it part of his mission to share his story and the stories of other fathers, some like him and some not, in an effort to have healthy conversations and dialogue about Black fatherhood’s challenges and triumphs.
Black Love sat down with Jeff recently for a very candid conversation about parenting that included his take on dating as a dad, his biggest parenting mistake, how to enter a new relationship when there are children involved, and maybe, most importantly whether or not there should be a difference between raising boys and girls.
Sometimes parents raise children based on gender norms and how society has programmed people to believe that boys and girls should carry themselves in different ways — this is a notion that Jeff rejects. While being a father who is actively raising four boys and one girl who is his eldest child isn’t an easy feat, one thing that he has made a point to do is raise all of his children by focusing on emotional intelligence and growth, not their genders.
“I don’t think it’s healthy to have gender differences in how we raise our children,” Jeff says, making it clear that it’s about being focused on the nuances and emotional needs of each and every child of his.
Part of this is making sure that his sons understand tenderness and that it’s okay to be emotional beings.
“I know guys that will be incredibly tender to their daughters, but never show tenderness to their sons,” he continues.
Whereas some households aren’t big on affection, especially between fathers and sons, Jeff’s experience completely negates that behavior. He shared with Black Love that his father lived with him and his family for two years before passing away and that they actively showed affection towards one another. This outward action of love subsequently and quite naturally influenced and allowed his sons to be comfortable in understanding that being affectionate and tender is emotionally healthy and not something that should be restricted based on gender.
Another major key to Jeff’s approach to raising all five of his kids is acknowledging and emphasizing that his connection with them is based on who they are and not what their gender is, despite the ways in which society tries to keep boys and girls in different boxes.
“I think that we sometimes think about finance and various aspects of business that we’ll heavily ingrain in our sons and not our daughters. I just don’t think there should be a gender difference. I think that there has to be a level of emotional intelligence about what the nuances of our kids are.”
Parenting isn’t the easiest job in the world, but Jeff makes it very clear that it is easily one of the most rewarding experiences that he’s had in his lifetime. So, we here at Black Love support Jeff Johnson on our inaugural Fatherhood Friday highlight for being an example and making sure to spread love and knowledge by sharing his experiences by being an open book.