Can I be honest? In the past Fathers Day was a really hard day for me. There were some years I would’ve preferred the day never existed. Then one day I was able to look beyond myself and my pain. Today is not only a special day worthy of celebration by and for all the men choosing to break the cycle and narrative of absentee fathers. Today as we celebrate Fathers Day by sharing a glimpse of the beautiful story of one man, my friend, whose fatherhood journey has not only turned my bitter posture towards the day to a sweet and now hope-filled posture towards the acknowledgement of and celebration of the day.
Mpho Pholo, known by many in the entertainment industry as 37mph, is an award-winning and highly skilled music composer, producer, DJ, performer and music director of the TV Show, ‘The Voice!’ West Africa, ‘Coke Studio’ and others. The busy multi-hyphenate creative entrepreneur set aside some time to answer questions about the role he values and pours the most of himself into, raising his beautiful daughter Simphiwe Pholo. Here’s how the conversation went.
Q. Take us back to the moment you learned that you were going to be a father. Do you remember what you were thinking or feeling?
Initially, I was extremely nervous about whether I would be a good father. But, after I spent some time reflecting on what it would mean to me to be a father, I became calm. I think for me, as with other men, it’s the uncertainty of being able to provide and create a stable environment for the child and family. Once I identified that fear I came up with a plan and I wrote notes of what fatherhood would look like for me.
Q. Have you always known that you wanted to be a father or were you forced to reckon with the reality when you found out you were going to be a dad?
I reckoned with reality when I found out my ex-wife was expecting. As I said, I was quite nervous initially about becoming a dad. However, when I came to grips with reality I welcomed the new addition to my life.
Q. You are the primary caregiver for your daughter, how did you prepare yourself for that and what was the process like?
I am co-parenting with my ex-wife, however, my daughter lives with me full-time. The process wasn’t necessarily difficult. My ex and I had open and honest conversations and we both decided that it was in the best interest of our daughter for me to be the primary caregiver.
Q. I know you are so intentional about being present when your daughter is home from school. As a busy creative entrepreneur, who travels for work and is actively working on one project or another in an industry that doesn’t have business hours, how do you manage it all and what does your village look like?
Being a creative entrepreneur is extremely demanding in terms of one’s schedule. Fortunately, my strict upbringing prepared me to overcome my challenges in terms of managing my schedule. In my planning, I defined two important anchors in my life, Mpho’s Personal World and Mpho’s Business World. These anchors are governed by my most important relationships; my relationship with God and my relationships with my family. So, practically this means choosing family over everything else in terms of scheduling.
Part of my training is understanding that during the 24hrs we have, children spend 7 to 8 hours at school, so being fully attentive during the hours my daughter is back from school is important for our relationship and allows for us to truly connect and catch up.
Q. What was your relationship like with your father?
I’ve always had a close relationship with my parents. My dad, when he was still alive, loved music which influenced my love for music. He was athletic and a socialite so that also influenced my personality. I remember when I was really small my dad was the “hero” who would take me to meet his friends who were on the radio; listened to his music collection, and even called him by his first name. Towards the age of 10, he asked my brother and me to call him “Tata”. This new title meant we experienced his fatherhood a little differently. As with all relationships, ours evolved. My father was always present to take me to cricket games, and later, piano eisteddfods.
Q. How does the current narrative around Black fatherhood make you feel, and what is your assessment of the absentee father situation?
The current narrative around Black Fatherhood is quite a hot topic. Look, there are several layers to the narrative such as;
- Fathers who are not present
- Fathers who are being denied access to their kids
- The ones who cannot provide for their kids emotionally or financially.
However, with these complexities, my standpoint on this is very clear – when you engage in consensual intercourse with a woman, protected or unprotected, as a man you should be prepared to deal with the consequences of that choice. I don’t have many friends who are absent fathers but I’ve come across women who are dealing with issues around absent fathers, and I empathise with what they are going through.
What’s your fondest memory of father’s day from when you were young and the most meaningful one as a father?
My fondest memory was in my matric year. I was extremely busy with piano recitals and preparing for university. That year I had a few recitals out of town so my father drove me to whatever town I was competing at. This was one of the few rare times we spent alone, it was like our version of a “boy’s trip”. I really enjoyed those trips.
The most meaningful thing about those solo trips was the wisdom that I gained from Tata. As a matric student, some of the trips I made with my dad were to PE and Joburg for me to write psychometric tests to qualify for a bursary to further my studies and help improve my chances of gaining entry into some of the top Universities. One of the pearls of wisdom my dad told me was the phrase “A stitch in time saves nine”. The way I interpreted this was to always be prepared, and tackle issues at the earliest convenience. Being prepared and planning early is one of the most important lessons in being a grownup and father.
Q. You are also so intentional about bringing your daughter into your world even when you’re in another country. I remember when you were in West Africa filming ‘The Voice!’, you uploaded these dope ‘Dear Simphi’ vlog series, in which you shared highlights of your day and how you were feeling. What inspired that?
Parenting, for me, is extremely rewarding. My efforts as a music professional are informed by my role as a parent. So whenever I’m out of the country and unable to travel with her, I do miss her dearly. When I was in West Africa, I started the “Dear Simphi” series to share my day with her, because she was two hours ahead of me so our catchup was a little challenging. So, the daily Vlogs were a great way for us to catch up and capture the moments visually.
Q. Why do you love being a girl dad?
I love being a girl dad because it gives me more insight into raising a young woman. I’ve also always had a close relationship with my mom. Simphi is extremely insightful and she’s always teaching me something new I didn’t know about being a girl, including listening to Katy Perry and Doja Cat.
AoS wishes all the father’s out there, a very Happy and joy-filled Fathers Day! May you continue to prosper and grow through the ages and stages of fatherhood.