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 Sean “Diddy” Combs admits that although he considered himself a good father, he was a part-time dad. His ex-girlfriends Kim Porter, with whom he shares twins D’Lila and Jessie and son Christian, as well as stepson Quincy Brown, Misa Hylton, who has a son, Justin with him and Sarah Chapman, who he shares a daughter, Chance, with, did the heavy lifting.

But the unexpected passing of Porter last year at the age of 47 made Diddy a single father to his 11-year-old twins, the only two children the couple shared who were not grown. (Christian is 20). It also meant that Diddy was now going to have to be a more hands-on father to all of his kids, who counted on Porter as a supporter, and who its assumed, also helped arrange and keep things running smoothly with the other mothers through the inevitable holiday get-togethers, play dates, etc., that would keep the siblings connected.

Now, Diddy says he’s had to be a daily parent a role he’s embraced since Porter’s death.

“Before this, I was a part-time father, you know? My family was always first, but there are countless times when I chose work over everything else, he told Surviving R. Kelly producer dream hampton, who talked to him for Essence. But every day I can hear her telling me to go and spend some time with the kids and make sure everybody’s all right, like she would do. I’m just a lot more present, and, most important, now my kids come before anything else in my life…”

Diddy also shared with the magazine his frantic efforts to make sure that his kids didn’t find out about Porter’s death through social media or the news, saying he jumped into “mommy mode” when he was told. He also revealed what Porter said in their last conversation.

“Three days before she passed, she wasn’t feeling well. She had the flu, and she sent the kids over to my house so they wouldn’t get sick. One night I was checking on her, and she was like, ‘Puffy, take care of my babies,'” he said. “She actually said that to me before she died.”

He said her spirit is helping the family cope after her death and that her example as a loving mother lives on in their children, who he says he feels are sometimes coping better than he is. The support of all his children’s mothers and family friends has helped the family stay upbeat.

ESSENCE’s Chief Content Officer MoAna Luu says: “First, this month marks the 49th anniversary of ESSENCE. What a milestone! May is also the month that we honor mothers. Our choice to highlight Sean “Diddy” Combs and his family—daughters Chance, D’Lila and Jessie, who join him on the cover; sons Christian, Justin and Quincy; and his mother, Janice—is a bold one. During the six months since the untimely passing of his former partner and dear friend, Kim Porter, his heart has expanded even wider as he adjusts to becoming a full-time, hands-on dad. It means the world that he trusts us to share his ever-evolving story.”

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