Being a single mother is a point of pride for me, not my children

The other day, I read this article: 50 Single Mom Quotes On Providing, Strength and Love. It was a nice collection and I enjoyed reading it. However afterwards I reminded myself that being a single mother is still an unfortunate club to belong to. Not that I don’t have every right to be proud of my efforts and accomplishments in regards to raising 3 little boys on my own. It just is not the ideal; either for me or for them.

The Stigma of Being a Black Single Mother

More then 60% of Black children live in homes without two parents. For White children, the statistics are reversed – a bit under 30% live in single-parent households.

Now there are a lot of societal issues at play in those statistics above. Many people like to point towards the prevalence of this dysfunctional family dynamic as part of the reason for the woes of Black Americans overall. Of course they never address other issues that affect this; like the fact that 1 in10 Black children has a parent that is/was behind bars or that Black women are the least desired women to date in this country.

Still, this does not justify the assumption by strangers that not only am I a single mother, but that my children have different fathers. Too often I get thrown into this stereotype of being a Black woman who chose to eschew hard work and education to go and pop babies out fathered by multiple ghetto thugs.

The truth is, I made some bad decisions in my life. I was the recipient of ongoing adulation, and I thought that was love. The reality is that it was just a tool for a narcissist to get what he wanted out of me. Even worse, my common sense was whispering to me the entire time….but I ignored it. I believed that I could change him. And I was dead wrong. Now this mistake will have life-long implications on my sons.

And my choices had nothing at all to do with race. Both I…and society, need to recognize that.

I Know That Growing Up With 2 Parents is Better

People also tend to assume that single parenthood is a vicious cycle; that young girls especially who grow up with no father, grow up not knowing how to have a healthy relationship with men. Again, I’m not a sociologist, but I believe that far many more Black girls/women have the right intentions, morals and mindset. Then they are thrown into a world that shakes their self-esteem to its core. Some of us handle that situation better then others.

I grew up in an unconventional household (I was raised by my maternal Grandparents…who were 47 and 51 years old when I was born); but I still had a ‘mother’ and a ‘father’. They gave a fantastic example of a healthy marriage…where both spouses are partners and prioritize, educate and love appropriately. In fact, even though my Grandfather is deceased, I credit him with giving me the sense and strength to leave my ex. He would tell me over and over again that respect comes before love. If someone does not respect you, then they certainly do not love you.

My Grandparents with my sisters

While they were partners, my Grandparents were still two different people. My Grandmother is a very sensitive, and soft-spoken person. She is also very dependable and diligent. She’s been deeply religious all of her life and because of that, she’s not so ‘street savvy’. But she is everyone’s rock….from an emotional standpoint. She’s shown me how to be a good mother in countless ways (even though, I definitely am lacking in regards to the patience that she has).

My Grandfather was more of the face and voice of the family. He could drive while my Grandmother can’t. So many times outings were led by him and she stayed home (things like going to the grocery store, pharmacy, car garage, etc.). My Grandfather was the type of person who could do a lot of things…and was familiar with even more things. I have never known him to completely give up on a task that he was doing because he was frustrated or doubted his abilities. He taught me about the value in have strategic relationships (having a ‘friend’ that can fix TVs…another cars…..another that he can call to help fix his roof). In contrast to my Grandmother, he actually prided himself on not letting his feelings influence him (although he did have a temper…he just was very good at keeping it in check…plus by the time I came along, he had mellowed due to age).

Each of them brought so much to the table when it came to raising me. As much as I love them both, I would not want to have been raised primarily by one or the other.

Single Parenthood Is Not Easy or Fair

My boys indulging in some Fall time fun with pumpkins. You see that stroller? That this is my lifeline! I don’t have enough hands to grab them all when they decide to go wild and run around. If I had another adult along, I could easily ditch ‘the baby limo’

Saying “It is hard to be a single Mom” is almost cliche. It glosses over the fact that one person just cannot do it all. Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret leaving their father for a single second. When we were together, he only took on 10% of the parenting duties anyway. But that 10% included holding them when we were out in public…or staying home with them if I needed to run out and get something from the store.

Now, my life takes a lot of planning. I tend to do most of my shopping and either Wal-Mart or Giant…mainly because they both have special shopping carts that can hold three kids. I am fortunate that the boys’ father does exercise some of his custody rights and when he has the boys, I can actually deep clean my house (mop floors, scrub down stove/oven, sort out closets, etc.) and dig a bit into my real estate studies. If that ever stops, I don’t know how I get those things done!

I do not mind, or regret that everything takes a back seat to my children…including my job. That is a hard statement to make…especially because I need my job to support my children! But in the grand scheme of things, jobs come and go. Sadly there are plenty of parents, single and partnered, that do not feel the same way. And it shows. The cruel truth is that just because you can reproduce, does not mean that you have the emotional maturity to raise a child.

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Winston Churchill

I Can’t Be a Father

I’ve been accused of being an anti-feminist, of not being politically correct, and of being naive & old-fashioned for believing in distinct gender roles. And that’s ok. I’ve made the choice to subscribe to a non-egalitarian religion…so that is perfectly fine. At the end of the day, I am not a man and I am not going to try to be one.

This does not mean that my sons are sentenced to grow up to be failures or have psychological issues. It does mean that they have a social disadvantage in life; just like low-income children have an economic disadvantage. It is what it is — accept it and move on. But the problem must be recognized so that it can be addressed.

rosie the riveter single mother
Well…except, be a father!

I mentioned earlier that my sons’ father has not completely ghosted them. This is all still quite new, but the current situation is one where the depth of his relationship is pretty shallow. Part of this is because I am the primary custodian (75% vs. his 25%); but a larger part is because of his emotional issues which get in the way of his fathering skills. Recognizing this, I try to expose my boys to positive male role models. This does not mean that I am on some sort of quest for a replacement father for them — and I’m certainly not looking to jump into any romantic relationship right now. But whatever masculine traits that my boys begin to key in on, I try to facilitate either a discussion or event where they can explore and/or expand on that tendency in more depth.

In The End

At the end of the day, I am thankful for my boys and the life that we have. I have carved out a pretty decent existence for us and rescued them from the day-to-day stress and damage that comes from living in an emotionally abusive household. That in and of itself is something to be proud of (and I am). Of course the collateral damage there is the loss of a father. While no father is better then a father that causes strife, it still does not erase the void left behind. My daily prayer is that my boys are able to overcome this and come out on the other side as well-rounded, emotionally sound men.