Month: January 2014

Dear Single (Black) Mother

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I am writing to you because I am tired of the single black mother being perpetuated as a negative entity that is the downfall of our community.  From the memes and Facebook statuses to the Dr. Boyce Watkins article and all of the bloggers that continue to throw stones, I am fed up.  What I discuss in this article will apply to all single mothers, but I want my fellow black mothers to hear me loud and clear because I know how wonderful we are and how hard we have it. 

You deserve to enjoy yourself.
At least once a week a meme will come across my newsfeed or a comment is made about mothers taking their child(ren) to grandma’s for the weekend.  And, yes, it is always about the mother.  Apparently, we have to spend every waking moment with our child.  We are not allowed to go out with our girls to a club because we are mothers.  We are supposed to be home taking care of our child and if we are not, we are terrible mothers. 

This is a perfect example of what I like to call bullshit.  As single mothers we get up and go to our jobs and when we come home we do not get a break until the children are asleep.  We do not have the luxury of saying, “Honey, can you take Jaxon to the park so I can get some rest.  It’s been a long day.”  If you have a young child then you know the struggle of trying to clean the house, putting together a piece of furniture from IKEA, or cooking dinner.  You try to do it while they nap, but then you think about how nice that nap sounds.  Now you have a decision to make: get some rest or do chores. 

Doing this day after day definitely results in some wear and tear on us mentally, physically and emotionally.  We need to recoup.  We deserve to go out and enjoy ourselves.  We deserve to spend money on ourselves.  We deserve to treat ourselves.  And most of all, we deserve to do these things without feeling guilty about it. 

It’s not your responsibility to make him be there for his child.
This one hits close to home.  Well, let’s just say that it walked in my front door and made itself at home.  If you are a single PARENT, meaning the father is not around or being a half-assed dad, that is his problem and it’s not for you to fix.  Only he can fix it and it will only be done when he wants to fix it.  The only thing you need to do is make sure his child is available to him.  Make sure he knows that he can call whenever he would like and that he is always welcome in your child’s life.  You owe him nothing more than that. 

When a man rejects his child, that hurts a mother to the core.  We take it very personal.  It makes us angry and sometimes it feels like the easiest thing to do is to shut him out.  We do this thinking we are protecting our child and ourselves.  But one day your child will ask about their father and the last thing you want to say is that you hindered that relationship.  And you surely do not want him to be able to say that you didn’t allow him to see his child.  Don’t worry.  As your child grows older and gains understanding, they will be able to see it for themselves.

You can only give what you have
I wish I could say that I learned this one on my own, but I didn’t.  This is something I was told by my counselor.  Yes, I go to counseling.  And part of it is because I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from trying to give what I didn’t have.  I was trying to give my son double the love.  Double everything because I didn’t want him to feel like he was missing anything.  I learned in counseling that I am enough.  My love is enough and I have to find comfort in knowing that it is enough.  Trying to give more than I had was leaving me exhausted and feeling like I was failing.  Truth is, I was setting myself up to fail because I was trying to make myself give something I didn’t have.

Your support system…use it.
Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for or accept help.  Sometimes as single mothers battling these negative stereotypes we try to prove that we can do it all.  Well, we can’t.  Raising a child takes more than just you.  It takes a community of people.  Asking for help doesn’t mean that you are incapable of  taking care of your child.  It doesn’t mean that you are inadequate or that you are not independent.  It means you are human.  It means that you recognize that having a child is not just about you.  If you need a break to recoup or if you need help monetarily or even if you need advice do not be afraid to use your support system.  Your support system is comprised of people that you trust and know want the best for you and your child.  They want to help.   They want to be there for you.  Let them.

You can raise a boy to be a man
Whoops… looks like I just lost 3/4 of my readers.  Ha!  Well, I’m not mad and I stand by what I said.  Now, let me say that I didn’t believe this at first.  When I was pregnant and after my son was born I kept thinking that I needed a man to teach my son how to be one. 

But then I asked myself a question:  What makes a man ‘a man?’  I mean, as a woman that wants to be with a man and hopefully marry one I have to know a man when I meet one, right?  I realized that all I have to do is raise my son to be a good PERSON and he will be a great man.  This concept of ‘being a man’, I believe, is being confused with things that everyone thinks a man should do instead of who he is. 

Let me explain.  When I think of a good man I think of someone that is strong,  responsible and productive.  He is open-minded and slow to judge.  He is quick to help and radiates positivity.  He respects all people.  He can stand on his own.  He stands firm in his beliefs but is tolerant of others and is continuously learning.  These are the makings of a good man.

Do not take this as me thinking my son does not need positive men in his life.  Of course he does.  Even as a three year old boy I can tell that he enjoys being around my brothers and my father.  He identifies with them because they are also men.  They are like him.  I understand that he will learn a lot from them.  My dad will show him how to change tires and check the oil.  (By the way, I know how to do those things also.)  My brothers will wrestle with him and teach him about sports.  (Yeah I know that stuff, too.)  Its not about them teaching him how to be a man, but more so about him forming healthy bonds with the people with whom he identifies.

As I stated earlier, having a child is not about me.   Its about both of us.  And as his mother and sole caretaker/provider I have to surround him with people that will help him grow into a great person.  That is what will make him a great man.

And finally….
You are a great mother.  With all of the negativity surrounding single black mothers know that you are doing the best you can with what you have.  And you do it with a smile on your face and joy in your heart because nothing makes you happier than being a mom.  Of course we would love to have the father or meet the man of our dreams, but as of right now we have to do what we have to do.  We recognize that.  Sometimes it gets really hard.  Some nights we cry because that’s all we can do.  But then we wipe our faces, pick up the army men that we stepped on while trying to get to the bathroom in the dark and we keep going. 

So,while the world keeps throwing stones at us instead of offering a helping hand, just continue being the best mother you can be.

Keep on keeping on.