Single Mama – My Badge of Honor
I distinctly remember being 16 years old and walking through the mall with my friends. My eye was suddenly drawn to a teenage boy (who happened to be black) with his pants sagging nearly to his knees. He had on a poorly fitting belt and his boxers were completely showing. He walked around as if he owned the mall, all the while loudly cursing at his girlfriend and friends and attracting all sorts of negative attention. I remember cringing as I watched him. I didn’t cringe because I was embarrassed for him. I cringed because I was embarrassed by him. I knew that there would be people who looked at him as some sort of prime example of blackness. I knew that I would have to fight daily to erase that image of blackness from the minds of many people.
16 year old Cappuccino Queen believed she was the most mature teenager who ever lived. I thought that I knew a whole lot about the world. Even though my short 16 year old life experiences had taught me something about the ugliness of racism, and I had what I felt to be a good reason to cringe at the thuggishly dressed – ill behaved black teen, I didn’t realize how much about the world I still needed to learn. I didn’t realize how my judgements on other groups was just the same as the ignorant people who chose to judge the entire black race based on one immature teenage boy who was trying to “show out” for his friends.
What did being a single mother mean to me?
I was the young woman in college who told all of her friends that she would never have sex before marriage. I didn’t ever think it was possible for me to “end up as a single mom” because I believed that I commanded more respect from men – I believed in the stigma that has haunted single mothers for generations. I judged single mothers the way ignorant people judged all black people based on rap videos and loud mall kids. I believed that people had complete control over their destiny and that single mothers were single because it was their own fault.
I sure did talk a good game in college. I went through my entire college years with my virginity completely intact. I had intended on keeping it that way until I was married. I believed that would ensure that I would not end up a single parent and fall victim to the evil statistic of black single mothers. I never imagined that my first sexual experience would not be with my husband – it would be rape.
What does being a single mother mean to me now?
Life has slapped immature and naive Cappuccino Queen in the face. Before I was a parent, I had no idea what it was like to be any kind of parent. I had no business passing judgement on anyone. Being a parent is hard – period. It is the most amazing gift from God, but it is hands down one of the hardest thing in life. It isn’t hard because of the diaper changing and the crying, it’s hard because it requires you to love with your entire heart – your entire being. Before Prince, I didn’t know what it felt like to literally be willing to lay down my life for someone else. I had never fought so hard and loved so completely. To love someone that much is hard because you expect the best from yourself.
Despite my naive childhood belief that I would, under no circumstances, become a single mother – I became one. It was only after becoming a single mother that I was able to truly appreciate the struggle, pain, and joy that being a mother brings. I don’t sit here on a high horse looking down at other mothers saying that I somehow had it harder because I was a single mother; however, I do wear being a single mom like a badge of honor. It’s an invisible badge that I am proud of because it represents love, struggle, battle wounds, and shows how far I have come. Something I would have been ashamed of in college is now something that represents a source of pride. Being a single mother is part of my identity because its my experience.
Every parent has a unique experience with parenthood. No easier – no more difficult – but different. Whether you are a single parent, working parent, stay at home parent – you should wear it with pride because it represents something important for which you undoubtedly have worked your hardest. (Note: …unless you are a deadbeat parent…in which case you should wear a neon sign on your head so that we can all be sure to avoid you in the future.)
A few days ago, Michelle Obama slipped up during a press interview and called herself a single mother. She quickly corrected herself and said she was a “working mother”, but that sometimes she felt like a single mother because her husband worked so hard and was often gone. While I cannot pretend to imagine what it would be like to walk in Michelle Obama’s shoes (and I believe she is one amazing woman in her own right), she also cannot pretend to imagine what it would be like to walk in my shoes – as a single mother.
In the past few days, I have heard folks make comments that single mothers “just like to complain” and that it “isn’t that hard.” That is a laughable and silly notion. Just as silly as if I told a military wife, whose husband was serving in Afghanistan – was home raising their children in his absence -and worrying that their father would never come home, that she was being ridiculous for expressing how tough things were. Being a parent is tough. I try not to compare the apples and oranges of parenthood. For those of us who love our children with all our hearts, we will face challenges as a parent in various ways.
I am Prince’s SINGLE MAMA:
Prince was my heart. Every single day, I woke up knowing that he relied on me to take care of him. I was the one and only person who was responsible for making sure he was clothed, fed, and healthy. When important decisions were to be made, I had tons of support from friends and family – but it was my ultimate decision alone. Nobody on this planet cared about him the way I did, and that was evident by the way his father treated him in the end. There are many people who loved Prince so much and who feel terrible about what happened to him They might even feel personally responsible for not doing more to try and stop what happened to him. For me, however, as a single mom – and the one who was solely responsible for his well being – I bear this on my shoulders the way nobody else can. I don’t say that to complain or to cause people to feel bad for me. I say this so that people understand what being a parent is like for one single mother – what it was like for me.
Raising a child truly takes a village of people. I used to think that was a corny statement that only politicians pulled out of cans when they were trying to sell some education bill. After being a mother, however, I know how true this is. Despite how big or small your village is, being a parent is a tough job if done well. Moving forward, I pray that people will look beyond their personal situation and dig deep. Be thankful for the situation you have, the life you have been given, and the people who share the love of your child. And the next time you see a single mother with her child (or children), don’t assume you understand her situation or begin to judge her just because her path was different than your own.
What can I say but the obvious. Another well written and heart grabbing post. I am the bio Mother of 4. Divorced when my children were young. Never thought of myself as a single Mom, but I was… I was a single Mom even when I was married and until now just didn’t realize it. My divorce was the result of his physical & emotional abuse of myself, which I decided was NOT what I wanted my children to experience. I was lucky. He didn’t have the motivation to pursue me or fight for custody of the kids. His influence on them was negative, in that at some point everyone of children have said to me…. “Mom, you can tell me, I’m old enough to know the truth now.. WHO is my REAL Father”?
They love him in their own ways, but have very little contact with him. Now, just as when they were growing up, he makes no attempts to call them… It is the kids who make the choice to call or go see him. I asked last fall if he had spoken to our second born son, (our third child) recently. He replied he had not talked to him in over two years. WHY would a Father not make an attempt to contact a child? … A child who is now 44, and has become more than either of ever imagined possible.
Marica, I think you are right. There are several mothers who are married yet still share similar experiences to that of a single mother. If you are in a relationship with someone who is not supporting you emotionally and truly being a parent – you are effectively a single parent. In some ways, I imagine its even more frustrating as society believes you have the support of a normal married person. It is a shame. I can’t imagine what it is like to have to face your children questioning why their bio parent does not really love them. That has to feel like a terrible rejection.
I fight against the bias and judgment that comes along with being a Black single mother everyday. I am divorced now but I had children and was married by my mid-20s, so people always comment on how I look too young to have two teenaged children. I’ve always felt like a single mother, even when their dad was still alive. We had an extremely tumultuous and unhealthy relationship mostly due his alcoholism. I finally divorced him when they were 9 and 6 and moved away, back to my childhood hometown. Nowadays, there are so many single moms in every cultural group. Yet, Black women bear the brunt of the stereotypical imagery associated with single motherhood. It pisses me off, at times, and then I feel so proud that I’ve raised these awesome, intelligent and well-adjusted kids ALL BY MYSELF. And my kids are extremely successful in school and extracurricular activities. I had some help when they were younger but after the divorce my family treated me like a pariah and I choose to not have contact with them. So I singlehandedly do all of the driving around, monitoring schoolwork and everything else that goes along with parenting two socially and academically active teens. I find the community village is disappearing altogether and people just don’t want to help people raise all of these kids from broken homes. Most of the kids I observe are totally on their own. Many kids are so maladjusted and plain out of control with no boundaries or rules to live by. Our society is on a fast track to socially destruct because of people’s judgmental attitudes toward these children. Every adult needs to mentor at least one or two kids to make a difference or else we’re going to be afraid to leave our homes in a decade to face the scores of disordered adults created by neglect and harsh attitudes from our current society.