Friday, September 3, 2010

The Single Mother Label

I just got done reading a blog post about how to define single motherness that really made me think. The author was living with her sons father for a period eventhough they were not romantically involved. She felt as though as long as couples lived together, married or not, then they were not single parents. What was interesting was how she felt like she had a slight identity crisis since she was living with her partner eventhough they were not romantically involved. It was nice to see that I wasn't the only person that felt like the 'single mother' label didn't exactly fit my life.
 The term 'single mother' is so loaded with preconcieved thoughts and images in our society. Much like the fellow blogger my view of a single mother was someone who was no longer involved with the parent of their child and recieved litte help and support from the other parent. And while I don't live with my son's father, I do feel like I get a huge amount of support emotionally, physically and financially from him. And not just him but both of our families. So, when I think of what a 'single mother' is in my mind.. I don't feel like it matches my life.
 However because we don't live together I do have to plan differently than someone who did live with their partner. I just started a business from home. And I plan on going back to school in the Spring. When it comes to planning for the future, being financially independent, and decideding where we live I do think independently. So while I do have a life partner that keeps me from feeling like a single parent in my day to day life I know that there are some major life decisions that I may make in the future without him.
 I feel like I live in this in between land of single partenthood and coupledom. But fortunately my partner and I have been able to define a relationship on our own terms and create a family in the process.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What is success?

What is success? How do you know if you are successful? Who sets the standards on how success is measured?

These are some questions that I've been sitting with recently. A month ago I quit my job as a teacher to work from home. I plan on doing day care from home so that I can be home full time with the little one. While being a parent is definitely a full time job.. I feel like I should be doing something else to contribute to society. I have always wanted to start a non-profit after school program for girls. But I know I don't have the time to do that now.. so I was thinking of maybe mentoring or doing some other volunteer work in the mean time. Right now I'm not sure how I'm going to juggle volunteering, raising the little one and starting a home business. The desire is definitely there but I'm just not sure if the timing is right. I just can't help feeling like I need to be doing something other than just being Micah's mother.
 And that brings me back to the idea of what is success and who decides what it looks like. If I'm happy and I'm raising a happy well rounded toddler.. shouldn't that be enough?

I'm also struggling with the same concept when it comes to my relationship with my baby daddy. After going to therapy, several attempted break ups, soul searching, and endless nights of discussion.. I think we have finally achieved balance and peace in our relationship. I think for the first time in four years I really feel like I can see us going the distance together as a team. We still don't live together.. and we may never.. but I feel like I'm finally getting what I need from the relationship.  We have even discussed working on baby number two in the near future.

However when I talk to my girlfriends about all the progress that we have made they still can't let go of the marriage issue. I have told them, my aunts, grandmothers and practical strangers that I do not feel the need to be married. But no one believes me! People have told me that I'm settling and that I don't want to get married because he doesn't want to get married. But honestly.. I just want to be happy.  I just want peace. I want our little non-traditional family to be happy. So whether we live under  different roofs, or have different last names I really don't care just as long as we're all happy and healthy. And at the end of the day.. isn't that really what success is?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Baby Spirituality

I was reading a fellow mommy blogger's entry about Easter and how she wants her children to know the 'true' meaning of Easter and it got me to thinking. Even though I was raised in a very Christian home.. I don't know what it is exactly that I want to teach my son about Easter or about religion and spirituality for that matter. When he was born I had him christened and I've taken him to church a hand full of times. But when I've gone I just didn't feel connected.

My son is being raised very differently from the way I grew up. And when I really sit down and think about it that really surprises me. I always thought that I would raise a family that looked alot like the one I grew up in. There are many differences between the way I'm raising him and my own upbringing. Other than the fact that he's not being raised in a two parent home the other biggie is that I was raised in the church and so far he isn't. I'm on a spiritual journey myself and right now I don't feel led to go to church. I want my son to have spirituality and a relationship with God.. but I'm just not sure what that should look like yet.

I grew up as a preacher's kid. We never missed church as a family. Being a Christian was a huge part of my upbringing. When I was in college I began to struggle with what I believed to be true. As I've gotten older a big turn off for me and Christianity has been their position on homosexuality. I just can't stomach the hypocrisy and hatred towards a group of people because of who they choose to love. I believe that the focus of Christianity should be to love each other as much as we possibly can. So, I haven't found a church or group where I feel comfortable yet and admittedly I haven't made it a priority either. But I do feel that as a parent it is my responsibility to guide him morally and spiritually.

One thing that I thought I would do was to buy him some children's books with bible stories in them. He has a few.. but for whatever reason I don't feel drawn to most of them.

I guess I just feel like I don't want to be doing my child a disservice while I'm trying to figure out what I believe for myself. But, more than anything I want to raise a child who shows compassion and who loves without seeing any bias at all. I want him to have a heart for humanity and to realize that he should use his time here on earth to make someone elses time here a better experience.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Book Club Experience

I grew up as an army brat. In other words my dad was in the military  until I was 15. I loved it. We moved all over and even lived in Germany for awhile. Growing up I was always exposed to different cultures and throughout my childhood I usually had just as many white friends as black ones. For me moving between both worlds feels natural and I couldn't imagine life any other way.

With that said, about a year and half ago I decided to join a book club. I was getting ready to take a year off from work to be home with my son. I thought a book club would be a good way to socialize and get out of the house at least once a month. So, I looked on Craigslist and found a book club that looked really interesting. It was a group of women who were reading either classics or literature about foreign countries. I loved this idea. I'm a bit of  a nerd and wanted to read things that would make me think.

I went to the first meeting and thought everyone was great. The first book I read with the group was Zadie Smith's 'White Teeth'. I had previously read 'On Beauty' and loved it.. so I was excited. A year and a half later I have gotten to know the group better and read some amazing books that I never would have picked up on my own.

The only problem that I have with the group is that I'm the only black women in the group. Now, I don't mind being the only one and everyone makes me feel more than welcome. But, sometimes I feel like I over analyze things. So, our process for deciding which books we will read is that we all nominate a book or two and then we vote on which ones we want to read. Last month we read a book that I had nominated entitled 'Plum Bun' by Jessie Fauset. It is a classic from the Harlem Renaissance about a light-skinned black woman who decides to pass for white.  So, my problem is this. I would love to read more African American and African literature with the group. But, I don't want them to feel pressured to read it. When I nominate a 'Black' book everyone will know that I chose that book. I want the group to choose the books that they want to read and not just to appease me or some bit of lurking subconscious white guilt that they may have. But, more than likely this is all just an issue inside my head. Also, I think that I kind of take it a little personal if the group doesn't decide to read an African American book that I have suggested. And then if they do choose the book I feel added pressure for them to like the book. The book seems like an extension of myself.. because its part of my experience.

Someone suggested to me that I start my own book club with people who wanted to read African American literature. I don't want to do this because for one thing I love my book club, they really are a great group of women. But also I like being exposed to books that I wouldn't read on my own. As I thought about this more I thought about the fact that by me suggesting African American literature that the group was not familiar with.. I was also helping to broaden their horizons, just as they were helping to broaden mine.

So, moving forward I think I'll try to silence some of my neurotic-racial inner dialogue and continue to suggest books that I find interesting no matter what the topic. I'll let you know how that goes!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It takes all kinds... of families

As long as I live I don't think I'll ever forget those first days when I found out I was pregnant with my son. I have never felt so many conflicting emotions so intensely in my life. All at once I felt jubilant, scared, overwhelmed, hopeful, and confused. I was 28 and working as a teacher. I knew that I always wanted to be a mother.. but I like most women had always pictured a husband coming along with the baby package. My feelings about becoming a single mother vacillated between becoming giddy about all the mommy things I would finally be doing to genuine concern about whether I would be able to raise a child the way a child deserved to be raised. I would lay awake thinking about how much different my son's life would be from the way that I grew up. My parents met in college and married shortly after. My dad was preacher and we were raised in a rather strict household.

However despite my concerns about what my son's life would be like I knew that I would never accept him becoming a 'statistic'. I knew then that I would do everything in my power to make certain that he went to a good school, valued education and got exposure to many aspects of life. I fully rejected the single-mother-victim mentality. I would not accept that because he was a Black male born to single mother that that meant a death sentence for him. I even managed to stay home with him for most of his first two years of life.

Since becoming the head of my little single parent family I have gravitated towards learning about other unconventional family structures. I started watching 'Big Love' and devoured Rebecca Walker's "One Big Happy Family" . A book that is a beautiful group of essays about different kinds of families. I really embraced the idea that families come in all shapes and sizes and that my little family of two was no less than anyone elses! And then the other day I watched a trailer for Rosie O'donnell's new documentary entitled, 'A family is a family is a family'. The film is about families with same sex parents, mixed heritage parents and single parents. I can't wait to see it.

And so I feel very excited about the future society that my son will inherit. I believe that it will be a future where people will be more accepting of people's differences and see those differences as assets.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Raising our sons

 I began writing my blog partly because I'm very intrigued by the way that relationships/marriages are heading in our society. It seems that more and more people are opting to 'shack up' . And that for those who do choose to marry some of them get divorced and still others cheat on their spouses. Having been a product of a two parent home I always thought I would be married by 25. I am now 31, unmarried and so are most of the women in my circle of friends. So, while I am fascinated with the way that the opposite sexes are relating to each other on the whole..I am even more intrigued by how we as African American men and women relate to each other.

Once I started my blog I started to search for blogs that were writing about issues that interest me. I came across some blogs that were by single Black women and those that promoted marriage in the Black community. And as many of you already know marriage isn't looking so good for Black women. I believe the current stats are that 42% of Black women have never been married. It has been my personal experience and that of my girlfriends that we have been able to find eligible black men to has just been getting ring on it that has proved difficult. Therefore as a Black mother raising a Black son is it not my duty to raise a son who values marriage? And who also sees himself marrying a Black woman?

Should we as Black women who are raising the next generation of Black men be sure that we are steering them in the direction of Black women? I personally don't see anything wrong with that. While I am teaching him to be compassionate, go to college, and open doors for young ladies. I think its also my duty to make sure that he sees the benefit in choosing a Black mate and raising a strong Black family. The reason I feel strongly about this is that marriage is the building block of any community. And currently over 70% of Black children are born into single parent households. We as Black mothers are responsible for raising the Black men that we need more of in our community.

With all of that said we are also raising a generation that may not put as much weight on race as we do. While I was raised by parents who told me vivid stories of segregation and I can personally remember Nelson Mandela being freed from prison. I am raising a son who will have in some of his earliest memories a president that looks like him. So while I will plant seeds for the vision of his future chocolate the end of the day I just want him to be happy with whoever he chooses.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Up in the Air

Last night I got to spend some quality time with a long time friend. The conversation was dominated by our relationships. As two African American women we were discussing how we have very few examples around us of healthy, loving, committed relationships. I was telling her about how when I see a happy couple arm in arm in the street or watch happy couples on television that I stop and do this thing where I ask myself  "Do I want that"? Do I want a life partner that is completely integrated into my life?  Sometimes my knee jerk response is yes and sometimes its no. Crazily enough she was saying that she does the same thing. We talked about how seeing our mother's experiences growing up have made us more independent minded when it comes to relationships.

So after dinner we went to see George Clooney's new movie Up In the Air. Without giving away too much of the plot it is about a man who essentially lives in airports and in the air. He doesn't have any emotional attachments to anyone..he doesn't even bother to minimally decorate his one bedroom apartment. So, after the heart to heart with my friend and after watching the movie it brought me back to something I've pondered many times before. Are we as a humans slowly evolving away from marriage and committed relationships? And if so what are we evolving towards? In the movie you do sense that Clooney's character was beginning to realize that there were flaws in the isolated life that he had created for himself. But you also got the sense that he was too far gone to change and that his life would probably continue on the same path.

 My good friend and I ended our heart to heart about relationships on the note that no matter what our relationship statuses, who we love, or where life takes us, we want to strive to live lives that are focused on being true to our selves, feeding our spirits, and chasing beauty.