Monday, November 16, 2009

Max Reddick Supports Single Mothers

I have a friend, a very good friend; her beauty and spirit never cease to amaze me, to intrigue me. And my friend also happens to be a single mother.

We communicate fairly often though not as often as we once did. However, in the middle of the night while I am up thinking, writing, enjoying the solitude, I sometimes get forlorn, frantic messages from her: “Did you read what she said today? Can you believe that? I think she is singling me out.”

Evidently, somewhere out there in cyberspace an African American woman runs a site for women that seems to disparage single motherhood. The site seems to find fault with those who just happen to find themselves raising their children on their own. But I don’t think the blog author means to be disparaging. I really don’t. However, I do see how her commentary might be misinterpreted that way.

And for a young single mother already questioning the choices she’s made, already trying to piece together a life out of the emotional fragments of a failed loved affair, already trying to find her way in a world that seems dead set in preventing her from moving onward and upward, already struggling with the many exigencies of raising a child or children alone, I see how the blog author’s remarks might seem disheartening and sometimes insulting even.

So I try to calm my friend. I try to offer whatever salve I have for wounds—a poem, a short story, a song, a bawdy joke—but nevertheless I don’t think it is ever enough. So, I try to simply let her know I understand, that about eighteen years or so ago for a timeframe of about a year and a half, I too found myself in the situation of being a single parent.

Mostly what I remember about that time frame is the constant fatigue that dogged me. And I remember having to set aside my dreams, my aspirations for the sake of someone else. I remember being lonely, very lonely for the company and affection of another adult.

I had to work to keep a roof over our head and so that we could continue eating. I did get child support, but even with that support, it seems like I was always short of cash, always behind playing catch-up, always struggling. So , I had to take extra hours at work, but when I did so, I always felt so guilty about being away from my child for such long periods of time. Not only that, I had to make time for karate and football practice and the many other extracurricular activities children participate in.

And when he came to stay with me, I was in school pursuing my degree, but school became the first casualty. I found that school and work and parenting seemed so unmanageable, so I limped through that semester, and it would be almost a year before I could resume my studies.

Also, in seeking out companionship of the opposite sex, I was always tried to remain cognizant of the fact that I had a young one at home; I did not want to give my son the wrong idea about relationships between men and women by parading a string of women in front of him. And perhaps I was not always as cognizant as I should have been, but I did my best.

But the greatest effect I believe this period to have had on my son was the absence of an alternate worldview. In other words, because I am male, the way in which I attempted to raise my son, and the values I attempted to inculcate in my son, were informed by my positioning as a black male. And at that time I had that whole manly man thing going, so I didn’t see the need to hug him or to teach him that it was okay to feel and show emotion; I thought it would make him a soft man. However, looking back now I realize that perhaps had I sometimes placed my arms around him and hugged him and told him I loved him that perhaps he may have been an even better person because of it, especially during this period of adjustment following the split between his mother and me.

But I was blessed to have found someone who would eventually become my spouse who joined with me in assisting me in raising my son. Not only that, his mother always remained in the picture and partnered with me in assuring that my son had those things he needed both emotionally as well as materially.

In addition, I don’t think I ever felt the stigma often associated with single parenthood as I understand many women to feel. Many people judge single mothers without ever taking the time to consider how they came to be single mothers in the first place or judging the father by the same standards.

Recently a colleague informed me that she used her married name for fifteen years following her divorce simply because she didn’t want to be judged by outsiders, and she didn’t want her children to be stigmatized in school as being the children of a single mother. But because I was a single father, which perhaps was fairly rare at the time, people bent over backwards to help me, to praise me. And that sentiment perhaps still exists.

However, I do know that with time things will get better. But for the time being, keep in mind those things you want for you and your child or children. For the time being, decide what you want for yourself. Then seek out every opportunity that will move you closer to these goals, every opportunity that will make the lives of you and your child or children better.

And surround yourself with a network of people who will not judge you and offer you the emotional support you need and go about the business of raising your child or children. And if it means anything at all, you have my undying understanding, admiration, and support. I know firsthand that it ain’t easy, but you are doing it. You are doing it.

8 comments:

KST said...

Off all the days I chose to wander over to your site. Funny how life works huh?
: )

Lovely and very encouraging post.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hi Max,

I have had quite a few discussions at my think tank about the accceptance of fatherlessness among black women.

I don't think that black women (as a group) are responsible for fatherlessness but many black womwen have minimized it and many do not view it as a pathology in the black construct.

I remember one discussion months ago on "The Misuse of Reproductive Power" someone who had several children with different men was deeply offended that I was not validating her value system. The exchange became heated and she stormed off - never to return.

There are plenty of black women who will feel outrage when they face the reality that ALL black women do not think it is okay to have children out of wedlock and are willing to have an open discussion about why it isn't okay.

I also think that some of that outrage comes from a belief that no one should ask critical questions about the choices that many black women are making and that no one should analyze the long-term consequences of the current patterns.

"Why can't black women just support each other?!"

In the minds of some of my sistas, "supporting one another" means that we don't tell each other the truth, that we don't confront each other, that we don't say "let's look at the long term consequences of the value systems that we are validating".

I had a post about "The Celebration of Childlessness" and so many women came out to the blog to talk about their decision not to bring children out of wedlock into this society.

Your friend probably would not feel too happy after reading some of the discussions that we have had at my blog either.

The wonderful thing about the blogosphere is that it truly emphasizes how vastly different black people are in their value systems and perspectives.

I hope those bloggers who are pro-single parenting and who are against the pattern of fatherlessness continue to have the discussions that provoke more examination.


Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

rainebeaux said...

Hi. How'd I get here again? Oh yeah: Keep It Trill-->The Old Black Church-->here. lol.


I don't know how your friend became a single mom (not my business, but I'm aware we weren't all careless in the ring-then-babies department), but you could've described me the same way.

I was part of the discussion Rev. Lisa mentioned at her own blog, and the occasional optimist in me says your friend can handle or even appreciate the strategies being whipped up there.


For a while now, I've been trying to dig up something--anything that indicates those women of our ilk who have defied the odds/statistics*. Failing those, I'd recommend that your friend quit the internet.


*the ones that say, in effect, that black unwed mothers will marry broke if they marry at all. again, don't know your friend's sitch or even if she desires (re)marriage, but I hope she didn't stumble onto that foolishness.

Lyn Marie said...

I like your post Max. I really think your point about the stigma associated with women and not the men that helped make her a single parent gets overlooked. Even as I've read the responses their is a focus on women. The choices of the women, her responsibility to the Black community.

So where are the men? Why is the men that have 5 children with 5 different mothers never discussed? Could it be that he plants his seed and moves on, leaving that single mother to make the best of a bad situation? So mom stays around and makes both good and bad decisions but fights the good fight. Yet she is blamed for the decline of the Black family.

If it takes two people to make a baby and one leaves what is a parent to do? Of course being married is one answer but in the age of 50-60% divorce rates the chance of mom being single is pretty good. How about less judgment as a start to an honest conversation.

Kim said...

I have really strong opinions about single mothers particularly where women have allowed men to seed their womb without the benefit of marriage. And I don't know any divorced single Moms so I'm just going to keep my thoughts to myself

Denisha said...

Great post! I'm a divorced single mom AND I had my first son prior to getting married so I guess I deserve as much as criticism as I do compassion (lol). Anywho, I too continue to use my married name when the kids are involved (school, doc appts, etc) because you get weird looks when your kids' last name does not match yours. Also, single dads do get more praise which isn't a bad thing since it's so few of them but it still stings nevertheless. It's good that you know firsthand how it is instead of other bloggers who write about what they no clue of.

KST said...

Glad I did not come and check this out sooner. Whew! Feel like I dodged a bullet.: )

viagra online said...

No matter the skin color every woman and especially a single mother too are worth very courageous people

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