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Single Moms Do it All – Alone

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By Maya Rhodan
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When Feona Huff, 38, was growing up, she pictured her ideal family.

“I always had the dream of having the husband, the dog, the house with a wrap-around porch,” Huff says. “Growing up in the church, I knew the importance of a strong family.”

Although she grew up seeing her grandparents thrive in a happy, fulfilling relationship, her dream never became a reality for Feona. When she became pregnant with her daughter at 25, she checked into the idea of being a mother and wife and her then-boyfriend checked out.

“I chose to be an active and involved parent from the time I was pregnant, he chose not to be as active,” Huff says. “It’s not like I said ‘I want to become a single mom and endure the struggles of being a single parent.’”

The Hampton Roads, Va. resident, however, is doing just that. She’s rearing her two kids, a daughter, 13, and son, 10, by herself.

Huff says although she’s “always busy” and “rarely sleeps” – going everywhere from track practice, to beauty pageants, to church events on any given day – she’s blessed to have her children.

“Not everyone is equipped to become a single parent,” Huff says. “I love my children. I know God gave them to me for a reason.”

Once a societal taboo, single-parenthood isn’t as rare as it has been in the past. In fact, 41 percent of all births in 2010 were to unmarried women.

A staggering 73 percent of Black babies were born to unmarried women in 2010.

Despite the normality of single-motherhood, a recent Pew Research Center analysis suggests the majority of Americans consider it a “big problem.” According to the report, 64 percent of all Americans have negative views of single-motherhood, including 56 percent of non-White Americans.

There are a lot of statistics that show single-parenthood isn’t the ideal situation for a child. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention children born to unmarried women are a greater risk of dying in infancy and living in poverty than babies born to married women.

According to a report by Legal Momentum, a women’s legal defense and education fund, single parents in America are more likely to be low-wage workers and less likely to have health insurance for themselves and their children.

“Single parenthood is a double-edged sword,” says Chawn Jackson, 44, a single mom from Prince George’s County in Maryland. “I think there’s some validity to the statement that it’s bad.”

Jackson divorced when her now 10-year-old daughter was just three months old, and has been rearing her daughter on her own since she and her ex-husband split.

Like most single-mothers, and 40 percent of all households with children under 18 according to the Pew report, Jackson has been the primary financial provider for her daughter since birth. Of that 40 percent, 5.1 million are married women who make more than their husbands. About 8.6 million are single mothers.

According to Pew, the married mothers – who are disproportionately older and White, have a median income of $80,000, nearly four times the amount of single-mother-led households, which are disproportionately minority and young.

“[After her father left] we had to survive,” Jackson says. “He wasn’t providing, he made it clear he wasn’t going to, so I had to.”

Jackson considers herself blessed to be in a position where she can easily provide for her daughter; she does not receive child support from her ex-husband. However, she worries that because her father isn’t around, her daughter will not know what a healthy relationship looks like, as she grows older.

“A part of her is still in a fairytale world,” Jackson says. “She’s seen a lot of her friends with a mom and a dad and she wants that.”

“I try to do all I can to keep positive male role models in my daughter’s life,” Jackson adds. “We’ve lost a lot of our wholesome values as a society. I understand that it’s a different day and you have to be able to adapt and be fluid, but we have to keep those core values that African American families were raised with.”

JayVon Muhammad, a midwife based in the Bay Area of California, agrees.

“There is a decline of relationships and parental structures,” Muhammad, 41, says. “Women are having to do everything and become everything instead of making better decisions from the beginning.”

Muhammad has become a crusader against what she calls the “baby-mama epidemic,” which she says is destroying the Black community.

“I think that we have to recognize that what is happening to us and our families is not normal,” Muhammad says. “It’s not ok for a community to have 70 percent of their [babies] born to single mothers”

Muhammad had her first daughter at 17 to a man she says was a “drug dealer and a hustler,” the type of man she considered normal growing up in a low-income, Black community of San Francisco.

She calls the relationship she had with her baby’s father “dysfunctional,” and says she found herself, “willing to compromise my own happiness to make sure he was alright.” But she wasn’t alright as she struggled to raise their child while he spent his time in and out of jail.

When her daughter was 4-years-old, however, her life changed for the better when she married her current husband.

“The contrast was huge,” Muhammad says. “I went from having to do it all to having help.”

Muhammad speaks out against “baby-mamas” not because she’s critical of the situation, but because she wants women, especially African American women to want more for themselves and their families.

“Most women say they want love, they want a family where a man supports them but they can’t succumb to the feeling because they have to do it all,” says Muhammad, the founder of Sista Girl Midwifery.

“We have to start admitting that we don’t want to raise children on our own, that we deserve to have the option to stay at home so our children are safe,” Muhammad says. “If we don’t start taking the stance that’s least accepted but is best for our children, we’re going to die.”

Kia Smith, 31, a single mom in Atlanta, says that although her situation isn’t ideal, when you consider the stability she and her 13-year-old son have the positives outweigh any negatives.

“You can look at us on the outside and think it’s bad,” says Smith who had her son at 17, but graduated from Spelman College within four years. “But when you look at our lives, everything we’ve been able to do, can you really say that it’s negative?”

Huff agrees.

“Being a mom is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Huff says. “It’s not always perfect. I definitely have moments of feeling overwhelmed, but when I wake up and my children are on the side of me I realize I am so blessed.”

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-1 # PowerMamaDee 2013-06-19 08:23
Single parent has become this catch-all phrase to mean babymama doing it all alone.And it has an inherently negative and limiting connotation. Using a different lens, single parent could mean an unmarried parent, a previously married parent, a parent of a deceased partner. To use not normal when describing any part of the black experience is a continuation of the pathology of racism which rests at the core of the issues plaguing the larger community. Certainly some women make unhealthy choices regarding relationships, including marrying poor partners for even poorer reasons. Blaming mothers who may be raising children without the benefit of a father who is present and involved for the fall out of grace of African-Americans is narrow and buys into the shaming culture that is driving so much of what is supposed to pass for sound rationale and intellect in the larger society.
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0 # Keith Blackwell 2013-07-04 20:37
You are the perfect example of what's wrong with black america. Ms Dee, 60% of black women have 2 or MORE baby daddy's. The vast amount of black women are INTENTIONALLY having children out of wedlock because the want to experience motherhood. Black women will not let not having a husband stop her from having children. She doesn't consider marriage a viable option in building a family and if she is not able to afford a child a quick trip to the welfare office with fix that. This intrinsically is the number 1 problem with the Black America, a direct lack of nuclear families (mom, dad and children) The black woman has total control of body and can control her pregnancies, but she chooses not to. There are 7 types of FREE birth control available. Every year there is either a new birth control medication or they improve an existing one. However, black women continue to have children with men that is not their husband. "Baby Mama" is negative but it's true, stop minimizing it.
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0 # inquizative 2013-06-15 11:55
One more thing in responding to the last issue of Kia Smith. Although she graduated from college, of which is all good. It doesn't compare to having a husband/father IN THE HOME, to teach a son what a man needs to know about life as a man. There is nothing in Spellman to compare to that. With you Huff, you are in a sense endorsing single motherhood. It is a bad situation through and through and it should never be an intentional choice to deny a child a father by becoming a single mother. Single motherhood and a lack of more nuclear families is by far the single most detriment to the African American race.
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-1 # Feona 2013-06-18 15:03
I am not endorsing single parenthood. What I am saying is that the parenting situation is such that one has to raise their children by themselves. One parent decided to stay and be responsible and the other decided to leave and be irresponsible. With God's grace, mercy and favor, I am raising productive, capable, smart, talented, educated and advance children.
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0 # inquizative 2013-06-15 11:27
With a 73% black single mother rate we have to conclude that black women are choosing to become single mothers. The reason why this situation becomes worse and worse is because we are focusing on the wrong person the black father, he should not be the central focus of the problem. Using common sense you have to conclude that this is the result of a black women's intention. The culture of women's liberation has steered the black woman into believing that she is empowered to be "mommy AND daddy." This concept was prove to be a disastrous failure and very harmful to African Americans., particularly black children, mainly boys.
There will be black women who will continue to blame this issue solely on black fathers as if solely responsible for getting her pregnant. When black children fail in society, the single black woman and her choices are never brought to task, hence the "damsel in distress," when on the rare occasion a black child is a success she is "the strong black woman"
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