Nearly half of all African-American women have never been married,
compared to less than a quarter of white women, a disproportionate
figure which has many folks still asking: “Is Marriage for White People?”
Generational single parenting by unmarried black women has become
normalized among Black America; however, historically, single motherhood
was a condition induced by circumstances usually unfortunate and
beyond women’s control, like husbands going off the war, men’s migration
to other areas in search of better economic opportunities and untimely
deaths. If most unmarried mothers had a choice, they would choose
to have been – and to be – married, according to The Factbook: Eye-Opening Memos on Everything Family.
Therefore, the idea that sisters are exercising some brand of feminist
independence by having babies by themselves is likely a spurious
Black women have made it way too easy for men to reap all of the
benefits and entitlements of marriage with none of the commitment,
promises, legalities or spiritual protection of marriage. Whether
incited by fear of the real or mythical ever-shrinking pool of eligible
black men (those with jobs, education, no Baby Mommas, no criminal
record, no addictions and a host of personally preferred prerequisites),
their own sense of self worth or other issues, many black women
today are willing to cohabitate with men, cook their meals, help
pay the bills, clean up after them and have sex on demand with no
ring and no marriage proposal within eyeshot or earshot. In fact,
there’s a popular list circulating around the Internet on the “Top 10 Reasons Men Shouldn’t Get
Married,” which outlines these reasons and more.
Once a sister becomes a single mother, the odds of her partnering
with a quality man diminish greatly. Indeed, an online search about
dating single mothers returns many results about dating single mothers.
The overwhelming advice: Don’t! I am sure there
are many kind, attentive, attractive single sisters who are mothers,
too. While this generalized advice that proliferates the Web world
may seem unfair and prejudicial, it is a reality women face when
they have children by men without being married to them.
Children of single mothers get a very bad rap, whether based on
real research or stereotypical judgments. Children in single-parent
households are much more likely to live in poverty than children
in married-couple households. Fifty percent of black children in
single-parent homes are poor compared to just 11 percent in married
families. Therefore, family structure is directly
related to children’s economic
status. Childhood poverty is also linked to all sorts of negative
consequences – poor academic performance, worse health, developmental
and social delays, involvement in the criminal justice system and
much more. Add to this the notion that many black men are not paying
child support for many reasons – mothers refuse to take them to
court, men may lack sufficient employment to make a difference and
fathers go underground in order not to be tracked down or traced
– and you have many ingredients for an all-out disaster for the
most innocent individual involved: the child.
Clearly, as The Black Married Momma: The Anti-Statistic, I am pro-marriage.
I am against black women and men making bad decisions that place
them among the most unenviable and maligned statistics cited in
our nation. I cannot support “choices” that have dire repercussions
for our children. And I believe the stakes are higher for African-Americans
as a collective; we cannot afford to make poor decisions and simply
view it as an individual, independent choice, especially when 80
percent of our women are making these unfavorable decisions.
If 80 percent of white children were born to single white mothers,
can you imagine the hue and cry? There would be national conferences
on the issue. The Congress would call for legislation that supported
programs and policies designed to halt the trend. Instead, we as
black people have come to accept this as normal, tolerable and,
for some, preferred, even if 50 years ago, it would have made our
forebears hang their heads in shame, pray for redemption and commit
to never make the same mistake twice.
Most black married mommas will likely be spared the worst
that these cited statistics suggest. According to the figures, most
of us aren’t living in poverty. Our relationships – marriages –
provide some hedge of protection in the event of a fallout. And married people are even healthier than
Still, I must admit that many black married mothers probably could
have wound up as statistics, too. Many of us probably engaged in
pre-martial sex with men who weren’t right for us or who – even
if they were – still weren’t our husbands at the time we were getting
our groove on. Some of us may have contended with the consequences
of shacking up gone bad, like unintended bills, bruised credit or
a diminished regard and reputation among family that took years
to reconstruct. Others might have even contracted STDs from non-committal,
non-exclusive sexual relationships.
However, whether spared by luck, divine intervention or an abortion
or two, many black married mommas will live lives comparatively
different from their unmarried sisters who are mothers. Many of
us get caught up on being on a high horse, pontificating about our
people’s sad state of affairs without remembering where we came
from. Instead, black married mothers who are reaping the benefits
and rewards of our status should do a bit of introspection in order
to provide a retrospective to those who may benefit from our experiences.
We should share what we learned from playing house, having one night
stands, fearfully peeing into a plastic cup for a pregnancy test
and whatever else we may have done. We should tell our daughters
when they’re old enough to understand. We should spread the awareness
to sisters who haven’t stumbled, fallen and made choices they can’t
atone for or take back. Being a Black Married Mother isn’t about
representing an ideal; it’s about knowing we’re in a position to
BLACK MARRIED MOMMA are musings
Columnist K. Danielle Edwards - a Black full-time
working mother and wife, with a penchant for prose, a heart for
poetry, a love of books and culture, a liking of fashion and style,
a knack for news and an obsession with facts - beating the odds,
defying the statistics. Sister
Edwards is a Nashville-based writer, poet and communications professional,
seeking to make the world a better place, one decision and one action
at a time. To her, parenting is a protest against the odds, and
marriage is a living mantra for forward movement. Her work has appeared
in MotherVerse Literary Journal, ParentingExpress, Mamazine, The Black World Today, Africana.com, The Tennessean
and other publications.She is the author of Stacey Jones: Memoirs of Girl & Woman, Body & Spirit,
Life & Death(2005) and is the founder and creative director of
The Pen: An Exercise in
the Cathartic Potential of the Creative Act, a nonprofit creative
writing project designed for incarcerated and disadvantaged populations.Click
here to contact Ms. Edwards.
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