There are a lot of groups of which I am proud to be a member. Then there is one that I made myself a member of because of choices I undertook. I am a member of the 72 percent of black women who gave birth to children without the benefit of marriage. Now, being a member of that group wasn’t something that I undertook lightly or something of which I am most proud.
I was 28 years old when my daughter was born. I had been on my job for nine years, had a car that was almost paid for, had completed almost four years of college, and had money in the bank and excellent credit, and my own apartment. Looking back, my becoming pregnant was part of my natural attraction to my children’s father. But in retrospect, as much as I love my children, becoming a single parent was the worst thing in the world that I could do to them.
There is a recent movement called No Marriage, No Womb started by blogger Christelyn Karazin. Her point was to call attention to the news about so many black women having children without the benefit of marriage. And ever since she began to blog about the phenomena, the backlash has been substantial. Being a single mother is considered an automatic “badge of honor” in the black community when more often that not, it is the underlying cause of many of the social ills that plague our community.
Before I became a single parent (my preferred term), I had the option of not continuing the pregnancy. I can still remember sitting in the playground at Sheridan and Ainslie and my friend Arnold offering to go to the abortion clinic with me and pretend to be the father. Having an abortion was never really on my radar, but I do recall being angry that I had lived my life for 27 years without becoming pregnant and the anger I felt at myself for “slipping up” birth control-wise and ending up being pregnant and unmarried. I was now becoming another statistic in the black community.
For seven years after giving birth to my daughter, her father and I participated in an “on again off again” relationship. When we were “on” the relationship was wonderful. When it was “off” the relationship was strained. When I found myself pregnant a second time, the only words out of my mouth as the doctor prepared to perform an emergency C-section after 32 weeks of pregnancy was “tubes tied.” I tell you all this because I don’t make a fairy tale out of raising two children alone. It was the hardest thing I ever did.
The sacrifices and strains of having to be both mother and father is an undertaking that I will tell anyone is something one shouldn’t opt to do. One of my most painful memories was choosing to attend at an important meeting and missing helping my son participate in a project. And because their father chose to abandon his children when it came to participating in their lives, everything was left up to me. All decisions, all the rearing, all the successes and all the failures. Thank God the failures were few and far between. I now have two grown children, well-mannered, responsible and the kind of individuals that would make any parent proud. But getting them to that point came at a cost. Their father is a stranger to them because that is the decision he made to not participate in their lives.
I’ve written all this because I can see the pain and hurt my children suffered in not having an active father in their lives. I know that they had to fend for themselves often because I didn’t have a spouse in the house to share in their rearing. I have neighbors and girlfriends who without them I couldn’t have done it. I don’t have family members on the West Side and while alive my mother was too disabled to be of much help.
So even though I raised children by myself, I am the first to see the disadvantages to having done so. Parenthood is far too important an undertaking for us to still have ill prepared individuals taking it on. Then to complicate it by having people as parents who are still more focused on “getting their own groove on” than raising children is the underlying reason why our community is becoming more dysfunctional day-by-day.
There is something very wrong when a man is good enough to father your children but not good enough to marry and build a life together.