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Please Don’t Call Me a Single Mom and Avoiding Other Labels

I am not a single mom.

Well, actually technically I am, but apparently I’ve been denying the truth and running from being labeled as such for 10 years now.
 
Like many black women in my generation,  I was reared to beat statistics, defy odds and combat stereotypes—particularly those typical of us. And like many of you, my parents instilled in me a keen awareness that my behavior, my accomplishments or failures would represent the whole race. It’s a tall order and a large burden for anyone to carry, I know, but that's how it was.
 
 
 I first became a statistic when I became pregnant out of wedlock. I was 29 years old, working on my masters degree at Columbia University—but I was still another unwed black mother. Despite my many years of defying odds, when I told my father the news, he cried. My family always had high expectations of me, and this was not what they envisioned for where my life was headed.
 
Whenever you are put on a pedestal, the fall is that much harder.
 
The statistics on the high number of black single mother households are headline grabbing enough. I certainly never planned to add to them….As many of you know, a few months into my pregnancy, my child's father disappeared. Which, among other painful things, left me as a double statistic: Unwed black mother. Absent black father.
 
Too much.
 
Years later, after I eventually reconciled and married my child’s father, I felt tremendous pride that I had “un-statisticized” myself—turning my unwed mother statistic into another strong black family statistic.
 
What joy!
 
But when my husband left six years later, I found myself facing the same dilemma all over again. On the brink of the dreaded single motherhood label once again, I found solace in a less painful label—“divorced mom.”
 
Single mom says (in my weird mind) that you conceived a child with a man who wouldn’t commit to you or you used bad judgment , getting “knocked up” by a man you don’t really care about—but a “divorced mom” says there was something real there but it didn’t work out.
 
People feel for children of divorce but a child of a single mother—it’s the mother’s fault. Yes, “divorced mom” felt better. You will find this reference in all of my bio materials.
 
I didn’t realize the depth of shame and denial I was carrying (not sure why) until a few months ago when the editors at Momformation, the blog site of BabyCenter.com,  asked me if I would write more about my experiences as a single mom. And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why, though actually having been a single mom twice—once during pregnancy and again after my divorce, that I hadn’t written much about the most challenging aspect of my day-to-day life.  Even when I looked at my MochaManual blogs, I have no consistent record sharing my journey as a single mom.
 
Which is strange because being a single mother is definitely the thing that really defines my parenting experience every single day and is really the driving mechanism behind every decision I make from my work to where I live.
 
Wow! Do you think there’s a 12-step program for me?
 
Single Mothers Anonymous for those of us who have been in denial over being labeled by society as another unwed statistic? I sure hope so. Or perhaps my future writings on the subject will be my therapy.
 
My name is Kimberly Lanise Seals Allers. And I am a single mother.
 
And these are the two accomplishments that bring me the most pride.
 
 
Have you ever had trouble accepting a "label" ?
Comments
3 Responses to “Please Don’t Call Me a Single Mom and Avoiding Other Labels”
  1. Crystal W. says:

    I completely identify with being put on a pedestal and falling from it, HARD. Growing up, I too, successfully avoided many of the stereotypical pitfalls of young African American women. Then, it happened. I was 26, just finished my master’s degree, 2 months into my first-ever full time career job and BAM, I found out I was pregnant under some very sketchy circumstances.

    My family went berzerk and during my entire pregnancy I kept thinking about how I was a statistic. I had always tried to steer clear of being exactly that kind of statistic “single mom.” Well, I got married to a close friend when my daughter (now 9 months) was 5 months old and I was allowed to relinquish the “single mom” label. Unfortunately many of my family ‘friends’ will never forget that I was a single mother at one point and pass judgment on the fact that my husband is not my daughter’s biolocal father.

    I must admit that I am quite afraid of the idea of ending up divorced and then being a “divorced mom” as you said. To me it would feel like two major failures in my life, even though my daughter is a testimony, a great victory in my life. At the end of the day I understand that our trials make us who we are and allow us to touch and speak into the lives of populations of people uniquely affected by experiences similar to ours.

  2. Sheena says:

    I am a 25 yr old mother-to-be and you sisters speak of my current story. Being put on a pedestal for years, i always pushed myself to be the best at whatever i do. I have the highest degree within the household i come from, although all of my siblings are very educated and successful as well. I am the yougest so there has been so much knowledge instilled in me from knee high to my adult age. I really felt like i would not bear children until after i was married. At one point in my life i was a big advocate for an Abstinence Til Marriage program. Determined not to be a statistic i attempted to keep myself with positive events and working harder to get promotions, yet i was in shock when i found out over a month ao that i’m expecting. The reality that i would be a mother in the coming months was a big shock and i will admit i went through a bit of a depression mode. The father of my child told me i had choices when i found out, in which i could have chosen abortion. I flipped because the thought of abortion made me sick and i expressed how disgusted i was with his comment. I don’t see him as the one i would like to be with marriage wise because we have way too many differences unsettled. He’s an older gentleman and a professional as well but his response definitely threw me for a loop. At this time i’m just trying to remain positive, my family is very supportive which helps alot. Sometimes i feel i am my own worst critic.

  3. I am a single black man, college educated, and Well i ended up here because i was following ur trail from
    the ‘husbands shacking the help’ article’ on cnn.I am associated with statistic myself because am an older and single underemployed black man though i have an engineering degree from a very reputable college.

    I happened to read your bio over at mocha manual before i read this blog, the one thing i kept thinking about is how you would avoid the stereotype of ‘another single black mom.’ Single mom is not so stereotypical before u annex ‘black’ to it. Then i thought that the strength and essence of our personalities transcend our experiences. We have a sacred duty to procreate, but procreation in itself is not an end, indeed it would be a futile endevor if the entity being perpetuated held no other significance save the fact of its existence.

    Separate from donating our time and effort to our God given duty to procreate, we have a mandate to live, to justify/vindicate our existence. Therefore when i considered you a saw a person born to display the beauty and speech of nature. In your blogs and as an editor you give voice to life, you communicate the intangible wholeness of how we engage what we experience, taste and see. In your love of fashion you explore and reveal what you are; that since there is beauty inside of you and that its a natural part of you, you speak beauty by uncovering and sharing beatiful things 🙂

    I would say life has given you the opportunity to answer the question ‘what r u?’. Since in yourself you are
    unique and singular in relation to all around you, there is no direct way to answer this question; no
    replica. So you engage your environment as props to communicate yourself, your intelligence is mirrored in
    speech and communication, your beauty in fashion and affection, your strength comes out in enterprenuership, your joy comes out in humor and love of life etc. I guess when i thought about it, i saw that you are separate and distinct from the nature of the 18+ odd years of the labor of love that you undertake to procreate.

    This brings me to my main point, when at the end of this blog you went… ‘ My name is Kimberly Lanise Seals Allers. And I am a single mother.’, i was sort of taken aback, because i was like, she didn’t just sum up her whole existence in that label; she didn’t just justify that label; she did not just vacate her whole
    office of existence to appease the views about a facet of her responsibilities!

    I humbly submit that your name alone identifies(points to) you and that the sum total of your endevours can reflect who you are but cannot describe you because to truly describe a human being is impossible, for
    understanding being only a part of the human cannot understand itself, much less describe a human who is the mother/seat of understanding.

    I hope that you are progressive enough to give home to my comment on your blog, and that part of who you are is that you realize that dissenting voices are only an evidence of the richness of your environment. Thanks and keep communicating to us the likeness of ur awesome self through living free!

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