daughter of a single mom: tough as shit

December 29, 2008 § 5 Comments

i have been following hermana, resist since i was preggers.  she has one of those blogs that i always want her to update more often.  like, every couple of weeks is just too long to wait. and i am not much of a commenter (i am getting better at it).

my younger brother and i were raised by a single working class/middle class mom.  she was and is amazing.  not only are we, her children, still alive, but she raised us to think for ourselves, to be politically conscious, to be artistic, creative and to speak up for ourselves.  the whole time we were growing up she always had her 40 plus hour a week job, plus the commute, plus a series of side projects/businesses.  my favorite was the afrocentric jewelry and accessories.  we spent our weekends looking at patterns, visiting african fabric shops, scouring magazines, sewing on a 1970-something blue singer machine, and learning about what it meant to be proud african-americans.

to this day my mom cheers for my creativity.   as long as i am writing, drawing, or creating something she is determined to support it.  she is the first one to remind me that i should be selling what i create.  that it is good.  hell, to quote jean grae, she is cataloguing my shit like she is afeni shakur.  she will read and edit anything i write.  and we still bond over walking through open-air markets, appraising the goods, and figuring out how *we* could do that.

and dont get me wrong, we bump heads often enough.  we are too much alike.  and i am the eldest daughter of a single mother, i grew up  a little too fast. know a little too much. i wont go into the details.  lets just say the details count.

single motherhood is tough as shit.  i am not a single mother.  i was just raised by one.  and if it wasnt for her i wouldnt have the visions that i have of what i want my daughter to learn from me.  what i admire most about my mother is that she insisted on putting energy behind that enormous amount of intelligence and creativity she has.  that she believed and still believes that her creativity is valuable and ought to be invested in.  but then she learned that from her mother, my grandmother, another incredibly intelligent and creative soul.

it is so strange for me not to be a single mom.  because i was raised by one, i associate ‘single motherhood’ with well, ‘motherhood’.  even when i was younger and thinking about how i wanted to have children, i never really thought about having a partner in the whole paradigm.  it was just me and my (imaginary) daughter camping out during the summer solstice.  she has super curly hair and big black eyes and a green dress on with no shoes.  she is 4 years old and dancing in front of the campfire while i sing.  and i am laughing full belly.

so now, sometimes, in the back of my head, i feel a lil guilty that i am not a single mother.  i am not sure if i am a real mother, because i dont have any paradigm for how to perform motherhood when there is a father there too.  when i was at the women’s encuentro in chiapas aza and i hung out with some amazing single mamas and their toddlers (one from nyc and one from italy) and for the first day we were real cool.  and then the next day, when el compa showed up, there were a couple of comments about how lucky i was to have a partner…

i guess it is how i feel when i interact with women of color who are light skinned with ‘good’ hair (not kinky).  we have alot in common, and there are some things that you have to have experienced as a dark skinned black woman to understand how i feel.   like having people stare at you and then at your lighter skinned baby and then back at you and then back at your lighter skinned baby…and then ask you where you are from…and who is the father…even if he is sitting right next you.  or being told how lucky your child is to not have your skin color.  or your hair.  i remember, as a child, people implying that the reason that my mother wasnt married was because she refused to straighten her hair.

tomorrow we start to drive down to my mother’s house.  the house i grew up in.  i love being there before a big airplane trip.  it energizes me.  i can relax a bit.  eat up her food.  re-pack my stuff.  and there is space for aza to run around.  i doubt my mom has a silver spoon laying around (arent they relatively impractical?) but maybe she will take us riding in her new convertible with the heated seats.  i love that car, after 30 years working the same job, with the same racist bullshit, she finally bought the car that she really wanted.  just a single mom who never gave up.

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§ 5 Responses to daughter of a single mom: tough as shit

  • Isabel says:

    as another eldest daughter of a single mother (for most of her mothering experience, though not at the start – though frankly even when my parents were together she was essentially a single mother), i love this post so hard. i don’t have kids and probably won’t, so i’ll never really fully understand what she went through and how hard it was, but now that i’m an adult(ish) sometimes i look back at what was going on in our lives and i’m like, “shit, i can’t believe she survived without going crazy or starting to hate me and my brother, i can’t believe that with how incredibly hard things must have been for her she still had patience to listen to my stupid stories and read my stupid ten-year-old poems and stay up late trying to explain postmodernism to a middle schooler because it was important to her that my curiosity not be stifled, and also that she share the things that mattered to her with me so that we could become friends, not just relatives.”

    in other words, single moms are way hardcore, and this post would make me wanna go give my mom a hug, except she’s sleeping and i don’t want to wake her up.

  • Noemi M says:

    mujer, I have thought long about replying here. Sometimes its so fucking hard, like the frustration is stiffling, drowning. And when you say say feel a lil guilty, I can truthfully say, I sometimes feel a little like, offput when a coupled or mama who’s with a partner complains about this or that (and I think about all the million decisions that are on my shoulders) or says something that is usually used by single mamis or moms who aren’t w/ their fathers like, father of the baby or the baby daddy this or that. Or offput when someone, a mami, tries to compare our situations, and me, being me, usually stays quiet.I was raised by a single mom, we were six. I have 2 kids, I couldn’t imagine how that would be. gracias for bringin up this important issue.

    • mama says:

      thanks for sharing this noemi. i send you strong love. i really ned to keepin mind how much decision making responsibility rests on the shoulders of the single mother…

  • momathon says:

    thanks for this post. i just started my blog and am still so self conscious about writing about my life, because i’m not sure how it’s worth writing about. but your writing was so freeing and inspiring–and so good to hear from a raised by a single mom mama. i am a single mom and am loving my little boy so much. yes it is hard, because all of myself gets put away in just trying to do right for him and take care of the bills. but i dream to find more time to blog and let my creativity out, because it is such a strong voice, and how else is life worth living, besides our children, of course. but for our souls, we need our creativity! and to hear about your mama was so inspiring to me, and to hear about how she shared that part of herself with you is so beautiful !

    • mama says:

      @momathon
      thank you for the kind words…what is the name of your blog? whenever we find those lil moments for our creativity i think is some of the best of what we give to our children. and its not even in the amount of creativity time that is important. its just that we have a commitment to use whatever we have to be fuller and fuller human beings. you know?
      good luck with your blog! our lives are important because they are all we have. because our lives are our truth. and truth well truth may not set us free but may give us a taste of the freedom for which we are struggling to achieve…

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