Mother’s Day will be here in a few short days and while it is a day of great emotion for me due to the loss of my own beloved Mother, this year I am flipping the script. For 31 years I had the best Mom in the world (at least in my world) and losing her crushed me. I thought she would be here forever and most certainly didn’t expect to lose her so early in life but that is the nature of life. We just don’t know when we will leave.
Yet in the nine years since my Mom died there has been someone playing the role of mother in my life. While my dad would probably have my head for saying this (let us be happy that Papa of BGIM is not online) the truth is there have been times in the past nine years when I needed a mom. Even adults with their own kids occasionally need to be mothered.
I probably should point out that before Mama of BGIM took ill and died; my Pops and I had a decent relationship. It wasn’t bad but there were times when it could have been better. As far as anything related to womanhood, my Dad was a hands-off dude. Except for the time when he came home bearing coffee cake to celebrate my first period at age 11. A truly tender moment, though I suspect at the time I was mortified that my mother felt the need to share these details with my father.
Papa of BGIM a few years ago.
In the years since my mother’s passing there have been times when I needed a woman’s advice…I needed my mom. One of those times was when I was pregnant with the seven year old. My dad reached out to his sisters and loaded himself up with information to share, the sort of annoying stuff that one’s mother does but at the time and even now I appreciate my father going that extra mile to fill my mother’s shoes. Then there was my breast cancer scare, which is definitely a strange thing to discuss with one’s dad and even my dad has acknowledged in those moments, it is a shame that my Mom is not here. There have been many more moments when it was clear that my father was taking off his dad hat and attempting to wear my mother’s hat, no matter how awkward it felt for both of us. For that I thank you Dad on this Mother’s Day weekend for recognizing that there were times when I needed my mother and though you didn’t know what the hell you were doing, you were willing to try.
In thinking about my own situation it made me think of all those who play the roles of mother in someone’s life but aren’t officially recognized as mothers. Mothers are the ones traditionally seen as the caregivers to children but the reality is anyone in our village is capable of mothering because loving and nurturing is not just relegated to mothers. So while this Sunday may involve being pampered as mothers or pampering our own mother’s, let us not forget all that mother to those in need of mothering.
It seems that due to a recent shout out by New York Times parenting columnist, KJ Dell’Antonia, I have had a sudden onslaught of new readers. I must admit that considering that this writing space was something I started back when I was unemployed in 2008 and pondering my life, I never expected it to grow. Anyway as a result of the new readers and attention to this blog, I am going to give a little back story for today’s post so that it actually makes sense to anyone unfamiliar with my writing. While I am a mom, this space is less about the specifics of my kids and more about my evolving journey on this trip we call life.
This week hands down, has been the worst week ever in my professional life. A week, where the pain surging through my soul has threatened to overwhelm me pretty much and engulf me. For a good 24 hours, my usual tools to deal with pain simply were inaccessible and I realized that I needed to simply be. Sometimes intense pain must be felt, so that it can be released and we can go on. I think I have worked through a good chunk of it, but my heart is still hurting and breaking.
For the past four plus years, I have served as the executive director of a small but growing agency that serves low income youth in Southern Maine. I often jest that I am the non-profit extraordinaire because for years, I have had the Midas touch when it comes to working with small agencies and helping them to grow. It’s not really a boast but I am damn good at what I do and I care from the depth of my being. I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I believe with every fiber of my being, that change requires us to make it happen and not pass the buck.
Up until late last year, my agency grew and thrived. We went from being a really small organization hardly known outside of our immediate community to a place where larger agencies throughout the region were happy to partner with us. The problem is that all of our growth was based on my ability to get grants to fund our programs and as anyone with a non-profit background knows…the grant gravy train eventually ends. A community program eventually requires a community to share the financial cost and in the community I serve, getting that type of commitment is pretty damn hard. In fact, I failed at it.
For a time, I was able to bring on local businesses and financial institutions to support the work but the average Joe on the street? Nope. Sadly the people, who need our services and use them, don’t have the means to pay. The sad, sad truth is that while we are a non-profit entity, money is needed to pay for the actual staff that works with the youth, pay the rent and that sort of thing.
Earlier this week, I made the hard decision to recommend to my board of directors based off our dwindling reserves and clear lack of commitment from all but one funder that we would need to cease operations effective June 30th. My decision was based on logic and years of business experience and wanting to be as respectful to all involved including myself.
My board approved that decision Wednesday night and a little after midnight I shot out an email to 100 community partners, supporters and interested parties and the reactions? Well, they have gutted me. The first replies were coming in as early as 5:45am, not even 6 hours after letting the world know that after 16 years of serving the most vulnerable among us that we were done.
Long story short, the local media including the state’s largest paper tracked me down at home and to say it was a madhouse would be an understatement. The paper came out to meet with me as you can see in this article and they even made a video.
I have worked with low income folks across several states for the past 16 years, there have been times when for my own well-being that I have to close myself but after watching the video that the paper made and seeing the reactions as we told families that we would be shutting our doors, I was damn near catatonic for a few hours.
I am better now, struggling but better. Yet I am face to face with the reality that certain realities are so uncomfortable for so many of us that we simply avoid them, but the price of willful ignorance is to destroy the soul of others.
As a so-called mom blogger, I find most discussions on parenting and anything child related to be grating at times. We love our kids; we love kids that have direct connections to us but those other kids? Well, that is so sad. We will cross the seas to help “needy” kids in third world countries but we will ignore that kid at our kid’s school who appears dirty, unkempt and malnourished. That child’s poverty scares us because if we hold the mirror to our faces, the reality is we know in these unsteady economic times that kid could one day be our kid. So we do the next best thing, we ignore it, and we hope it will go away. Or as I have been told so many times in the past 72 hours, maybe someone will be able to help out.
Prior to moving to Maine, poverty to me always had a brown or black face with the occasional white face but overall poverty was not an affliction of white people. Maine changed that for me… I saw America’s dirty secret and it was not pretty. However it took working with kids, mostly poor white kids for me to say, this is not acceptable.
Looking at the loss of my position and income is rough but not nearly as rough as thinking of the 600 humans who received services from my agency last year alone. Knowing that this summer, kids won’t have access to free hot lunch in a town where over 50% of school aged kids receive free and reduced school lunch is rougher than anything I will endure once my job ends on June 30th.
After being that person who also wanted to see the best in humans, after looking at child who loves her safe space and telling her we have to close because of something as silly as money? I have lost some of my faith in my fellow humans which as someone who has spent the past 15 years just trying to make a difference is rough. I feel as if I have lost my innocence at 40 years of age. Silly me…who was I to think that I could make a difference? For a season I did make a difference but for now I am simply the killer of Joyful.
Like many people, I have a complicated relationship with food. Our relationship for the past decade has been especially tenuous as I have worked hard to unlearn a lifetime of bad eating habits and adjust to the metabolism that I really have and not the one I wish I had. As a result, I buy very little of my food at the grocery store instead opting to buy as much as possible at the local farmers market and direct from local farmers. As much as I would prefer to nosh on unlimited bags of Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar Chips and follow it up with swigs of ice cold RC, I know that such eating habits simply don’t work for me. However I am still a work in progress when it comes to food. Of course having an extremely picky eater keeps me humble when it comes to food since her list of what she won’t eat is three times longer than what she will eat. Whenever there is a food that she likes to eat, and will really eat it, I pretty much go with the flow. I just keep reminding myself that my 21yo vegetarian son used to be the king of ham and chicken wings before he adjusted his views on food several years ago.
In addition to having my own issues with food, I am one of those rare people who literally sees food insecurity daily in my professional life. Currently at the agency I run, 95% of the kids registered in our programs come from food insecure households and on any given day upwards of 20% of the kids that drop into our programs, will not be going home to eat dinner because there is no dinner available to eat.
I started my social services career over 15 years ago in a program that offered meals to women in need and as hard as it was to see adults without food, I struggle deeply seeing so many kids going without. Kids in our center talk as casually about eating at the local soup kitchen with their families as middle class kids speak about the newest apps on their iPads.
Maybe it’s because of my professional background that my interest was piqued when I saw the hashtag #endchildHunger and #ConAgra a few days ago on Twitter. From what I gather there was a conference and attendees were asked to spread awareness about the issue of child hunger and apparently ConAgra would be donating resources to end child hunger. In theory this sounds great and many well-meaning folks were doing their part to spread the word…after all no one wants to think of hungry kids.
The problem is that ConAgra is not exactly going to end childhood hunger and if in this current US economy the idea of childhood hunger is not something you have heard about it, it’s because your head has been in the sand. Food stamp use has been up and while the economy is slowly turning around, for the millions of folks that were already close to the bottom of the economic ladder this supposed growth is about as real as unicorns.
ConAgra partners with Feeding America which is the largest hunger relief charity in the US and they do awesome work. They have a lot of great programs; some that I have worked with directly through my work and they make a huge difference in the lives of a lot of kids. They are also a supplier to a fair number of food banks in the US.
So what is the problem you may ask? ConAgra is helping out Feeding America and Feeding America is helping feed folks including kids, so how are they not ending child hunger? See, this is where it gets tricky. In most communities no matter how small they are in the US, there is a local food pantry. A place where people can get a bag or two of food if they have nothing to eat. In theory, the food pantry in your community should be able to get food from the food bank in your area but in many cases that is not the case. Ever notice how food pantries often have food drives? See, the reason they are asking people to donate food is because they can’t afford to buy the food from the food bank. Here in Maine, the food bank is Good Shepherd and if you run a food pantry, if you want to get food from that food bank that is getting support indirectly through ConAgra you have to pay. No money means no food for the hungry people in your town including those hungry kids that Con Agra is using social media to say they will be supporting.
Now I knew from my 1st job back in Chicago a lifetime ago that feeding programs that used the food banks had to pay. Actually part of my job at that agency was overseeing our meal program so I knew there was a cost. However at that time I worked at an agency in Chicago, which is only the 3rd largest city in the US at an agency that had a million dollar plus budget. So for us buying the food was a no brainer and affordable.
I didn’t learn until almost 5 years ago when I took over as the head of a small agency in a rural state that the economics of using the food bank means being poor and hungry in rural America sucks balls. In the county I work in, many agencies use a food rescue service (yep, its exactly what it sounds like) rather than the state’s lone food bank because they cannot afford to pay the food bank for food to give to people who cannot afford to buy groceries at the grocery store. In many small towns and villages in the US, the local food pantry is a volunteer run affair often operating in donated space with donated food and a shit load of good will.
When I learned a few years ago just how skewed social services are in rural states, it was a wake-up call for me. It meant unlearning much of what I understood about poverty and reframing it in a rural framework. In this case, if ConAgra were making direct donations and contributions to small pantry operators across the nation rather than the food bank network that exists through Feeding America, I would say hell yeah they are ending child hunger. The truth is they are nothing more than a band aid solution to ending child hunger on a wide scale in a social services system that favors larger agencies over smaller ones despite the fact that in many communities it’s the small agencies working tirelessly to meet needs in locations that sometimes are untouched by the larger agencies.
Am I saying ConAgra is evil? Not really, though I prefer to buy my food directly from folks who if there are problems with my food, I know where they live. I will say though that campaigns such End ChildhoodHunger are not being as honest as they can be and that is what bothers me. Because the sad reality is even in the helping word much like the corporate world, the large folks are the winners. How many resources were spent on a campaign to increase awareness when those same resources could have actually fed folks?
We get our milk from these cows weekly and eventually Bessie becomes my burger.
PS: If you want to make a difference, donate directly to the food pantries in your community. Call them and ask them what they need, and if you have the means donate often. Real change only requires real people making a difference.
I used to joke that my parents were the original Black hippies. Today marks nine years since my mother decided this rock we call Earth was just too small to contain her. The morning after she decided to depart this space, I had to fly home to Chicago to make arrangements with my Papa and on the way to the airport I found myself playing Lynard Skynard and for some reason this song spoke to me…in many ways my mother was the ultimate free spirit and free bird. She lived life on her terms and if it couldn’t be her way, she wasn’t having it. Many tears have been shed since she left us and many laughs. I still get melancholy when I think of her but it’s not sadness just an acknowledgment that we will all leave this space, no matter how we try not to think of it. Life is time limited, live, enjoy it and maximize it.
If you have been reading this thought dump of mine better known as a blog for any length of time, you know that in many ways the past several years have been about me finding myself and making peace with the world as it is. Fighting life and fighting reality is hard, or at least it is for me. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to adjust my lens rather than to expect that I can change others. I can’t change others, hell, I barely can change myself.
One of my constant struggles has been around the growing sense of isolation that I have living in Maine. I am a weird hybrid, I am both an introvert and an extrovert, and I straddle the line well. Too much time alone with my thoughts is a bad thing because once I go inside; I go too deep and can get sucked into the swirling vortex of my thoughts where my ego becomes the queen. It’s really a messy place. I need time with people on a fairly regular basis but too much time with others is also messy as I find myself absorbing too much of other people’s energy and if that energy is off in anyway, to be honest it fucks me up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect anyone to be upbeat all the time; I just need to be mindful of what’s around me.
That said, when you live in a place where the number of people you can actually call up and suggest getting together with wouldn’t even fill up one hand, you know you have a problem. Hell, I am sure the people I know are tired of me asking do they want to get together. I know my needs and I know other people have their needs and when they don’t match up, change is needed.
However at a certain age going out and initiating new friendships is about as appealing as a root canal. To start with, new friendships involve opening up and being vulnerable and while I am really digging Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability, application is still harder than theory.
The past few weeks have been scary but also exhilarating as I have found myself taking baby steps to connect with people I have only known as acquaintances. The end result has been glimmers of hope that maybe I can make a home here and eventually build a tribe of my own as I am convinced the older I become I need a tribe, a village, a crew…people I can count on in good times and bad.
Last night though was a big step for me in breaking out of my shell; I have been a user of Twitter for the past 3-4 years. In that time I have met a handful of locals from Twitter but I have never been bold enough to venture to a monthly tweet up. Tweet-ups for those not in the know are gatherings for folks who have met on Twitter. Here in Southern Maine, we have a thriving Twitter community though most twitter users tend to live in the big city and not out in the sticks like me. For months now I have toyed with the idea of going to a tweet-up but never actually taken the step. I won’t go into the reasons why I had never gone but the real reason was fear, fear of feeling uncomfortable, after all what if all these seemingly decent folks turned out to be creepy or what if they thought I was creepy? What the hell would I say?
I am happy to say that last night after much back and forth I actually left the house and headed into the city for the tweet-up and had a blast. Thankfully there were faces there that I already knew and I had a chance to meet quite a few people I didn’t know. I made it back home a little after 10pm which is late on a school night especially after a few Cosmos and while I did wake up a bit tired this morning, it was a good tired. I think there is already talk of a few of us ladies of twitter going out dancing…yikes; I haven’t done that since Chicago.
It’s easy to talk about making changes in our lives but for some reason, actually making them is harder…so very hard. I suspect creating the life I want will take some time and I will even have setbacks (was momentarily bummed that an acquaintance I wanted to hang out with didn’t return my text, but that’s life) but one of the lessons I am learning in my journey called living is that sometimes getting the life we want means baby stepping towards that change. The village won’t just knock on my door, so I am going out and creating my village, one person at a time.
When I was a younger woman, I had all sorts of notions about love. The funny thing about preconceived ideas is that life has a funny way of making mincemeat of all our lofty thoughts on such matters. Today is Valentine’s Day; a day that in modern time is about showing our love for that special person. Or a day which in our culture can sometimes be summed up simply, if you love someone you must spend money and if your gifts are proved to be lacking there may not be much more love in your future. Of course, the messages are even worse if one does not have that special person in their life. After all, who will send you a dozen of roses? Or treat you to a fancy dinner and shower you with oodles of gifts and curl your toes with hot steamy sex? Let’s be honest, Valentine’s Day is filled with heavy expectations and when they aren’t met, it’s a ride on the emotional roller coaster.
Having run off at 18 to get married and having remarried again at 24, I have to say that Valentine’s Day has never been that big of a deal for me since I have pretty much been partnered for most of my adult Valentine’s Days. The funny thing is one of my earliest dates with the current Man Unit of 17 years was on Valentine’s Day. I must say he did it up right with all the bells and whistles but the truth is even if he hadn’t, the odds are that he probably would still be my wing-man.
Over the years as we have seen our fortunes rise and fall, the importance of Valentine’s Day has lessened for me. Love is shown continuously in how we choose to live and how we treat our partners and ourselves. In the early years of my relationship with the Man Unit, I didn’t love myself enough so the Man Unit’s love was strong enough to sustain us for the love I didn’t know how to give myself. It’s why I had to focus on the exterior things that he was able to give me and why when those things didn’t meet my notions of what love should be, I was crushed.
In choosing to share my life with another, it’s interesting to watch how love changes over the years. Years ago, I needed that big bag from Vicky’s Secrets and a spa visit to feel loved. Now I need very little because knowing that I have a person who allows me the freedom to roam and find myself, always trusting that I will come back to home base is far more valuable than that pink bag ever was. Waking up each day to the smell of coffee massaging my nose from the first floor is the ultimate in love because the Man Unit hates mornings and gets up early to accommodate me. Love was shown when he walked away from the lure of six figures and an upward career trajectory to be here for me and my son in Maine. Love is the times, he put his needs last to put mine first and I learned love when I put my needs last to put his first. Love is a dance of constant give and take where each partner takes the lead as needed. Love is the times when you go broke together literally but can stay up until 4 am making love and still find the joy in life when really from the outside looking in; others might say that you should be crying.
This isn’t quite the post, I had in mind when I sat down, but that’s life, it never goes quite the way we plan. To love another fully and completely, I believe we must love ourselves fiercely and passionately. Loving oneself is to know yourself and to trust in the wisdom that you hold and not allow others to define you. So on this Valentine’s Day, no matter what your relationship status, show love to yourself first and foremost and if there is a special person/s in your love, be willing to dance the dance of love and don’t worry about the external factors. Flowers are lovely and trust me I love em, but they die and eating out tonight is overrated, most restaurants are packed and overpriced.
The past several weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me, yet despite the ride, I have tried to maintain a facade of normalcy in all areas of my life. However, as the youngsters like to say shit got real this morning when I woke up to a slew of text messages and voice mails from my brother. Things are officially no longer normal in my world.
As a blogger who no longer muses in relative anonymity, I grapple often with how much of my private life to share. Yet it became clear today that what I am facing while it is most certainly private, it’s something that many of us will face at some point in life…a sick parent.
On some level deep in my being, ever since my mother’s untimely death, I have often wondered what would happen should my Dad get sick. After all, when my mom was sick she had my dad to take care of her and my brother and I played supporting roles as did other family members. However since my mother’s death, the backup cast members have all met their maker and the only people left to play the roles of primary caretakers are me and my brother. The challenge though is that I am 1100 miles away and my brother is still a young man finding his way in the world. Needless to say it creates a problem.
Right now we are trying to navigate the world of getting an increasingly stubborn and aging man to make the right choices. It’s a fine line, as a child even an adult child, you never want to see your own parents as anything less than autonomous beings capable of making their own choices. Yet in the light bulb moments of this morning, it’s become clear for both me and my brother that there is more than a bit of truth in the saying once a man, twice a child. It’s all part of this marvelous journey we call life. I hope should the day come that I regress back to my own stubborn place of childhood, that my own children will be patient and not give up on me no matter how much resistance I put up.
Please keep the BGIM family in your thoughts and prayers as I suspect we need them all as we journey through this unfamiliar terrain.
Yesterday was a big day here in the United States as we officially welcomed Barack Obama into a second term as commander in chief of this great though fractured nation. It was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day also known as MLK Day. A day where we pay homage to the memory of a great man and over the years we have made it a day on and not a day off by being of service to the less fortunate among us. I have a few thoughts about that…so grab a drink, sit back and relax, while I babble.
My father grew up in the rural south as the son of sharecroppers; I have grown up hearing the tales of what life was like in the cotton patch. My father went to segregated schools, drank from the Blacks only water fountain and was almost a teenager before his folks had indoor plumbing. When you consider that my father is just turning 60, that is absolutely mind-blowing to me. It also means that he was alive and old enough to recall what the living Martin Luther King Jr. was about and while the focus in modern times is on the “I have a Dream” speech and racial equality, the truth is that was only part of King’s overall vision of justice.
Towards the end of King’s life he started working more and more for economic justice, King’s last book was Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community and one of the major ideas he espoused was the idea that everyone should have what they need to live. Think on that for a moment. In fact at the time of his assassination, King was working to organize the Poor People’s Campaign. I won’t bore you with the details, but needless to say, I think there is a reason that King’s legacy has been boiled down to service to others and racial equality. Make no mistake, these things are very important but without recognizing how insidious economic inequality is and working to level the economic playing field, injustice still exists on a mass scale. Sure, we now have a Black president but Black unemployment rates are astronomical. We have allowed a few people of difference access to the gains that allow us to feel good and pat ourselves on the back and think “gee, the world is better” but is it really? I am not so sure that it is.
An uneven economic playing field means that some of us will have all the tools we need to live fully rounded and fulfilled lives whereas the rest of us are limited in reaching our potential. For some of us the struggle just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table will consume all our waking hours, for others the despair that comes from crushing debt will keep us from actualizing our dreams and hopes as we are tethered to jobs we don’t like because we see no other way out. Though we will pacify ourselves with the thought that it could be worse, after all we do have a house, food, etc. Never mind that the cost to our souls and psyches is staggering.
Oddly enough it was the realization this morning that all forms of self-improvement are out of reach for many and that for so many in this country, they can only dream of a better life with no hope of making it a reality. We have told so many that a college education is the key to a better life, that schools using free market principles are out of reach or create crushing debt so that this so-called better life isn’t a dream but a nightmare.
In the past several years as I have embarked on my own personal campaign to create a better me, I have been stunned at how much the tools cost to create that better life can be. A much needed retreat equals hundreds of dollars. Conferences that might allow me the networking opportunities I need to grow my writing into something more, also hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Sure, I am not starving and these things are not true necessities and while I am more than aware of that fact and thankful for all that I have especially when my daily work reminds me that so many have it much worse, it doesn’t take away from the fact that an uneven playing field is limiting to all of us.
Granted, we are in so deep in this culture that realistically I don’t know if true economic justice is even possible. However on the eve of my birthday, one of the few constants in my being is that I believe change and dreams are necessary. I want to believe that a world can exist where people are capable of more than just living but thriving and reaching their full potential. Where access for those who want more is not limited by their lack of financial resources, crazy? I admit though that closer to home; I am heartened by groups such as Justice in the Body in Portland, Maine where their mission is “Justice in the Body is a socially responsible education, training and movement center devoted to integrating well-being, love, justice and liberation with individuals, groups and social movements.” They do this by offering yoga and related classes all for $5. As anyone who has ever attempted to practice yoga knows, class costs are often a barrier for many, so even seemingly baby steps within a community such as $5 classes have the ability to plant the seeds for change. This is the type of change I would like to see on a larger scale, more access with the so-called small things might lead us to larger systemic changes.
PS: It seems today marks 5 years of blogging; my first blog post was on January 22, 2008. This blog might be my 3rd longest relationship ever excluding my family of origin. Yikes!
“ Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. ”- Galatians 6:9-10
The past couple of days have been an emotional whirlwind, just the kind you don’t want when you are already treading emotional waters. Yet last night I was reminded of why it is so important at least for me to stay mindful and intentional in all that I do, though I came so close to temporarily leaving that state of mindfulness and entering the land of pure ego. It was an ugly and emotional place to be, wanting to lash out for hurts but instead falling back on the words that have sustained me for so many years from the book of Galatians in the bible. I recognize that while many of my readers may not share my faith tradition, I believe that there is value in doing good for all humans.
I am an imperfect person living in an imperfect world which is often a recipe for chaos, especially when one starts to throw the personal pity parties that frankly feel so damn good, but rarely serve us well. In fact yesterday I was just writing out the invitations for my private pity party; it was going to be a blow out. I mean shit, how much crap does a girl have to deal with to catch a break?
Instead I held off on passing out the invites to my friends, pain, jealousy, greed, anger and petty and by the end of the day, that old saying things move in mysterious ways became more than just a saying that makes you want to smack the person saying it. It actually happened. Help came from a place I least expected it to come from and the upside is I will be home in Chicago next week and able to see my dad. To say I am overjoyed is an understatement especially since my plans for getting home weren’t going well at all, as I once again struggle to accept reality and my own limitations.
So at least for a couple of days BGIM will be one of the many BGIC. Sometimes letting go and striving to do good is the better choice.
Very few people realize that I am a preacher’s kid otherwise known as a PK. Jokes and stereotypes abound about PK’s and there probably is a bit of truth in them. The funny thing is my Dad spent most of my childhood spiritually searching, but never really straying far from his Southern Baptist roots. Often in his searching’s (yeah, I know, strange word, my blog, my language), I got to ride shotgun since my mother as the daughter of a lifetime agnostic wanted nothing to do with church. So even when I thought religion and spirituality played no role in my life, the reality is they did as evidenced by the fact that at 18 I ran off and got married.
People over the years have asked me why I got married at 18. Hell, even my own parents wanted to know the answer to that question and for the longest time, I had no answer that I could put into words.
The truth is at 18, I confused lust for love and despite the fact that at that time I didn’t see myself as “religious” I was raised to believe only “bad” girls could enjoy sex so rather than enjoy sex, I ran off and got married. Let me tell you, getting your toes curled is not a reason to get married…at all.
The reason that I am sharing this tale is that for the past several days while recovering from a nasty bug during my annual vacation (staycation) I heard about this upcoming show. The basic premise of “All My Babies’s Mamas” is you have a rapper, Shawty Lo (never heard of him) and he apparently lives with his 10 Baby Mamas and 11 kids all under the same roof. Let me translate that for you, you have a man who procreated with ten different women, he hasn’t married any of these gals and he has 11 kids. I can’t say that I will ever watch this show since I rarely watch TV but I will say that already people are talking.
Christelyn Karazin, author of Swirling, as well as a fellow blogger wrote a post about this show and well, folks were none too happy. Christelyn is the mastermind behind the No Wedding, No Womb campaign, a campaign to increase marriage rates in the Black community. While I respect the hell out of Christelyn’s drive and passion, as she knows, we don’t always see eye to eye on issues. Her most recent post is no exception.
Look, I am not saying a guy having 10 women and 11 kids is a great idea since I am not too sure there are many men that can handle the financial, emotional and mental responsibilities of all those humans. Even in the FLDS communities where polygamy is part of their religion, it is not unheard of for women to turn to using government entitlement programs because frankly most men in 2012 cannot afford to support that many humans no matter what the now defunct TV show Big Love would have us to believe.
However it troubles me when a woman is called a slut or referred to as not decent because she chooses to partner with a man who has other children or frankly other women. In a world that has increasingly decided to embrace different lifestyles, who is the judge of what is decent? Too many times the slut label is applied to any woman who chooses to live outside of the socially acceptable standard of get a man, get married and then get a baby. Yet in a world where half of all marriages fail, I wonder why are we still clinging to this old standard of what is acceptable? More importantly why does it bother us so much? Why is there is not an equally as offensive equivalent to baby mama’s when referring to men? Baby Mama is definitely used as a slur in most cases yet Baby Daddy simply doesn’t hold the same weight. More importantly as women and Black women, why the need to dehumanize our fellow beings with language such as brood mare? In many ways when we look down on one another, we are simply part of the problem and not the solution.
For middle and upper middle class African Americans we tend to expend a great deal of energy on how we will be perceived by the larger world yet at a certain point aren’t we entitled to simply be humans free to make our own choices? Let’s carry our own individual burdens and not the weight of the whole damn Black community on our backs.
As for me, if Shawty Lo and his ladies like it, I love it. I am not about to run out and become anyone’s baby’s mama but you can send a man my way, we might accept him into the family as a brother husband especially if he likes to shovel snow and fix things. I am pretty certain I can get the Man Unit to agree to that…or maybe not.