the #30andThriving? series: baby mama drama
i am a black woman who is a mother and single (never married). in more commonly-used terminology, i’m somebody’s “baby mama.” i have a mama’s baby. i am a mama’s baby. i am a mother. my child is eight years old, and honestly, i still have days where i look at her and think “i (with lots and lots of help) have kept a whole human alive for over eight years???”
it’s honestly unbelievable at times. she was born a couple of months before my 22nd birthday. i like to say that we have grown up together, because, at 21, i definitely still had a lot of growing up to do (and at 30, still have a bit of a ways to go). i have been thinking a lot about motherhood lately, especially about how i communicate with and discipline my daughter. but before i get into that, here is a quick snippet of my journey.
motherhood has been a rollercoaster of the most dramatic, terrifying, and exhilarating kind. in graduate school, i was “accused” of being an “overachiever who thinks she’s superwoman.” i thought it was ridiculous, because why are you worried about what i’m doing anyway? #StayInYourLane B U T, as much as i hate (and i do mean HATE) to admit it, that person was right. it sounds absolutely ridiculous, but i went to graduate school with the expectation that motherhood was equivalent to another extracurricular activity…
ugh. i am totally judging myself. but not too harshly, because i just didn’t realize how all-encompassing motherhood is. it’s not just securing and transporting to and from child-care, providing food, clothing, and shelter, and making regular FaceTime dates with grandparents. it’s the beat your heart skips when the school calls and you hurriedly answer, praying that something didn’t happen to your child. it’s scrambling to find someone to watch your child when school is out but you still need to go to work. it’s speed-walking through Walmart while your child wails at the top of her lungs because you just need a couple of things and you won’t have any other available time to do it that week.
motherhood is like three full-time jobs in addition to your 9-5. and that’s just with one kid. add in being a student, living independently for the first time, and the unrealistic expectations of perfectionism, and you get a grad school drop-out. well, more accurately, flunk-out. either way, i was outta there like:
for a long time, i refused to give myself any credit for anything i accomplished during that time period, because i felt like my failure negated anything good about those 2.5 years. which is also ridiculous. my biggest perceived failure, though, was my inability to live on my own and support myself and my daughter. i felt like it was a rite of passage, being a struggling single mother. i was ashamed of having to move back home and rely on my parents for emotional and financial support, instead of being grateful and thankful that they were able (and willing!) to provide that support for me.
so, where are you now, Lauren? almost five years later, how have your views on motherhood changed? great question. here are the answers:
my need to be I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T (do you know what that means?) has been drastically reduced. my daughter and i moved in with my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and neph-pooch just over a month ago, and we three adults are co-parenting the two kids and the dog. my sister is a miracle worker when it comes to my tween’s temper tantrums, while i have become a master of putting my 3-month-old nephew to sleep without his mother’s boob in his mouth. talk about a win-win. but also, the emotional and financial support is mutual, and that is invaluable to me (and probably [hopefully] to them, as well).
YOU AIGHT, I GUESS
i try to be positive when i talk to myself about myself as a mother. you know, less “you’ are THE absolute worst!” and more “hey, you ain’t too shabby, kid.” these mental pep talks have become more vital than ever as (1) G has entered tweendom with a vengeance, which means that i am already getting back every single ounce of attitude that i gave my mother and then some; and (2) our family is dedicated to raising our children without physical discipline.
that’s right. we are black parents with a no-spanking policy. and while there are times when G pushes my buttons in just the right (wrong) way, the hardest thing about this is that i am reconditioning myself to parent differently than how i was raised.
now, i was not a child who got her butt tore up on the regular. i hated spankings, so i did what i was supposed to do in order to avoid a belt to the behind...most of the time, that is. regardless of the low frequency of my own spankings, i adopted it as an acceptable form of discipline for my own child. i didn’t lay a hand on her until after she turned one or so, and even then, i gave nothing but “love taps,” moreso to get her attention rather than to hurt her. as she grew older, i became more and more conflicted about spankings. i couldn’t reconcile the fact that i was, with my actions, showing G that i was “allowed” to hit her when i didn’t like what she was doing, but she wasn’t “allowed” to hit me or anyone else if she didn’t like what i or they were doing. as young as three years old, she seemed to spot that faulty logic. therefore, i moved towards pinching instead.
it wasn’t until G was six or seven that i made an intentional decision to stop all physical discipline, opting instead for taking away electronics privileges. thus, instead of “i’m going to beat your tail if you don’t stop XYZ…” it went “you better cut it out, or no TV or iPad for the rest of the week!” eh. it was ok, but still not quite effective. i didn’t know how to calm a temper tantrum without storming out of the room or throwing one myself. and what did i do if her undesired behavior was undeterred by threats of no-screen time?
enter my sister and a Facebook group.
earlier this year, my sister invited me to join Conscious Parenting for Black Parents, a group from the page Conscious Parenting Time. full disclaimer: sis is an aspiring all-natural-everything girl who does legit research on her child’s developmental stages. i, on the other other hand, am a slave to convenience and have pretty much been winging it since i found out i was pregnant. safe to say, we have different styles. one thing we agree on, though, is that we want to deviate slightly from our parents’ parenting style. and our parents are INCREDIBLE. we’re not knocking anything about how we were raised. we just want to do something different.
doing “something different” is more than just not using physical violence towards our children. it is recognizing that they are human beings, albeit young ones. not aliens from another planet. not subordinates to be ordered around. human. beings. and they deserve all of the respect that we expect them to give us and others.
so we don’t call my daughter “grown” for questioning us. we don’t ignore her skepticism. we do acknowledge the validity of her opinions. we do praise her curiosity. we also do get frustrated when her questions, skepticism, opinions, and curiosity impede the progress of our morning or evening routines. we do have to bite our lips to keep from screaming when she screams or raging when she rages. we do have to tag team when one of us is pushed past our limit (and that one is usually me, full disclosure).
but we’re committed to this. because our children deserve to be taught about natural consequences and to learn about healthy coping mechanisms and to know that asking questions and showing emotions are not signs of disrespect. it isn’t easy, but i’m hoping, i’m praying, i’m begging that this tremendous effort will pay off as our children grow older. only time will tell.
until next time (:
❤️ lauren dee