No one raises a man alone; it takes a village. We need to make sure we include positive men in our villages, too.
I was raised in a single mother household. For the first few years of my life, it was just my mother and me. When I was nine years old, my mother decided to have another child; three years later, one more. No, my mother didn’t teach me how to ride a bike or fix a flat tire, my uncle did. She didn’t teach me how to dress and tie my ties for formal settings, my middle school teacher/mentor did. However, when I think back on the things my mother has taught me, I couldn’t even fit them in a 900-word article. The list of the things she has instilled in me lieu of not having a male figure in the household is endless.
This is why I found singer-actress Jill Scott’s comments interesting in this month’s EBONY Magazine featuring her and handsome son, Jett Hamilton Roberts. The issue highlights her triumphs and pitfalls of motherhood. True to sensationalism, her teaser was tagged as “Jill Scott on being a single mom, taking on Hollywood and loving her life.” In the May 2013 issue, her quotes went viral before the magazine even dropped. She was quoted, “It’s challenging being a single mom … No matter what I do, I’ll never be a man. Ever. I can show Jett how to be a thinker, how to enjoy music or how to feel, and to conquer. But I cannot show him how to be a man.”
Parenthood isn’t easy for anyone, but apparently it’s harder for a black woman. Statistics show that if you’re a black woman, and you want to get married, you might have a difficult time. Almost 70 percent of black women are unmarried, and over half of black women’s marriages to black men are said to end in divorce. But what are these statistics when we are dealing with real life? Being married or living in a heteronormative household does not negate the possibility of producing offspring—planned or not—who can be abandoned by one of their parents. There have been many studies attempting to discover the ideal situation where children thrive most. Unfortunately, there aren’t any step-by-step instructions, and batteries aren’t included. No matter if there are two daddies, one mother, two mothers, etc.; there’s no 100 percent-guaranteed formula for a household to produce a happy, healthy child.
Women can raise sons to be good men. I’ll do you one better: women are raising sons to be good men. I look at my mother and as fruit of her labor; I would say she did a pretty damn great job.
I can applaud Jilly from Philly’s honesty about her experience as a single mother raising her son. Even while reflecting on her recent comments, I can only reminisce to the songs she’s written and sung in the past like “The Fact Is (I Need You),” “Come See Me,” and even “How It Make You Feel.” Although these manifestos seem allusive to her comments, I understand Jill Scott’s position that it takes a village to raise a child. She continued, “That I-can-do-it-by-myself mentality is a lie. I’m sorry if I hurt anybody’s feelings, but you cannot do it all by yourself. You need a village: some aunties, grandmoms, friends. I couldn’t do this by myself and would be a fool to think I could.” Although I find her listed village to be a bit problematic because she didn’t mention any men, I agree that parents cannot and should not do it alone. We need to make sure we include positive men in our villages, too.
I think toward the future of how my friends and my children will grow up. Our village definitely will look different from the one I grew up in, but the same influences, factors and influential members will be present. This village will have multi-degreed working professionals, homosexuals, lesbians, interracial couples and many other things I could only read about in my community. Many of the conversations my friends and I have around parenthood celebrate the underlying messages of allowing our children to be themselves and positioning so they can be.
All parents have opportunities and threats they have to overcome. Parents must recognize these obstacles and cultivate strong support systems. We have to ensure that we include people from all walks of life. It is important to stress and invite powerful male and female figures to children’s lives, regardless of gender, sexuality or race.
I never contemplate about the days of not being able to teach my daughter how to be a young woman. Even with my child having two dads (ideally), I don’t think about if my son will grow up knowing what it means to be a good man. These hypotheticals don’t bother me or cross my mind. I’m more concerned about being a great role model for my child and ensuring I have others in place to teach them things I cannot.