Archive for the ‘african american mothers’ Category

Mother’s Day Blues

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

For many mothers Mother’s Days is tinged with tragedy or sadness. A child’s death or teen suicide, having a child who is a deployed soldier fighting overseas, or one struggling with an illness in the hospital, or one incarcerated can make Mother’s Day a difficult day to get through.

Likewise, not every daughter (or son) looks forward to Mother’s Day. If your relationship with your mother is complicated, or you’re estranged from her, or if she’s no longer with you because of death or she no longer even knows your name because she has Alzheimer, waking up to a day called “Mother’s Day” can be painful.

Such reality was driven home to me recently on a listserv I belong to where one of the members on the list wrote honestly about not looking forward to church this Sunday. As you can see, her complaint was not about Mother’s Day only. It’s about the way the black church celebrates mothers and motherhood on that day.

Others on the listserv weighed in prompting me to ask permission to post for Something Within readers the provocative conversation about motherhood, Mother’s Day, and the church’s clumsy way of talking about motherhood that ensued.

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With Mom gone 7 years, mothers day is a mixed bag for me. I’ve got some incredibly wonderful memories of the day but find that since Mom has died, i often avoid church (black or otherwise) on Mothers Day now. I thought i’d send a shout out to you all to see what you think of the ways black churches celebrate Mothers Day.

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mother daughterLike many of the people weighing in, I’ve gotten to where I wince during Mother’s Day. My own mother died just before Mother’s Day weekend, 2002. I preached her funeral the Saturday before Mother’s Day. And she was my greatest theological inspiration and most quoted person. When I had to preach Mother’s Day in youth church 3 years later, I started the sermon out with “I don’t like Mother’s Day celebrations.” I talk about the joy and pain of being a mother, the joy and pain of being a daughter, the fact that not everyone in the room had “warm, fuzzies” about their moms, some didn’t know their moms, some moms were strung out, etc. The altar filled up with young people wanting to pour out their pain around “mother loss” and “mother grief” and “mother struggles.” It lasted longer than the sermon as they prayed, cried, repented, went to find their moms and beg forgiveness, accepted the notion that God had provided many mothers and aunts and cousins and sisters and friends to help shepherd them into womanhood and manhood. Upstairs, of course, the service was sugary sweet about mothers.

I don’t know what that says, but there it is. I will be with a friend on a beach of Mother’s Day. I don’t expect to hear from my younger son and grandchild because he doesn’t celebrate anything anymore. I will hear from my older son. I will feel loss and joy.

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I think also for me such celebrations tend to be insensitive to women
who have lost mothers, lost children, or who are not biological
mothers. And this is just symbolic of how they are looked upon beyond
the mother’s day celebration. Also while we emphasize that every
father is not a dad or vice versa, we do not emphasize that mothering
is about more than giving birth, more than being an incubator. Maybe
I’ve become too cynical. I am planning to become a foster or adoptive
mother soon– it’s a scary thing as I get closer to the reality of my
promise. Maybe mother’s day celebrations should intentionally
celebrate acts of mothering in the village and should be a platform
for extending our mothering impact on the global village.

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My mother has been dead for over twenty-five years, but I can’t say that’s the reason church Mother’s Day celebrations don’t get under my skin the way others describe. I have fond memories of my mother for sure, but not a lot. But I’ve learned not to resent other women’s Hallmark Card rhapsodies about their moms nor gag when the church goes off on one of its paeans to motherhood. I went to church on Mother’s Day when I wasn’t someone’s mother and still show up now that I am someone’s mother. I go, in part because I’m a woman who goes to church, but also because church is where lots and lots and lots of black mothers/black women are on Sundays. And as a womanist I relish the presence of black women and believe that despite my mother’s flaws there’s something healing and comforting about losing myself on Mother’s Day in a sea of black mothers asking God’s help to mother from a place of healing.

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What do you think Something Within readers? What do you think about “Mother’s Day”?

Let’s be honest:  “Mother’s Day” has strayed from is original anti-war movement origins. Today’s celebration has nothing to do with appealing to the justice loving nature of women in general and mothers in particular. Maybe it should. Perhaps we need to go back to the roots of the celebration.

What do you think? What does “Mother Day” mean to you? How is the day celebrated at the churches you attend?

Why Should Black Women Marry?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I don’t ask this question lightly. I’ve been asking myself the question for the past two days here at this historic conference on marriage and families. How does marriage benefit black women? I see why and how marriage benefits children (of course I mean here a “healthy marriage”). I even get what men get out of marriage. But what’s in it for women? Especially educated, upwardly women who don’t have to worry about being hurled into abject poverty if their husbands leave them.

Let me back up:

I’m here at the National Summit on Marriage, Parenting, and Families, a historic gathering that’s being held on the beautiful campus of Hampton University. More than 100 of the most diverse, influential leaders working in the area of marriage and family issues are here to witness the unveiling of the National Summit on Marriage, Parenting and Families which will be headquartered here at Hampton under the black familydirectorship of Dr. Linda Malone Colon (chair of the Summit). The summit is being touted as a groundbreaking public conversation about marriage and families aimed at increasing the national conversation on the declining status of today’s marriages, especially marriages in the black community and the importance of healthy, effective parenting.  I’ve met some really great people while I’ve been here, people working in the trenches to help families in crisis and children who don’t have a strong family safety net.

You can catch Wednesday’s sessions live on the web at www.hamptonu.edu.

It’s a great meeting with lots of provocative dialogue. I’m here because i was invited to participate on the religion panel where the discussion centered on questions like “What does God say about marriage and family” and “What can communities of faith do to transform marriages, empower parents and strengthen families in our country.” Except for knucklehead here and there who their own agenda and didn’t want anything to do with dialogue, it was a good panel.

Yeah, yeah: I’ve noticed that not a peep has been said at these proceedings about same-sex marriage. One look at the major sponsors for the conference tells me why. I get it.

There’s no denying the research that says that children raised in homes headed by their biological parents who are wedded are more likely to succeed than those who grow up in households where the parents never married or divorced early on.

Here are a few things I’m taking away from this conference:

  1. Marriage is a vanishing institution in the black community.
  2. Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase the chances of poverty for both children and mothers.
  3. Children raised in single parent households are more to have problems in school, to get involved in drugs, to enter the juvenile system, and to live without medical insurance. Not only are our children at risk, but adult single men are more likely to engage in risk behavior than men who are married (e..g, take drugs, drink too much alcohol, unprotected sex with multiple partners, reckless driving).
  4. When it comes to attitudes about marriage, one of the biggest difference sbetween those under 35 and those over 35 is that younger people think you should postpone marriage until your career or finances are stable enough to bring a spouse into the equation. Their parents grew up thinking that it’s easier to build and accumulate wealth in marriage than it is as a single and that marriage gives one the stability and inner fortitude needed to endure the vicissitudes that come with building a career.
  5. Children want their parents to stay together –even if for their sake.
  6. Men who are religious tend to make better father and husbands than those whowant nothing to do with religion.
  7. Young black people use finances, career, and emotional readiness a lot as excuses for postponing marriage. but they don’t seem equally vigilant about postponing having babies out of wedlock, cohabitating, and entering into joint economic ventures with lovers (things normally associated with marriage).
  8. It is important for the church to affirm the ideal of married couples rearing their children, while at the same time affirming the possibilities for self-actualization and purposeful, emotional healthy live for those not married.

I get all of this, but again I ask: what do black women get out of all this? How do black women benefit from marriage when you consider the high ratio of women to men (and men’s likelihood of cheating on their wives) and when you consider that many times women are better educated and better employed than their men?

Happy Mother’s Day

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Grandmama's Hair

Disapprearing Dads

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

You’re right. Here on the week leading up to Mother’s Day the spotlight should be on mothers, not fathers. But permit me to return to something I stumbled over in the last blogpost which bears some more thinking about out loud. (After all, I’m at that age when I gotta say what’s on my mind when it’s on my mind because it’s likely to evaporate in thin air, never to return anytime soon.)

Warning: I’m still turning this one over in my head. It’s still at the hunch stage.

“This is your curfew. Don’t make me have to come looking for you,” my husband said to the-teenager-who-lives-in-my-house. To her date he turned and said and without blinking: “Get my daughter back here on time, and bring her back the way she left.” Which is cave man, I believe, for “She belongs to me, not you; and don’t you forget it.”

I’ll stick my neck out and even go so far as to say that fathers are essential.

It was probably right then and there, in that encounter at the door on Prom night between father-of-the-girl and boy-who’d-come-to-take-the-girl-out-for-a-magical-night, that I got it. Fathers are not nonessential personnel. Now it’s not like I didn’t know this already. Right? Intellectually, anyway.  But I really got it that night. I got it because I saw the look in the young man’s eyes. He’s never looked at me that way as the mother of the girl he likes.  Something primal, primeval, and primordial (something as female I don’t get and can’t replicate) was exchanged between two males.

No offense or disrespect to those of you without fathers or those without fathers you’d wanna own in public.  No offense or disrespect to those of you raising children without  financial, emotional, or physical support from the father(s) of your children. No offense or disrespect to my readers who are in same sex relationships and are raising children together.

My point remains: fathers are essential.  Not just in the lives of daughters. For sure. But especially in the lives of their daughters. And we don’t need research to tell us this. We see the consequences of father-absence everywhere in our communities. It should be obvious that fathers are important to the psychological health and development of children. So I don’t expect here on the blog to have to debate this point. (Although I suspect that I probably will.)

disappearing fathersBut here’s the point of this blogpost. No where is a father’s absence in his daughter’s life more telling and more perilous than when it comes time for her to start dating boys.  Sure, there are life lessons about what to look for and expect from males that are best passed down from a father to a daughter. But there’s more.  A boy may respect a girl’s mother, but it takes her father to strike fear in his heart. For certain, it’s not fear enough to quiet his hormones and keep him from testing how far he can go.  But it is a kind of fear that only men seem to be able to instill in other men. Call it cave man law. “She belongs to me, not you; and don’t you forget it.” It’s about possession. Power. Ownership. Which translates into male honor. Sure. Sure. Love is in there somewhere. A father’s love for his daughter. The boy’s love (aka lust) for the man’s daughter. But possession and control seem to matter more to the male species. At least from what I can see and from where I sit on the porch.

Remember: I’m just thinking out loud here.

So, here’s what dawned on me this morning.

We live in an era where the vast number of our daughters are being raised in female headed households where there’s no father (and no other male guardian around) to come to the door when young bucks come knocking. And many of those who come knocking are themselves unfathered males who’ve never seen fatherhood in action. Which means that they are clueless about what fathers are supposed to do. Which means that when they do meet girls with active fathers who glare in their direction they are likely to ask,”Why yo’ daddy sweatin’ me?” “Why yo’ daddy trippin’?” “Who yo’ old man think he is?” “You better tell that n_ _ _ _ _ what the deal is.” My father and my high school boyfriend never had much to say to each other when the latter came to pick me up. But, then again, they didn’t have to. “Hello.” Hello.” You doing alright?” “Yes sir.” “Bye. “Bye.”

What this means is that generations of boys and young men are coming up who know nothing about what it means to have to go through another man to get to that’s man’s daughter. No fear of having to answer to a father (or father figure) for the wrong done to a daughter. Not to mention the girls and women who have never known a father’s protection. Perhaps all of this means nothing.  Perhaps I’m guilty here of one of the things I criticize a lot on the blog:  romanticizing patriarchy,  reinscribing traditional (patriarchal based) family dynamics.  Perhaps I should have stuck with quilting this morning instead of trying my mind and hand at blogging.