This Saturday, we recorded our second-ever Conversation with Single Mothers of Color. Our topic was “The Help”: How to Build Support Systems and Villages as Single Mothers, and I couldn’t have asked for a better panel of guests. Mothers Maya Cano, Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi, and Vik VarWoo discussed their experiences with building a strong network of support for their single-parent families.
Here are a few key discussion points:
When dealing with non-family, trust is a huge issue for single mothers. Who should you trust? How do you develop a trusting relationship–especially if you’ve relocated and know very few people, if anyone at all?
Our moms agreed that trust takes time and should be developed by establishing a friendship with any new person before he or she is allowed to spend time with your children in your absence.
One of the best ways to determine whether or not a new person will prove to be a long-term support asset for you is though observation. How does she discipline her own children? Are your parenting styles similar/compatible? Does he/she spend enough time with his/her own children? Do his/her child seem happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved, and well-tended?
3. Diversity of Influence
Our moms agreed that diversity is key in building the “village” that will help you raise your children. It’s great to have other single mothers in your inner circle. It’s equally wonderful to have trusted married couples in your circles. Certain childless friends can also be influential. And families from other cultural backgrounds are also a great addition. It’s important for children to see the various ways in which families are formed and the different ways in which people live.
We talked about the benefits and drawbacks of online support groups, like Beyond Baby Mamas. I shouted out a few with which I’m aware (and feel free to add more in our comments section): SingleMothers.org, YourSingleParenting.com, MyBrownBaby.com, and TeenMomNYC.com.
Maya Cano also added that her local YMCA was a fantastic resource for meeting new families.
We also can’t stress enough the importance of campus support if you’re a student parent or considering returning to college in the future. We recently devoted two Tumblr posts devoted to this issue, and we intend to dedicate a future CSMC to the topic.
5. Ask for Help
There’s no shame or failure in asking for help. All parents from all backgrounds need help raising their children. On occasion, single parents need more than help than families headed by reliable partners/co-parents. Our panelists expressed their past and present difficulties with asking for help with caretaking and transportation, among other things. This challenge can intensify for single mothers of color, who find themselves at the divide between two equally harmful stereotypes: on one end of the spectrum, single mothers of color are perceived as needy, dependent, or lazy; on the other, they’re expected to be superwomen who pride themselves on being able to sustain their families without having to rely on anyone else. In so many cases, neither stereotype could be further from the truth.
Did you watch this week’s Conversation? What did you think? Post a comment below.
And stay tuned for next week’s webcast, which will mark our first “Coed Conversation.”