Technology Meets Single Motherhood
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
African-American mothers make up one-third of women raising children without a husband. Now author Kelly Williams has found a new way to reach women who, like herself, are single mothers. It's a Web site called SingleMamahood.com. Kelly told NPR's Tony Cox how she coped with the stress of being everything to her son.
Ms. KELLY WILLIAMS (Author, Creator, SingleMamahood.com): What helped me was really listening to other single mothers and really taking their advice seriously. Because typically when somebody's going to pull you aside and it's another single mom who's been in your shoes. And she's going to say, wait a minute, honey, stop tripping off this or that because what you're doing is you're messing up your child - is she's doing that because she cares and because she knows that she did something in error and she would like to see you do it correctly. But…
TONY COX: So what made a difference in your situation?
Ms. WILLIAMS: I think probably the biggest lesson I ever learned as a single mother was to forgive my ex. I think one of the biggest mistakes we make as single mamas is we harbor a lot of bitterness against our ex. And I think that bitterness sometimes turns into jealousy, it gets in the way of our relationship with our child and it certainly gets in the way of the relationship between our children and their father or fathers.
COX: What's the hardest part of mothering without a husband?
Ms. WILLIAMS: Time. People are trying to make a living, they're trying to be there for there children. I think that most mothers want to be good mothers but they don't know really where to turn.
I mean when you think about the African-American community and you look at just the statistics. I mean the National Center for Health Statistics in 2004 reported that 69.3 percent of all African-American women giving birth that year were unmarried. So we're talking about most African-American homes. Most African-American homes are headed by these single moms who need help, but more often than not they're looking to their own families where maybe they didn't have the help that they needed. I mean these are cycles that are repeating and we really don't know where to go.
And so often the first time we're getting help is when something goes wrong and we're going to a psychologist.
COX: Let me jump in to ask this: How big a factor is the father's new marriage and new family, if that's the case, in dealing with the single mother and his child with her?
Ms. WILLIAMS: It's a factor to the extent that the mother - and single mamas listen to me here when I say this - to the point where the mother makes it an issue. A child is going to feel jealous, a child is going to feel that am I going to be left out? But it's up to the mother to make that child understand that you are loved, you are loved by me, you are loved by your dad so that everybody is loving the child and the child understands that this is not less, this is more for him. And then if the father in his new relationship or new marriage ends up having more children, the same thing.
But if you're creating issues and your kid's coming home and you're saying, oh well, you know, did your dad give her this and you're creating those kinds of problems, all you're doing is you're giving your kid more issues to have to deal with.
COX: Is money always an issue?
Ms. WILLIAMS: I wouldn't say it's always an issue, because I'm sure there are some well-to-do single moms. But I would say more often than not it is an issue. And to that question when single mamas come on and ask me on the free advice section, you know, what can I do to make ends meet, what I suggest is that they tap into their talent. I talk about old-fashioned things like rent parties.
A rent party where let's say that your talent is poetry. You can hold a poetry slam in your living room and ask for donations for the poetry slam party. You can hold those things every week if you want to. There are people who are great cooks, and there are all kinds of things that you can do to make those kinds of services available in your apartment building, in your neighborhood.
COX: How different is it to be a black single mother versus a white single mother, a Latino single mother or any other single mother? Well, you know, Tony, I think in a world where all things are equal, that question wouldn't even have to be asked, but unfortunately we don't live in that world. And African-American people, African-American women have all kinds of issues that they have to deal with that others don't have to deal with.
The stigma. When you look at the statistics in terms of what happens with our children, and most of those children are children of African-American single moms, the stats don't look good. So we do have some special issues that we need to deal with. And I think that because I am African-American, single moms listen to me.
COX: Here's my final question. You've got this Web site, SingleMamahood.com. Do you see - and I'm serious - do you see a forthcoming Web site or book which would be titled, No Longer With My Kids Mamahood for the fathers?
Ms. WILLIAMS: Fathers can do that if they - in fact, you know what? I have a section for a baby's daddy. And I have it because so often they too will come to these sessions that I do and ask questions. And they feel like, you know, there's nobody who's really kind an advocate for them. And my biggest advice to single fathers is be there for your child.
Don't be afraid that maybe too much time has passed or that there's too much bitterness that has developed maybe between you and the child's mother. Your kids need you. Your boys need you, but your girls need you too. Because you better believe that when girls are out there making bad choices, that has to do with self-esteem and there's nothing like a father to help a child develop his or her self-esteem.
COX: Kelly, thank you very much for the advice.
Ms. WILLIAMS: Thank you so much, Tony.
CHIDEYA: That was NPR's Tony Cox with Kelly Williams, a single mother of a teenage son. She's the creator of SingleMamahood.com and author of Single Mamahood: Advice and Wisdom for the African-American Single Mother.
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CHIDEYA: Thanks for sharing your time with us. We'll be back tomorrow. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.
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