by Maya Rhodan
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When Feona Huff, 38, was growing up, she pictured her ideal family.
“I always had the dream of having the husband, the dog, the house with a wrap-around porch,” Huff says. “Growing up in the church, I knew the importance of a strong family.”
Although she grew up seeing her grandparents thrive in a happy, fulfilling relationship, her dream never became a reality for Feona. When she became pregnant with her daughter at 25, she checked into the idea of being a mother and wife and her then-boyfriend checked out.
“I chose to be an active and involved parent from the time I was pregnant, he chose not to be as active,” Huff says. “It’s not like I said ‘I want to become a single mom and endure the struggles of being a single parent.’”
The Hampton Roads, Va. resident, however, is doing just that. She’s rearing her two kids, a daughter, 13, and son, 10, by herself.
Huff says although she’s “always busy” and “rarely sleeps” – going everywhere from track practice, to beauty pageants, to church events on any given day – she’s blessed to have her children.
“Not everyone is equipped to become a single parent,” Huff says. “I love my children. I know God gave them to me for a reason.”
Once a societal taboo, single-parenthood isn’t as rare as it has been in the past. In fact, 41 percent of all births in 2010 were to unmarried women.
A staggering 73 percent of Black babies were born to unmarried women in 2010.
Despite the normality of single-motherhood, a recent Pew Research Center analysis suggests the majority of Americans consider it a “big problem.” According to the report, 64 percent of all Americans have negative views of single-motherhood, including 56 percent of non-White Americans.
There are a lot of statistics that show single-parenthood isn’t the ideal situation for a child. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention children born to unmarried women are a greater risk of dying in infancy and living in poverty than babies born to married women.
According to a report by Legal Momentum, a women’s legal defense and education fund, single parents in America are more likely to be low-wage workers and less likely to have health insurance for themselves and their children.
“Single parenthood is a double-edged sword,” says Chawn Jackson, 44, a single mom from Prince George’s County in Maryland. “I think there’s some validity to the statement that it’s bad.”
Jackson divorced when her now 10-year-old daughter was just three months old, and has been rearing her daughter on her own since she and her ex-husband split.
Like most single-mothers, and 40 percent of all households with children under 18 according to the Pew report, Jackson has been the primary financial provider for her daughter since birth. Of that 40 percent, 5.1 million are married women who make more than their husbands. About 8.6 million are single mothers.
According to Pew, the married mothers – who are disproportionately older and White, have a median income of $80,000, nearly four times the amount of single-mother-led households, which are disproportionately minority and young.
“[After her father left] we had to survive,” Jackson says. “He wasn’t providing, he made it clear he wasn’t going to, so I had to.”
Jackson considers herself blessed to be in a position where she can easily provide for her daughter; she does not receive child support from her ex-husband. However, she worries that because her father isn’t around, her daughter will not know what a healthy relationship looks like, as she grows older.
“A part of her is still in a fairytale world,” Jackson says. “She’s seen a lot of her friends with a mom and a dad and she wants that.”
“I try to do all I can to keep positive male role models in my daughter’s life,” Jackson adds. “We’ve lost a lot of our wholesome values as a society. I understand that it’s a different day and you have to be able to adapt and be fluid, but we have to keep those core values that African American families were raised with.”
JayVon Muhammad, a midwife based in the Bay Area of California, agrees.
“There is a decline of relationships and parental structures,” Muhammad, 41, says. “Women are having to do everything and become everything instead of making better decisions from the beginning.”
Muhammad has become a crusader against what she calls the “baby-mama epidemic,” which she says is destroying the Black community.
“I think that we have to recognize that what is happening to us and our families is not normal,” Muhammad says. “It’s not ok for a community to have 70 percent of their [babies] born to single mothers”
Muhammad had her first daughter at 17 to a man she says was a “drug dealer and a hustler,” the type of man she considered normal growing up in a low-income, Black community of San Francisco.
She calls the relationship she had with her baby’s father “dysfunctional,” and says she found herself, “willing to compromise my own happiness to make sure he was alright.” But she wasn’t alright as she struggled to raise their child while he spent his time in and out of jail.
When her daughter was 4-years-old, however, her life changed for the better when she married her current husband.
“The contrast was huge,” Muhammad says. “I went from having to do it all to having help.”
Muhammad speaks out against “baby-mamas” not because she’s critical of the situation, but because she wants women, especially African American women to want more for themselves and their families.
“Most women say they want love, they want a family where a man supports them but they can’t succumb to the feeling because they have to do it all,” says Muhammad, the founder of Sista Girl Midwifery.
“We have to start admitting that we don’t want to raise children on our own, that we deserve to have the option to stay at home so our children are safe,” Muhammad says. “If we don’t start taking the stance that’s least accepted but is best for our children, we’re going to die.”
Kia Smith, 31, a single mom in Atlanta, says that although her situation isn’t ideal, when you consider the stability she and her 13-year-old son have the positives outweigh any negatives.
“You can look at us on the outside and think it’s bad,” says Smith who had her son at 17, but graduated from Spelman College within four years. “But when you look at our lives, everything we’ve been able to do, can you really say that it’s negative?”
“Being a mom is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Huff says. “It’s not always perfect. I definitely have moments of feeling overwhelmed, but when I wake up and my children are on the side of me I realize I am so blessed.”