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Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): As a mother of two boys, who are now 20 and 22 year old, at the moment you realized you would be raising them primarily on your own, what struggles or challenges did you experience?
Felicia Watson (FW): I think when they were a little bit younger I had to deal with, “Okay, I have to work; how am I going to get them to daycare, am I going to be able to pick them up on time? How am I going to do all of that?” I think for me, I was lucky, because I did had family that was accessible to me pretty much at any time. My grandmother actually kept both of the boys until they were Kindergarten age. They were well taken care of; they had the hot meals, the breakfast, the lunch, and the snacks. Yet, at the same time they had a disciplinarian also. She instilled all of those values that she knew she had instilled in me.
So I wasn’t really afraid (of being a single mom) in that aspect, because I did have someone there to help me, which I see in most cases isn’t always there. A lot of single mothers had to do it all on their own. That’s by far quite different than having someone accessible to you to help you at any given time. So I really wasn’t worried that much at that point, because I knew I had back up.
EM: You’re absolutely right in that some or most women may not have that great support system, and I would like for you to address that for those who are reading this who may be saying, “Well I don’t have any family” or “I don’t really have a strong support system. What can I do to make sure I am the best mother or parent while doing this on my own for my children?”
FW: If it’s a situation where it’s just you or your family may be in a different location or something like that, there are always options. You have different resources in whatever city you’re in. The different service groups offer daycare. Even if it’s a situation where you’re down to your last, if it’s a money issue if I’m low on food, they have those types of facilities. You just have to be willing to look them up on the internet. If you don’t have that access (Internet), go into the local library. Those service groups are a real help.
I think sometimes some women may not want to go to those extremes, because they may think, “Well then that means I can’t do this” or “That means I can’t provide for my children if I get assistance if I’m actually seeking help that way”. Okay, but would you rather seek the help and get the help you need or not get help and leave your child as well as yourself unnourished and getting into situations where you’re sickly and things like that?
Being a parent is all about doing what you have to do in order to take care of your children. It’s not about you and to think, “Well it’s all about me and I’m not able to do this”. That’s the load of a single parent. That’s what you do. It’s not so much you, it’s about the children. If it were just you and you decided you don’t want to do this and you can go without, that’s fine. However, when you have someone that you are solely responsible for then you have to take whatever necessary means you can in order to obtain assistance for them as well as yourself if you need that. Don’t be afraid to do that. Don’t be afraid of what people are going to say, that they are going to label you or something like that. That’s just a small price to pay in order for you to get to where you need to be in order for you to be financially secure for your children.
EM: How much did and does your spirituality and faith contribute to your ability to do all of what you’re saying you experienced and what you’re suggesting that other single mothers do?
FW: For me at this point, it has everything to do with it. I went to church as a child and while growing up, but when I got on my own I wasn’t attending church regularly. Yes, I believed in God and I had faith in God, but I wasn’t attending church on a regular basis. I wasn’t in any type of ministry.
I think at the point where my spirituality really became everything to me is when my oldest son, who at that time was three (years old), started having seizures for no apparent reason. Through all of the testing and everything the doctors said, “Well we didn’t find anything. He could just grow out of them.” However as a mom you’re like there has to be something wrong if he’s having these seizures and for you to tell me there’s nothing that test wise you can pinpoint to say why he’s doing this… At the same time I still wanted to do all the things that a single woman would do; be able to go out and date and those type of things. Yet, when you have children you’re kind of limited.
I remember my mom telling me, “You know, sometimes when God is trying to get your attention or reach you He doesn’t always use you per se. He may use someone close to you. Some event may happen in their life in order to get you to see what He wants you to see. I think at that point in my life, I believe that’s what He was doing. It was like, “Okay, yes you’re a single parent. Yes, you are by yourself. Yes, you still have the wants and needs of a single individual; however, I need you to be solely responsible for these two that I’ve given you, regardless if you have someone to assist you or not. If you follow Me and listen to what I have to say to you and follow My direction for you then all of those needs for you and them will be taken care of.”
EM: Specifically, what are the challenges of raising boys as a woman? What are some of the moments that you can recall that stand out the most to you in that regard?
FW: I think as a mother raising two sons when they become preteens the needs for them are different, because as a mother your primary make up is to nurture your children, to make sure they have what they need from you, to make sure they’re loved. Yet, from a young boy’s perspective in that point in their life they need that male intervention, because you can’t teach a boy how to be a man because you’ve never been one. Therefore, in order for you to be able to give him or them whatever it is they need it’s your responsibility for you to seek out mentors for them; men that they can model after and ask questions and go to for those hard answers that you may not be able to provide. Also with sexuality and what’s going on with them, and normally those things they don’t want to discuss with you (mom) at all. You may be able to get some information to them, but then they’ll clamp down so fast. Therefore, it’s your responsibility as a single parent to make sure they have those mentors. They have their uncle, their dad, you have Mr. John Doe from church; you have all of these different avenues.
You want them to be able to be open with you about certain things even though they may not want to. Yet, the bottom line is that as long as they know that you’re there and willing to listen to them in their time of need, even if it’s something that they’re struggling with that they don’t want to you know, they do know that they’re able to come to you. I think as a parent you tend to want to be judgmental, but you can’t do that. You have your own opinions, you know how you were as a teen, but at the same time you have to be willing and open to listen and not always jump in and say, “Hey, do this.” Listening is just that, listening to them. They may not always want advice, they just want to know that you’re there to listen. If and when the advice portion comes in, then you can give it. They have all of these outside influences; friends, T.V., Internet and they get all these different answers. However, if they know that they can come to you for the correct answer it’s a really big deal.
EM: Now I would like to talk about a previous article you wrote in regards to dating while being a single parent (Click here to read). How important is this subject when raising boys as a woman, and what are some of the things one should keep in mind whether you’re a father or a mother?
FW: I think when you’re dating or when you feel you’re at the point when you want to do, don’t introduce your children to someone that you may be interested in dating too early. I think you get into the mindset of if you’ve been single too long, especially as a mother where you say, “I think I’m at the point where I want someone to help me raise my children” or “I’m dating this person and they seem to be okay. I can introduce him to my kids.” Yet, the reality is you need know where that person stands on child rearing, spirituality, where are they emotionally, where are they financially; are they even interested in raising someone else’s children? That’s a big if for a lot of people. Some don’t want to be in a position to have to raise someone else’s kids, because they don’t want all the drama that comes along with all of that. So you need to be careful about who you’re dating, because you’re not just dating for you.
You have to ask yourself, “Is this someone that I would at some point want to introduce to my kids?” For some people it’s like, “Well I’m just dating for casual conversation and we’re going to dinner and we’re just friends”, and that’s okay but if you’re looking for something substantial where you’re looking for a long term relationship then the characteristics of that person need to be primary. You need to make sure that that person is someone who is going to be willing to do the same things for your children that you are and are interested in doing so. You need to find that out early before you get too caught up and they say, “Oh I don’t really want kids”, but by that time you’ve already jumped in head first and then you have to back out of it and start over. You need to be mindful of those things when you are dating.
As a mother you don’t want your sons, if you’re raising sons, to view you as one in the crowd—the women they see on T.V. or in the videos and think, “My mom does that”. You want to be able to stand out. You want to be able to have respect for yourself as well as have respect for your sons and not allowing different people to come in and out of your life over a period of time. I think that’s unnecessary, and I guess not all people feel the same. Everybody is different about their makeup and what they do and how they do it. However, I feel that unless you are absolutely certain that the person that you’re seeing is someone that is going to be a significant part of your life, I don’t think you should introduce them to your children.
EM: Thank you very much for sharing!
You can follow Felicia on Twitter @LadyFourPoint0