Before I go in, let me say this first: I don’t want to betray my unwanted but nonetheless active membership in the Secret Society of Single Mothers. Even though I get tired of talking about it (and darn sure I get tired of living it), single mothers are real-life, breathing, praying, grocery-stretching, PTA-volunteering, homework-helping, miracle-meal-on-a-budget making, full-time-9-to-5 working superwomen. I didn’t strike out to be that kind of mama. But one day, as I was ironing one of Girl Child’s school shirts, talking to the mechanic on my cell, baking a chicken pot pie for dinner and watching CNN for a story I was working on, I caught a mental glimpse of myself and said, well I’ll be doggone. I gotta buy me a cape.
The hardest part of that lifestyle, aside from the actual raising of the children, is dealing with the ol’ used-to-be boyfriend. The ex-husband. The former lover. The unlucky jump-off—whatever the man who helped create the child was once upon a time. And most of us, despite all the unflattering stereotypes that go along with being a dreaded “baby mama” (a term I detest), still try to maintain some semblance of cordiality with our kids’ fathers for the sake of the babies.
But more and more, I’m hearing dads with downright blood-curdling horror stories about how they aren’t allowed to see their son or their daughter because their child’s mother is running interference in the relationship. Last week, I saw rapper Don Trip on 106 & Park, who introduced the video to his song, “Letter to My Son.” I’m not all into hip-hop anymore—that’s a whole other blog post in and of itself—but that song moved me. I felt like dude hung up the phone from an argument with his kid’s mom and went straight into the studio to release all of his anger and frustration. When you tell a man who wants to see his child that he can’t see his child, you are taking away part of what makes him a man in the first place—the joy and responsibility of parenthood.
As a woman who has pleaded, reasoned and argued with a dude who refused and still refuses to be regularly involved in the goings-on of his kid’s life, I’m just as offended by that foolishness as guys are. Here are men willing and wanting to play their parts as fathers and the women on the other end of the equations are blocking them at every pass because they’re bitter about the breakup that led to them being demoted from wife or girlfriend to “my son or daughter’s mother.” Or they’re mad because the dudes don’t pay enough child support or pay it regularly or maybe don’t pay it at all. Or Dad has a new lady friend and Mom insists she doesn’t want her baby around any strangers (even though Mom dates regularly and has been caught with a random “mister” or “uncle” her own self).
Even though all of the above justifies an attitude, maybe even a cold shoulder and some wariness, it could never justify barring a kid from seeing their daddy. Ultimately, that’s not hurting just the intended target: the man. It’s hurting the child, too. We’ve heard that from experts on Oprah to Dr. Phil himself. But everyday, some crazed woman gives her ex a hard way to go come time to see his children when, in actuality, she ought to be glad the man is making any effort at all. I mean, they ain’t just building active fathers in assembly-line fashion. So when you come across a man who wants to be an engaged, involved, conscientious participant in his kids’ lives, no matter what the other logistics of the situation are, let him do his job.
Unless a woman suspects that her child is in real danger because her ex’s lifestyle poses a threat to her baby’s safety or he’s abusive or has a drug or alcohol habit, she’s out of pocket for keeping them apart. Part of the code of ethics that goes along with being a mother is being unselfish. That’s not just to our children, though they’re the focus of our drive to be better women, better mothers, just better people all around. We also have an obligation to show compassion to the men who helped create the kids. It ain’t easy—oh I know it ain’t easy—but it’s necessary to raise children who feel loved, whole and confident in their them-ness.