When I heard about Lashanda Armstrong, the 25-year-old single mother of four (!) driving herself and her children into a watery grave, I couldn’t help but feel pity for her. First, because this woman was obviously suffering from untreated mental illness. As a woman who has had my own struggles with General Anxiety Disorder, I know how pain, stress, no help and four needy children can cause a mother to go to the brink.
“It’s hard for women to seek the mental health they need. And when you have four kids, when do you get the time to seek help? It’s hard for a lot of people who have to work and take time off to see a doctor. And if you’re poor, you don’t have that option. Access and availability to quality healthcare is key.” says Danielle Belton, founder of the popular blog, Black Snob, and managing editor at TheLoop21. Belton has spoken openly about her bipolar disorder in an effort to de-stigmatize mental illness in the black community.
That said, let’s not act brand-new about the struggles black women go through raising children with no protection, support, or commitment. This woman had four kids by age 25, the oldest she bore presumably at 15, with three others by a man whom she forever fought with because he kept cheating, cheating, and cheating.
The one silver lining in this cluster-cuss was that her oldest son, ten-years-old, was able to escape, but not without Armstrong, in her last minutes of life, trying to grab at his pants to ensure he stayed down in that abyss with her.
Armstrong and her three children’s father were not married. Nor should they ever had been. The relationship should have never happened in the first place, and somebody should have told her that she was worth a damn.
“For Lashanda Armstrong, it was the perfect storm for emotional and family problems. Her storm consisted of being a single mother at such a young age of so many children, perhaps not yet hormonally-balanced after her last pregnancy, and a cheating boyfriend. Any one of these problems can get so intense for a mother that her mood can overwhelm her common sense and judgment. Lashanda’s situation speaks to the often insurmountable problems of single parent-hood, no father, domestic disputes, lack of trust in their partner (for good reasons) and ultimately feeling resourceless,” says Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, nationally-recognized psychologist and licensed clinical social worker specializing in women’s relationships, and runs the site, www.lovevictory.com, which contains a body of research about why women are smart about work but not love.
I rack my brain trying to understand why so many black women feel so unworthy of men who will be loyal providers and worthy fathers for their children. I wonder why, after finding out the men who father these children so often get a pass–they live the life of a bachelor, while the ‘baby mamas’ do everything a wife would do, except without having to behave like a good husband or life-partner.
I also can’t figure why we scrape so far down the barrel for men who clearly are not good mates, having baby after baby for them, perhaps in hopes the brood we bear will be the glue. And we know how well that works out, don’t we?
When I organized No Wedding No Womb, I can’t tell you how many WOMEN got bent out of shape because I and hundreds of others said something so simple: If a man wants to have a baby with you, but doesn’t want to commit to you or his children, then he is not worthy to be the father of your babies, nor a life-long partner to you.
As black women, we are conditioned to give, give, give, give and give some more until it hurts, often without any expectation for our counterparts to reciprocate.
I’m in my thirties, and have four kids. And being married, with the support of my husband, extended family and friends, it’s STILL hard work.
So many of us are hurting, crying out in pain, but we’re told to just pray it away, just accept things because it’s just “how we do it,” or put on a stiff upper lip because black women are supposed to be super-naturally (or perhaps the better word would be ‘unnaturally’) “strong.”
It’s time to get real, ladies. Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is admit that you can’t do it all alone.
“What can we learn from this? We learn that women expect far too much from themselves, take on too much responsibility, and put up with too much from immature partners. They often don’t go for help and families don’t know how to intervene. If you or a family member feels emotionally in trouble, and feel depressed and overwhelmed, get help immediately,” says Dr. Wish.
Christelyn D. Karazin the co-author of Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race Culture and Creed (to be released February 2012), and runs a blog, www.beyondblackwhite.com, dedicated to women of color who are interested and or involved in interracial and intercultural relationships. She is also the founder and organizer of “No Wedding, No Womb,” an initiative to find solutions to the 72 percent out-of-wedlock rate in the black community.