I Have To Let Him Be Man Of The House After I’ve Been Wearing The Pants For 3 Days: I’m A Married Single Mother
Years ago, I was fascinated to learn that Michelle Obama referred to herself as a single mother. So often when we use the term, we think of a woman whose man has left her, willingly or unwillingly, and she’s doing it all alone. But I would come to understand that there are quite a few women who are married or in committed relationships and still, for one reason or another, find themselves taking on much of the childrearing duties. We spoke to a few of these women to get their stories. Iesha Morris, married to Andrew Morris, with three daughters, shares her story.
MadameNoire: So first off, can you tell me where were you in your life? What was going on in your life when you became a mother?
Iesha Morris: I was a wild 22-year-old female who maybe about three years prior to that had just gotten kicked out of her mom’s home. My husband and I come from different backgrounds. My mom was a single mom, had me at 17. I had my first daughter, Alyssa, at 23. So, we were just kind of like settling into life. I became a wife at 23. August 2, 2005, was when we got married and we had Alyssa February 18, 2006.
MN: How did you imagine motherhood?
IM: I was never that girl who wanted this fairy tale wedding, the Princess Diana dress and you know, stay at home with my kids or my husband came home from his corporate job. Like those weren’t my dreams. My dream was to go to college and become a lawyer and that all was put at a halt when I found out I was pregnant. I just, I honestly, I never imagined myself as a mom and when I found out I was pregnant, it was still a shock to me. I wasn’t that overly joyous pregnant woman, you know, who took maternity photos. I have no pictures of myself pregnant with my first daughter. But when I saw her and I assumed the role of being her mom and her caregiver for the rest of her life, that’s when it clicked. Like, ‘Oh my God, I’m responsible for this human. Like, I have to keep her alive.’
MN: So what expectations did you have about raising your daughter with your husband? Did you guys have conversations about the splitting of parenting duties and responsibilities?
IM: We did. We had discussions. He had just started working for the railroad, probably eight months before we had her. So he was working maybe like 6 pm to 2 am or he would do a graveyard shift. And eight weeks after she was born, I went back to work. It was hard separating myself from her after being home with her for so long, but we were with the understanding like, ‘OK, the bills aren’t going to pay themselves.’ So it was an open-ended discussion like, ‘OK, well I can’t pay the bills by myself and you can’t raise the baby by yourself so we have to make it work.’ So we both decided that it was best that I go back to work.
MN: Now from the beginning, did you feel like you were doing more work than he was or when did you start feeling like, OK I’m noticing that I’m doing a lot more child rearing than he is?
IM: So let’s fast forward to 2018. We now have three kids. Three girls. He has taken a conductor position with the railroad, which causes him to leave. Like, this morning [Thursday] he left and he won’t be back until Saturday afternoon.
MN: Oh wow!
IM: Right. So with that, I have a graduation cake to deliver. I have a wedding cake to deliver. I also have a job on top of baking my cakes. But when he’s gone I am a single mom, basically. I take the car to get serviced, take the dog to the vet, pick up the girls, they go to two different schools, do soccer, track and we’re just starting softball. So he misses a lot of that.
MN: How does that feel for you? Do you feel overwhelmed a lot of times or have you just come to the conclusion that this is something I have to do?
IM: It’s a little bit of both. Sometimes it is overwhelming because he’s put up in a hotel by his job. He gets to go to the gym and he’ll call me at his leisure–which I don’t mind because I know he sleeps, maybe five to six hours once he’s off the train. It is overwhelming, you know, to have to have him discipline them over the phone or over FaceTime. I’m always the bad guy. He’s always the hero when he comes home. It’s a power struggle because when he comes home, I have to let him assume the man of the house role after I’ve been wearing those pants for 72 hours.
MN: Yeah, wow.
IM: Yeah, it’s hard. But you know, it’s worked for us. Not to sound real gold digger-ish but the money is right. That kind of plays a part in it too. Not saying that you know, if he made less, I wouldn’t appreciate him as much as I do. But his salary allows me the freedom of being the mom I can be to my kids.
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MN: And when we say the mom you can be, what does that mean?
IM: Meaning I work freelance so I work for a cake supply store that allows me to come in and weeks at a time or not coming weeks at a time. Whether I work or not or whether I bake or not, we don’t miss a meal. So his money allows me to, you know, be like, ‘OK, well I’m going to take the week off because the kids had this, this, this and this, or I need a week while the kids are at school to like, breathe.’
MN: I get it. So who do you have to help you?
IM: I have his mom. She helps out with pickup, like she picks up our five-year-old from school, And she keeps my kids on Wednesdays. So when they get out of school Wednesday she’ll have them until 7:30 at night, which is my day to do my mani, pedis, everything. My mom when she’s off. My mom is a sheriff’s officer. When she’s off, she has my kids too or my stepdad. But they live 30 miles from us. So it’s not like they’re in the house help. They’re that call on help, basically.
MN: Now do your children talk about missing their father or wishing he was home more?
IM: All. the. time. When he leaves in the morning, if we’re getting ready to go to school and we all have to leave together, it’s long faces and pouty lips. It’s those guilt tripped FaceTimes, those ‘Daddy, can you make it to my honor roll ceremony?’ ‘Well, I don’t know if I’m going to be there.’ I get those moments and I’m sitting there like, ‘Well I’m going to be there!’ Don’t I Matter?
IM: But yes, he’s very close with our girls, very very close. And when he misses something, you know, to them it’s the end of the world and to him, I know it pulls at his heart, but you know, daddy got to go to work.
MN: So when he is home what type of parenting roles does he assume?
IM: He is the disciplinarian, but he’s the funny disciplinarian. He’s strict. He’s very strict on homework. He’s very strict on schedule because he keeps a tight schedule. But he’s very laid back if that makes sense. He’s more like, ‘Did you hit your sister? Well, why did you hit your sister? Well, would you like it if I hit you like that? Or would you like it if one of your friends hit you like that?’ He’s that kind of parent. He’s funny as hell.
MN: For Black women, there’s always a stereotype that we’re all single mothers, that we’re all raising our children by ourselves. When you’re out with your daughters, do people ever assume that you don’t have a husband or a man because you’re with your children by yourself?
IM: ALL. OF. THE. TIME. Funny you asked that. I get asked two questions. ‘Do your kids have the same dad?’ Because my kids do not look alike, which is very odd. And ‘How is it being a single mother of all girls?’ I don’t wear a ring. Only because, A.) I forget it. When I wash dishes I forget to put it back on. And B.) When I’m baking, I can’t have my jewelry on. So, it’s just easier for me not to have it on. So I get that stare-down. I’ve also gotten asked when I have a basketful of groceries at the grocery store. I’ve been asked, rudely, ‘It must be nice to be on public assistance.’
IM: Giiiirrrrll. I’ve been asked that probably twice. So I get those stares. I get looked up and down.
MN: How do you respond to that?
IM: Well, one lady I told– I was being a smart ass. I said, ‘You know what girl? I said this prostitution game ain’t no joke.’
IM: And she looked at me. Like what?! I have a smart mouth. When you come at me crazy, I’ma come right back at you crazy.
MN: Yes. That’s hilarious.
IM: I tell them all the time, I wish I was on public assistance to get free groceries, but my husband works hard. So this is where it comes from. That one girl who asked me that, she had pink braids, you know, pajama pants at three o’clock in the afternoon so I had to get at her crazy.
MN: So in an ideal situation, how would you like the parenting duties to be split or shared?
IM: I would love for him to be able to take the kids to school, you know, three days out of the week. So I can sleep in. I would love for him to pick the kids up three days out of the week so I can, you know, get some afternoon errands done without them because with them at the grocery store adds a hundred more dollars to my bill.
IM: Ironically, on a different note, I love the way our structure is because it works for us. It might not work for a lot of people. I belong to this group on Facebook. It’s Railroad wives and I see a lot of the wives complaining like, ‘Oh my God, he’s never home.’ But it’s like on the end, that money is allowing you to stay at home with those kids. So you gotta take the good with the bad. I did miss him when he first started. It was hard. We lived in a very bad neighborhood when he started. His pay was low and now that his pay is great, I do miss him… but… I don’t know, it’s just the dynamics are better sometimes when he’s gone versus when he’s here. You know, it makes for great ‘Daddy’s home!’ Like, ‘Yay!’ ‘Ok, now go to bed.’
IM: I don’t wish to change it. Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed because I do a lot for not only him, but I do a lot for his parents too. I take care of their dogs when they’re out of town. So I kind of have a lot of hats, but I don’t dislike the fact that I’m needed so much.
MN: Do you think he understands all that you’re going through while he’s away and is appreciative?
IM: Yes, he does. At first, he did not. And it took a lot of me not doing stuff for him, for him to realize, you know that ‘OK well without her this won’t get done.’ When he came home, I would leave the house dirty, dishes unwashed. We wouldn’t have dinner. Like I would order a pizza and just lounge around the house and he’d look at me like, ‘Um, hello?’ And I told him, I said, you know, ‘You gotta— it’s give and take. If you want me to keep the duties of a wife, make sure your house is clean, make sure you have food on the table when you come home, you’ve got to understand if I ask you to put the kids in the, in the tub like you got to do it.’
IM: So, it took a lot of his lunches not being made to satisfaction, like I would purposely forget stuff just to piss him off. Petty. But now he understands like when he gets a call at 3:00 AM, I’m right up with him, making sure he has hot meals in his lunch pail, making sure you know, he got his phone charger in his suitcase. Like I’m that wife. I’m the most annoying wife. But yeah, he appreciates it because when I went out of town for a week, he had to do everything by himself. So he understood like I get where you’re coming from. When you say like it’s a lot to deal with on top of the kids.
MN: Yeah. I appreciate you saying that. Sometimes you have to let stuff slip so they can see what it really is.
IM: And that’s exactly what I do. ‘Oh, you don’t have almond milk? Oh. Better drink this regular milk.’
IM: As bad as it sounds, sometimes it has to happen that way.
IM: Us Black woman, we hold a lot on our shoulders, we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, holding our Black men up, raising our Black kids to understand and appreciate their culture. It starts at home. Love your husband regardless if he’s making you mad to the umpteenth power. Love that Black man like no other. That’s it.
MN: And then what would you say like for Black women, what should we be getting in return since so much is on our shoulders?
IM: We shouldn’t have rose petals thrown at our feet. That’s a very unrealistic expectation. But make sure you’re appreciated. Make sure he tells you every once in awhile, ‘Hey, I do appreciate everything you do. I might not say it on occasions or I might not show it, but I just want you to know that I do appreciate you. It might be a little text message here, or a sweet little Emoji, like the eggplant emoji. But just stand in your appreciation. Know that you are a superwoman even though he might not tell you every day or often. But just know that in your mind you are his queen and his backbone. And without you, he probably would not thrive.
You can follow Iesha’s baking business on Instagram at @iamcupcakesandmore