This post only applies to single mothers who were never married and find themselves on an emotional rollercoaster with the father of their child or children. It is intended to be the swift kick in the behind your family and friends have been trying to give you for the better for months—maybe even years.
Most women do not plan or desire to hold the baby-mama title. But, with a 73 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate, nearly three-fourths of black mothers fit the mold. That makes the handling of “baby-daddies” a real issue in our community. Sex is generally an emotional act for women and those emotions are often magnified during pregnancy and continue into motherhood. And what is a hormonally complicated time becomes more emotionally complex when the situation gets real—he’s with other women, he’s too busy to visit more than a few times a month, he’s maybe even hoping you might go for an abortion–the list goes on.
Angry, confused, desperate—some single mothers entertain foolishness that only ends up eating away at their self-worth and esteem in the end.
So to save yourself (or a friend) from further heartache and/or catching a case, here are eight of the biggest mistakes to avoid:
Holding on to the fairy-tale ending.
I’m sure most of you already know this, but just in case, let me be clear: a child is not a guarantee of marriage. If he wasn’t compelled to fully commit before you gave him the booty for free, it is unlikely he’s in any rush now. Don’t waste your years waiting on your child’s father to “come around” simply because he’s the dad. You deserve the type of love and companionship that makes you happy, too. If you were actually in a relationship, go ahead and give it a solid try, but don’t hold on to a dead relationship or wait on him forever. Now, if you were just a “buddy,” well, you already knew the deal. Be honest with yourself and move forward.
Playing the fool puppet.
Some men can be manipulative—especially men who know it is in their best interest to keep custodial and child support payment arrangements outside of the courts by making a deal with you. So, what do they do? Say whatever they need to say to keep you satisfied—not happy but not angry enough to file papers either. If you want him to be your man, he’ll pose as a makeshift boyfriend. Don’t let your desperation to “fix” the situation or “make it right” turn you into a sucker for the okie-doke.
Not holding the father financially accountable.
Get your child’s money, always. Children don’t raise themselves for free and fathers, custodial or non-custodial, should be legally obligated to contribute. It is not about what you can or can’t do for yourself and your baby or what you do and don’t need. A portion of his earnings are owed to your child. Child support is the business side of separate parenting and should be addressed in a business manner. It’s nothing personal.
Holding your family accountable for things that are not their responsibility.
When the “I-want-I-want” Kindergartener in you comes out and thinks your family and friends are obligated to help support your decisions to rely on an unreliable baby-daddy and they would rather allow you to learn the hard way, it is not because they are bad people. In fact, they would be doing you a disservice by picking up his pieces. Be grateful for the people doing all they can to help and be sure to take heed to the advice.
Using the child as a pawn.
It is very possible for him to love the child and not care a thing about you. Hurts to hear that but it’s true sometimes. Limiting his time to every other Saturday for two hours but insisting the door is open for him to come over and hang out anytime is a pathetic attempt at creating an imaginary family unit. If not for your pride, do it for your child. Be fair to fathers who want to be involved sans your presence.
Assume priority in the father’s life.
If you were not at the top of his list before having his child, it is doubtful your status has changed. The baby may be a priority but, in his world, you are two separate entities. Entitled A$$umptions, such as “I am the mother of your child!” will just leave you looking like, well…silly. Remember, birthing a man’s child does not automatically yield love, care or commitment.
Argue with the father, ever.
You are the mother and lawfully retain the right to do whatever you choose so long as it does not harm the child physically or mentally. Therefore, you have nothing to argue about. It’s not a democracy but, rather, a dictatorship open to suggestions. And if you have moved on and feel like everytime he comes around he’s trying to start trouble for you, do what is necessary to minimize contact and conversation between the two of you as much as possible while still allowing him access to his child.
Making excuses for the father’s behavior.
Motherhood forces women to mature quickly while fathers are often too frequently granted the option to lag behind. Your life changed and his should also. Don’t let him slide on responsibility because you already “know how he is.” He’s a father now, which means it is time for the phrase to mean something different.
LaShaun Williams is a Madame Noire contributor whose work has appeared in the New York Times and across several popular sites, such as HuffPost Black Voices and the Grio. You can visit her blog at lashaunwilliams.com or follow her on Twitter @itsmelashaun and Facebook.
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