I’M Sorry I’m Not Idris: What If Idris Elba Was A Single Mom?
Over at Uptown Magazine, writer Lincoln Anthony Blades has some words for some folks on Twitter, who have been shaming Idris Elba for not putting a ring on the hand of girlfriend, Naiyana Garth, who just brought their son, Winston, into the world late last week.
“Marriage is not something anyone should consider entering into on a whim. In our modern Western society, marriage is not just a contract, as many of you pro-marriage people constantly state, it’s a lifelong covenant of love between two people who are emotionally, spiritually, and physically committed to each other. The idea that having a baby with someone should automatically supplant those necessities and result in emotional indentured servitude is ludicrous. If there is one thing I know about family structures, it’s that children are acutely aware of the health of their parents’ relationship. When a marriage is built from pressure or obligation, instead of passionate commitment, then one party is eventually going to become resentful. And when that relationship starts to decline, it will be the child who notices it more than anything else. Even worse, it will be that very same child who embodies the emotional dysfunction they witness, and it will mark how they carry on their own relationships. Truth be told, I think there is nothing better for a child than to grow up in a healthy family system with two loving and married parents, but I also believe there is nothing more damaging than seeing their parents struggling to live a bitter lie of love.
If in your perfect world, people would only have sex in relationships, conceive babies after marriage, and commit to one another long-term before deciding to build a family, that’s GREAT — but please understand that our world is far from perfect, which means that sometimes the best we can do is manage the situation we are in. I don’t know how Idris feels about Naiyana, but as long as he’s committed to being a loving and involved father, nothing more needs to be said on my (or your) part.”
I find Blades’ logic perfectly reasonable and basically accurate – although it could be legitimately argued that parenthood and child-rearing should require the same forethought and cautious consideration as marriage. But I actually find it hard to imagine a female celebrity having a baby with her boyfriend (à la Nia Long) and NOT inspiring tons of think pieces about the various messages she (and she alone) is sending to young girls about single parenthood. And if Elba had been a single mom, most of those analyses would be about how her motherhood had been a personal moral failure as well as a burden to society – as we all know that single motherhood is synonymous with crime, drugs, laziness and a number of social ills…
And yet, single fatherhood is on the rise here in the United States, representing about a quarter of all single-parent families. And just like single mothers, single fathers make less and are less likely to have a full-time job when compared to married dads. But unlike famous single moms, Elba largely gets to skirt around the questions – and even political implications – of how his decisions and behaviors might also be underscoring the decades-long decay of the black family – or even be a contributing factor to single motherhood itself.
I think a large part of this has to do with how we iconize single fathers in our culture. Mostly, they are painted as the martyrs of unfortunate relationships (be it by death, crack or through the evil wench leaving town with another man), which resulted in parenthood being thrust upon them. Matter of fact, I think that was the plot to Elba’s film, Daddy’s Little Girls, which is about a poor and gentle single dad of three girls, in a custody battle against the treacherous and manipulative mother of his daughters. In general (as well as real life), single dads are lovable, always gentle men and endearing. They get the benefit of the doubt, as well as the girl in the end, whereas the only thing society is really trying to give single moms is a side eye for being stupid…
Now I don’t say this with the expectation or hope that folks will go out and start begrudging every single father they see for ruining the community, including Elba. To the contrary, I think we should stop giving single parents, in general, a hard time, and understand that the only right way to be a parent is to actually be involved (emotionally, financially and physically) in the life of a child. Likewise, I’m certain Elba and Garth are going to do a splendid job as co-parents, which, by the way, is a category that normally gets pushed aside in the “single parent” discussion. With that aside, I do feel like we should also call out the double standard and overall gender biases in how we determine who gets to legitimately be a single parent. At some point, we have to even up the playing field or throw out the rulebook all together.