Single Parent Advocate Stacia L. Brown Talks Beyond Baby Mamas
Even as more and more successful, happy women choose to have children without a partner, single moms, especially mothers of color, are constantly on the defensive. It doesn’t matter that they raise happy, healthy children; they’re still seen as people who have messed up and are at risk of messing up their children. Writer and educator Stacia L. Brown wants to change that, and she’s starting with Beyond Baby Mamas, a community for single parents who want to share their stories and their resources. A single mother, Brown got tired of the public hand-wringing about the plight of single-parent homes and started Beyond Baby Mamas last year. Through an active Facebook page, video series and essays from people actually living the single parent experience, Brown is giving single parents the chance to be heard. She’s also brought her message to outlets like the Huffington Post, Salon and the Atlantic. We got Brown to take time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her initiative and what single moms really need.
MommyNoire: What do you hope to change with your site/initiative?
Stacia L. Brown:
I’d like to change unilateral assumptions about minority unmarried motherhood. I always bristle at characterizations of any family dynamic as “shocking,” “problematic,” or “damaging,” when no one is bothering to engage those families. Many single mothers are raising healthy, happy children, even when money and resources are extremely limited. It’s important to provide those counter narratives.
Eventually, I’d also like to provide more offline support and resources for the mothers we’re currently connecting via social media.
Why did you choose to structure the site to focus on personal essays?
It’s very empowering to own and tell your own story. Providing a platform for that experience makes unmarried mothers who feel helpless about how they’re represented in mainstream media feel like their voices are being amplified.
What’s the main thing missing from the conversation about single mothers or single parents?
Nuance. Single motherhood is not a single-factor discussion — and it isn’t an identical experience for every one-parent household. I think we could stand to begin approaching discussion of all “non-traditional” family structures with more emphasis on personal truths and less emphasis on moral finger-wagging.
What do you most wish people understood about being a single mother?
There’s so much written about how “hard” it is to parent alone–and it is hard, without an adequate support system. But many single mothers understand the importance of cultivating a strong, reliable, invested support community, and with one in place, our parenting experiences are no harder than a two-parent household’s who didn’t have a large enough “village” to help them with child-rearing.
I also wish people understood how thoroughly single mothers can enjoy their lives and have fun with their children. We aren’t beleaguered and downtrodden or scheming to “come up on a husband.”
Your site’s FAQ page you’re against baby mama as “this oversimplified classification”. Do you want to get rid of the term altogether?
I don’t think that’s possible. I think people will always use it jokingly. But we’re very much against using it as a pejorative or a criticism. We see a lot of that in the meme-ing that comes across our social media pages. There’s an idea that there’s “the mother of my child” and then there’s the “baby mama.” And the “baby mama,” as these memes define her, is this bitter, gold-digging, use-the-kids-as-pawns, welfare queen stereotype that I find very troubling.
As a community, I think it’s important for Beyond Baby Mamas to push back against that idea.
What’s next for Beyond Baby Mamas?
We’re working on expanding our brand and establishing ourselves as a nonprofit organization by 2014. We want to be able to provide more tangible support and resources to the many moms who need them.