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5 Lessons I’ve Learned As A Young Single Mother

Motherhood

At my college graduation, I was 21 years old and three months pregnant.


Looking back, I was totally naïve about what it meant to be a mother and was honestly as unprepared as any woman could be! I was moving back in with my parents, I was always up and down with my child's father. I had no job, no understanding of real responsibility, and I had never possessed the kind of selfless spirit being a good mother requires.

But my daughter's innocence and pure love for me inspired me every day to be and pursue better. These are just a few gems I picked up along the way:

Be Real With Your Kids

I know I'm not the only one who grew up with parents who were NEVER wrong, no matter how wrong they were. "Do as I say, not as I do," was always the motto and don't you dare question it!

We can laugh about it now, but if we're really trying to raise daughters and sons that receive correction, we have to show them the way. I don't think my daughter wants a perfect mother who got everything right, I think she wants to know she can come to me when she gets things wrong because she's seen me mess up and correct my mistakes.

How do I expect her to know how to apologize when she's wrong if I don't? How can I expect her to be open to new ways of thinking if I'm not? How can she learn to be self-reflective and evolving if I don't practice that myself? We try to paint this image to our kids that we are without fault as if it will make them respect us more, but I've learned to let her see me fail so she can witness how I grow from it and see that I'm better because of that failure.

Grace Yourself

I don't believe anyone goes into motherhood completely prepared. No matter how many books you've read or baby classes you attend, there are just some things you don't learn or adjust to until you're actually on the job. And that's fine. You're going to get some things wrong the first time and, honestly, any mother that's keeping it real will tell you that 50% of taking care of children's physical and emotional needs is trial and error!

What food combos do they like? Trial and error. What hair products are getting us through? Trial and error. I wonder if this laundry detergent is what's making Grace itch so bad? Trial and error. Children are resilient, and as long as you're actively seeking to be better in all things, you can't go wrong. So, don't beat yourself up about what you don't know or may be getting wrong, instead take joy in mastering the small things that will be big things later.

My Daughter Is A Mirror That Reflects Everything I Am

Parenting is a MAJOR responsibility. Children come into the world pure and untainted, knowing absolutely nothing. So how scary is it that everything they know about being men or women is picked up from those raising them?

My biggest fear as a mother is for my daughter to waste time as an adult unlearning habits she picked up from me. I learned very early on that my daughter is a sponge that soaks up my energy. My peace, shapes her peace; my response to pain and conflict shapes how she responds; my kindness and goodness shapes hers.

As she gets older, I won't be her only influence, but I will always be her first example and that is something I take seriously.

Obviously, as she learns and is exposed to more things on her own, she will develop qualities (good or bad) without my input, but it is up to me to be spiritually and emotionally secure so she can have a point of reference.

Create Your Own Normal

Every family is different and considers the factors that are important to their life when raising their children. That means every child may not have both parents in the home or go to private schools; not every child eats all organic homemade snacks or maybe they do. Some children have the opportunity to travel and be taught at home, other parents may enjoy and thrive when there is more routine and less spontaneity—there is no wrong way!

The only right way is to hear the needs of your children and meet them as best as you can. I've learned to talk to Grace and really hear her when she tells me how she's feeling or what she likes and doesn't. Although she's five, she's more than capable of articulating what's important to her and as her mom, I've learned how to balance her desires with what she actually needs. More importantly, I've learned how to be open to adjusting the plan as we go rather than sticking to some unwritten rules of how things are supposed to be.

Treat Yourself Well

Being a mother is selfless and exhausting work. There are so many highs and rewarding joys about motherhood but pouring from an empty cup can make you feel extremely low and imbalanced. Your happiness is something only you can control and protect – your kids, your partner, your job will let you down, but only you know what you need to feel good about you. I didn't always know what made me feel good or what made me happiest, but I did the work to find out and that was the best thing I could have ever done for my daughter!

Mom, if no one else tells you please know that you're amazing, you're doing great, and you got this!

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com.

Featured image by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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