Quantcast
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

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

Last year, Meagan Good experienced two major transformations in her life. She returned to the small screen starring in the Amazon Prime series Harlem, which has been renewed for a second season and she announced her divorce from her longtime partner DeVon Franklin.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Mental health awareness is at an all-time high with many of us seeking self-improvement and healing with the support of therapists. Tucked away in cozy offices, or in the comfort of our own homes, millions of women receive the tools needed to navigate our emotions, relate to those around us, or simply exist in a judgment-free space.

Keep reading...Show less

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

To be or not to be, that’s the big question regarding relationships these days – and whether or not to remain monogamous. Especially as we walk into this new awakening of what it means to be in an ethically or consensual nonmonogamous relationship. By no means are the concepts of nonmonogamy new, so when I say 'new awakening,' I simply mean in a “what comes around, goes around” way, people are realizing that the options are limitless. And, based on our personal needs in relationships they can, in fact, be customized to meet those needs.

Keep reading...Show less

Lizzo has never been the one to shy away from being her authentic self whether anyone likes it or not. But at the end of the day, she is human. The “Juice” singer has faced a lot of pushback for her body positivity social media posts but in the same vein has been celebrated for it. Like her social media posts, her music is also often related to women’s empowerment and honoring the inner bad bitch.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts