Maybe you haven’t noticed, but people (read: Hollywood) seem to be embracing single motherhood these days. I know, I know… it seems impossible, right?
Well, it is only possible if you are White, or at least non-Black.
In recent years, there have been a number of movies about White women having babies in unconventional ways. Knocked Up, Baby Mama, The Back-Up Plan, and The Switch are all movies about White (or racially ambiguous, in the case of JLo’s movie) women become pregnant or seek to have babies in ways other than being married or in committed relationships. These are romantic comedies that usually involve the female falling in love during pregnancy or after having the child, so they all pretty much end up happily. Seems cool, right?
I have to ask then, as a Black single mother, where is MY positive, funny, romantic representation?
In 2009, CNN featured an article about out-of-wedlock births being at an all-time high.
Nearly 40 percent of babies born in the United States in 2007 were delivered by unwed mothers, according to data released last month by the National Center for Health Statistics. The 1.7 million out-of-wedlock births, of 4.3 million total births, marked a more than 25 percent jump from five years before.
There are so many negative statitistics related to the likelihood of how these lives of these children will turn out. Oftentimes, these statistics are associated with people of color (Black, Non-White Latino). According to the article 72% of Black children are born out-of-wedlock, compared to 65% American Indian, 51% Latino, 28% White, and 17% Asian. White women have the second-lowest rate, yet Hollywood seeks to glamourize their plights and paint the picture that when White women have children outside of traditional marriages, it is because the women choose it, they are older, they just want to be happy with babies and don’t want to wait for men to come around. “Knocked Up” is the only movie that made it “accidental”, but the main character had a great career and a high paying job, so it was assumed that she would do just fine because she could handle it. She briefly considered abortion, but opted to keep the baby and prepared herself to raise it alone because the father was a less-than-responsible stranger. In the end, however, they fell in love through bonding over the pregnancy and it all worked out for the best.
This idea of choice is important. According to the article 50,000 of women delivering babies annually are single mothers by choice. It cites women getting older and dealing with biological clocks ticking as motivation and sperm banks as the answer. However, these methods are costly, so chances are that these women are financially capable of handling the expenses of raising a child alone.
What about Black women? Are we making the same choice? This article talks about the rise of single Black women adopting children, suggesting Black women too often encounter men who show little interest in being married, so they take it upon themselves to become mothers as their child-bearing window begins to close. According to this article, Black single women made up 55% of public adoptions in 2001. There are 330k+ Black women aged 35-44 who have never been married or had children, which the article suggests is the motivation for Black women seeking alternative means to become mothers.
Can we afford it? From the articles referenced above, we spend an average of $15,000 to adopt or go through in vitro fetilization or the use of sperm from sperm banks. But then, this article says that 38% of Black single mothers live at or below the poverty line. Economics is definitely a factor for women of any race, but it seems as though Black women are more likely to face economic challenges. But, many of us highly educated, career women are still spending money to become mothers.
So where is our movie?
I could comment on the lack of positive representation of Black women, Black love, and Black families in Hollywood in general, but that’s another idea. I’m wondering how something that was once a negative stereotype most commonly associated with Black women is now suddenly becoming the “in” thing among White women… and why is Hollywood now romanticizing it?
Where is the non-Tyler Perry written/directed/produced/acted/scored/distributed/animated movie about a successful single Black woman who CHOOSES to become a single mother, does so successfully, and falls in love in the process? Or maybe she doesn’t have to fall in love, but find some support. One of the earlier articles said that 80% of children born out-of-wedlock are born to romantically involved parents, so being unmarried doesn’t mean not being happily in love or in a good relationship.
So where is our movie?
Where is our TV show?
I’m pondering all of this as I find myself a divorcing single mom co-parenting a small child and finding myself ready to date again. I’m pondering this because of my concern that my being a single mom is a negative in terms of being found appealing as a mate. I’m pondering this because of the negative stigma still attached to Black single moms that I hope to debunk or at least avoid. I’m pondering this because I’m wondering about the likelihood of finding a mate who takes us as a package deal if so many single non-mothers are struggling to find mates. I’m just doing a lot of pondering and I’m wondering how you readers feel about this Hollywood trend and the lack of positive representation of Black single mothers in media.