Jumping That Broom

Yesterday was National Black Marriage Day, a day that celebrates and promotes marriage within the Black community.

According to many opinion article writers, a forthcoming book by one of my professors, a “movement” championed (and also derided) by many in the black blogging community, and a recent report on the state of Black children, the issue of marriage among Black people is cited as the #1 reason – and also #1 solution – for why Black people are in the situation in which we find ourselves today. The breakdown of the “family unit,” as many call it, is hurting black children. From what I can see, most of these reports/opinions/etc. take the approach of the Moynihan report and cite that the issue is black single mothers raising children without black fathers. Something about the lack of a father in the home – and hence the breakdown of the family unit – has caused such damage that only the revival of marriage can fix.

I think this is… how can I say in the most polite way…misguided.

My issue with this whole propaganda machine is this: marriage and the multitude of support needed for black children to succeed and thrive are two totally different things. While they need not be mutually exclusive, one can exist without the other.

I am black, and I am married with black children. So I am not anti-marriage. I love my husband, and plan to be with him until death do us part. For real. I think that children can benefit from having both of their parents in their lives as much as possible, given that both of those people are available and willing to do the job. But it doesn’t necessarily work that the converse is true: that children must suffer if they don’t have both parents – a man and a woman – in their lives as much as possible. There is just very little evidence for this.

Research is showing that children who grow up in same sex coupled households do just as well as children who grow up in opposite sex households. Census data shows that children raised in same sex households do as well in school as children raised in opposite sex households. Children of lesbian co-parents do as well, and perhaps even better than children of heterosexual married couples. There is little evidence that children need both a man and a woman in the household to succeed.

That many call the fact that over 70% of black children are born “out-of-wedlock” a crisis is a crisis. The statistic is that black women are choosing to have children with men to whom they are not married. The crisis, to those who call it that, is that some moral value has been violated – obviously these women had sex before marriage. I suppose a second value violation, although it’s hardly moral, was the failure to use birth control. But are these two facts really of crisis proportions? What is the real problem?

I was pregnant with Big A before we got married. I was also college educated, had my own place to live, with my own job, and was about to go to graduate school. I had had sex before marriage, and failed to properly use birth control. An issue that I was pregnant? Of course. A crisis? No.

People often point at the 1950s and 1960s as the hey-day for marriage in the black community. Blacks supposedly had the highest rates of marriage among any racial group in the country. Since that time, however, the rate of marriage has been on the decline, not just for Blacks, but for everyone. But to me, it’s not just a coincidence that the culmination of the Civil Rights Movement and the decline of marriage occurred around the same time (and don’t forget about the womens movement.)

Just like many things were fractured in age of integration, so was the black community. I think that what is a crisis is not the decline of marriage, but the decline of community. Marriage is not supported only by those two people who stand at the altar and profess their love; family and friends are invited to serve as witnesses and to pledge their support to that union. In the 1950s and 1960s, new marriages began in the comfort of a community where people loved that couple, counseled that couple, saw that couple in church every Sunday. They likely lived around the corner from their Mamas and Daddies, sisters and brothers. When they had their first child, the grandmother came and stayed for weeks helping out; the entire family brought over food. Black women married and worked and raised their children, but also helped raise other people’s children too. Children were supported by more of the village concept, where my mama know your mama and if your mama sees me doing something wrong, your mama will punish me just like my mama would. Before integration, children saw businesses run by their own people, people whose name they knew and who knew their name. School teachers lived on the block, and knew every child’s family because they also went to church together. So children were not only supported by the institution of marriage, they were supported by a strong community that knew each other and did for each other.

Integration changed that. Integration, as it’s played out, has created huge rifts in the black community along class lines as some have moved on up to the big time, getting their piece of the pie while others are holding on to the promises but have been left looking up from the bottom of the well. The same fractures that were created among slave negroes and house negroes have been recreated for the 21st century. And now, someone is feeding to us that marriage is the ticket to our salvation? Naw, son.

What has always been the backbone of the black community is exactly that – community. If black people want to get married – that’s great. More power to them. But our children don’t need marriage; they need community. They need the support of any and all loving adults who can care for them, married parents or not. There was a time, which is still true now in many areas, where grandparents, aunties and uncles, where considered essential parts of black children’s’ lives, in both married and non-married families. But not as much anymore. When I read the reports that bash parents for failure to parent, I wonder from where these survey takers think the current parents learned to parent? And where did their parents learn to parent? There was a time that even if your parent was not doing all that you needed, your best friend’s mother was, and you were learning right along with him. Now, you have to set up playdates. The natural community fluidity and trust is gone. Parenting is often happening in a vacuum. What happened to the community that nurtured and mentored young parents on the way to go?

Our little family, the four of us, live 3000 miles from our biological family. But we’ve created, as many transplant Black families do, our fictive kin right here in the Bay Area that serve as our “family” of aunties and uncles and cousins. In the black community, nuclear families have never had to go it alone. But now, it’s not natural. We have to work to make a family seem real.

With integration, the black community adopted the American mantra of “every man for themselves.” And that has been what has destroyed the black community. The decline of marriage has been a collateral consequence.

So when these groups, movements, days, etc., claim to want to celebrate Black marriage, I have to take a *pause.* Because while I feel that their hearts are in the right place, I think their energy is totally misdirected. Instead of “promoting” marriage, how about community building, i.e. creating spaces where marriages can thrive? In those same spaces, not only will marriage thrive, but also other forms of families and ultimately, supports for children.

Whether a child succeeds should not depend on whether their parents are married or not. By putting our feather in that hat we are walking a very narrow path indeed, and deflecting energy and resources from where they could best used.

30 looks good on me

(cross-posted on gradmommy)

Yeah, I think it does 🙂

Although I’d planned today to be different, due to some exigent circumstances, it was just like any other day. But different.

Hubby co-oped for me this morning so I could study for the exam I need to take tomorrow. Then we (hubby and I) had lunch at the cheapest place we could think of: soup, salad, and bread sticks at the Olive Garden. $8.50 each. Didn’t the bread sticks used to be garlic? Now they are just…regular. Nothing Italian about them. Like you can buy at the supermarket and put in the oven yourself. Whole meal would have been less than $20, even with tip, but I needed a cup of coffee.

The kids were not very good today – perhaps too much wax in the ears – but I told them that because I loved them and it was my birthday, they could have cupcakes. There is a fabulous cupcake store (yup, they only make cupcakes) around the corner, so we stopped in to get a quarter-dozen:

The one second to the bottom was mine: carrot cake. Amazing, I used to HATE carrot cake. Now, it’s my absolute favorite kind of cake. Funny how things change.

I went to yoga. I missed on Monday, and my body has been calling for it ever since. I always manage to be late. Today was no exception. I hoped to have my cupcake with the kids when I came back, but apparently daddy had had enough. And apparently the kids hadn’t wanted to wait for me.

The kids gave me cards. When I told my mother, she said, “Oh, did they make them?!” When I said no, I sort of had an Amy-Chua-Tiger-Mom-moment, like, OMG, why didn’t my kids make my cards, this is so subpar, they could have made them, etc, etc. Crazy how little nuggets of nuttiness can be planted in the parenting head so quickly. And then I remembered this:

The inside of the card said, “SEE BACK.” He needed enough room to tell me how much he loves me.

Everything and all is right in my world.

Do Black Mothers Raise Daughters, Love Sons?

I’ve seen and heard the saying, “black mothers raise their daughters and love their sons” repeated enough to know that some people actually feel this way. Sonja Norwood, mother of Brandy and Ray-J, even weighed in on the question for Essence last year.

My 14-year-old daughter has accused me, on many occasions (usually when being denied something she wants), of liking her little brother better, or loving him more. I would be lying if I said I never treated them differently. I never thought that saying applied to me, though, because I think that I treat each of my children in accordance with their particular needs. 

But a recent conversation with a woman I know gave me pause. My friend admitted that she does more for her son than her daughter “because he needs more from me.” She asserted that her girl is more self-sufficient, more reliable than her son, even though he is older, and that her son “needs her more.”

That may be true. But is it fair?

Maybe girls are just more responsible than boys, period. My daughter is more responsible than my son, but I assumed it was mostly due to their age difference. My daughter is almost 5 years older than my son. She’ll be a freshman in high school in the fall, and he’ll just be entering 5th grade.

Truthfully, my daughter was more responsible at 10 than my son is now. For instance, at 10, my daughter started riding the public bus to school by herself. She had paid close attention to how we got from point A to point B on the buses and subways. She didn’t need instructions on how to get to school. She needed instruction on how to avoid trouble on the bus. I told her, “Sit near an older black lady, in the front. She’ll make sure nobody messes with you.”

My son, however, freaked out the one time I thought I would have to put him on the public bus to go to school. His school bus didn’t show up, and I couldn’t take him to school because I had an early morning meeting. It’s a straight shot from our house to his school on the nearest MTA bus, just as it was for my daughter. I told him all of this.

He cried.

“I’m not ready!” he shrieked. I sent him to school in a taxi instead.

Because my daughter is more responsible than her brother, I expect her to be responsible all the time. When she’s irresponsible, I get angry because “she should know better!” When my son is irresponsible, I chalk it up to his immaturity. When my daughter is petulant, whiny, tantrum-prone and defiant, I can’t stand it. When my son acts that way – well, he’s still a little boy. My daughter feels and deeply resents the difference.

My daughter says I “baby” my son and that I “forced” her to do more at his age than I force her to do. I deny it. But maybe it’s true. I admit I sometimes forget she’s still a kid. Or that I, too, can be petulant, whiny, pouty and tantrum-prone. Maybe my standards for her are a little higher than they are for him. That’s a balance I need to evaluate and correct if necesary.

I don’t think I “raise” my daughter and “love” my son. I do make distinctions between them based on their age, what I perceive to be their respective level of maturity, and their personalities. I think it would be unfair if I did anything else.

I check myself to make sure I give them equal time and affection. And as my son approaches his 10th birthday, I am giving him more responsibilities, such as household chores. He is fast approaching his teens, and I know it’s time to stop treating him like the baby of the family.

Still, I suspect there always will be an imbalance of some sort. Imbalance doesn’t have to mean unequal or unfair. The burden is on me to make sure that even if I’m not treating them the same, that I am nonetheless being fair.


I was all set to write something serious tonight, something that would really make us all stop and think. And then something came across my Twitter timeline that had me falling OUT and I just had to share it.

The hashtag was #blackparentquotes.

Sometimes I don’t get Black Twitter hashtags. This one I totally did. I obviously was raised by Black Parents. And I obviously am one. I found myself having heard or having said so many of them, I was simultaneously shocked and amused. Here are mine, that I came up with:

“Get your hands OFF my walls!”

My mother STILL says this. When I was a child, I could NOT understand. I never felt that my hands were dirty. But today – my walls are filthy. Why? CUZ I HAVEN’T TOLD MY KIDS TO KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF THE WALLS! Children have nasty hands. They refuse to use the banister to walk up the steps. As Andrea and I commiserated over Twitter, they act like they can’t stand on their own feet. Why are you leaning?! STAND UP!

[Child says something smart.] “Who you talkin’ to?”

My five-year-old is in this stage now where I say this probably every day. Now, back when I was growing up, this statement was followed by silence, actually waiting for a response. You had betta said, “Nobody,” so the retort would be, “That’s what I thought, cuz I know you wasn’t talkin’ to me like that.” Today, I’ll still say, “Who you talkin’ to?” but I will continue with a talk about being respectful and not talking to me that way. Then I’ll tell him how he should of said what he said. These kids don’t even know…

[Mom on the phone. Child is looking at the mom.] “Why you in my mouth?”

A variant is “Get out of my mouth!” Kids just don’t know how to eavesdrop on phone conversations without actually looking. I learned how to avoid that one quick. I don’t even talk on the phone now. But I do have to shuttle my kids away when I’m trying to have an adult conversation. I get the urge sometimes to say this, but I don’t think they’d get it.

[Mom and child walk into the store.] “Don’t ask for nothin’…”

This was just an ongoing instruction. She didn’t even have to say it.

Child: But [so-and-so’s] mom said they could do it! Mom: “Do I look like [so-and-so’s] mama?”

Nope. You sho’ ’nuff don’t.

“Put some shoes on your feet!”

That was my dad! All the time. I think it was a thing about stepping on something, or catching a cold. But I know it’s the reason  insist on walking barefoot in my house all. the. time. That’s the rebel in me.

“Just wait till we get home.”

I don’t say this. We’ve already had the spanking conversation on this site. Let me just say I have my spoon in the car. No need to wait.

And my favorite (can’t take credit for it though*):

Child: Mommy, can we go to McDonald’s? Mom: You got McDonald’s money?

YES! I say this to my kids ALL THE TIME!! It applies everywhere! “Mommy can we go…” “You got some money?” I try to make it clear to my children at all times that only people who earn money can spend money. They get money sometimes and they have to save some of it and they can spend some of it. But outside of that – naw. It even applies when my son wants to talk about stuff that is “his” – what?? Nope – if you don’t pay any bills in this house, then nothing belongs to you.

What are your favorite #blackparentquotes? Share in the comments!

* i am not a tweet stealer. that ish is not cool.

Cheaters as Relationship Gurus

Popular gossip/entertainment site The YBF made a splash yesterday when it posted a YouTube video from Mary Harvey, Steve Harvey’s ex-wife, in which she talked of Harvey’s infidelity during their marriage, including his affair during their marriage with his current wife, Marjorie. The ex-Mrs. Harvey also posted a salacious letter from one of Steve Harvey’s jump-offs.

Not surprisingly, this revelation spawned comments ranging from “I knew he was a low down dirty dog! How dare he try to be some kind of relationship guru!” to “Yawn, old news, old girl needs to move on.”

It is old news, in a way. Steve has admitted his cheating ways. It was already known that his current wife was his side piece. He’s not the first nor the last man to cheat, to marry his side chick, or to say he can tell women how to avoid low down dirty dogs because he was once one himself.

Although Harvey’s relationship books are best-sellers, there are those who resent his emergence as the media’s African-American relationship expert.

Can a person with multiple divorces under his belt seriously be considered a relationship counselor? Or, as Harvey argues, should we listen because of those past failures?

In my opinion, the fact that Harvey is a (reformed) cheater neither qualifies nor disqualifies him as a relationship expert. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship has ideas and opinions about relationships, based on their own experiences. And all of those people are capable of giving both good and bad advice.

I write about being divorced, so I am often asked to write about marriage – particularly, about lessons learned. I managed to partner with and marry the one person on this planet who was incompatible with me in every single way imaginable. Apparently, this is because I am an overachiever.

The biggest lesson I learned about marriage? Don’t marry the wrong person. Or, as I said to a friend shortly after I filed for divorce, “Choose better.”

I can’t tell people how to know he’s Mr. Right, because I’m still trying to figure that out. I have some ideas on how to know you’re dating Mr. Wrong.  But I don’t claim to be the Mr. Wrong expert. One person’s Mr. Wrong is another person’s Mr. Right or Mr. Cool For Right Now.

All I know is this: you are the expert of you. No one can tell you what’s best or worst for you, except you. The only thing another person can do is provide some guidance that might help you make the right choices for yourself.

Which leads me back to Steve Harvey. The fact that he cheated on his wives and has been divorced a bunch of times doesn’t mean much to me. The advice he dispenses should be judged on its own merits.

That said, I’m not a huge fan of his relationship advice, and not because of his own relationship history. I read his book “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man.” While I do think he makes some good points – such as the importance of establishing standards for how you expect to be treated early in a relationship – I don’t care for his “men are simple” brand of relationship advice.

I don’t think men are simple. I think men are wonderfully complex human beings. Harvey says men need loyalty, support and sex. Don’t women need the same things, too?

For the record, I also think the aphorism, “why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” is deeply flawed. It assumes sex has no value for women except as currency in trade with men.

Men and women alike should be smarter about and embracing of sex and their own sexuality, which doesn’t translate to strict “wait till the third date” rules. Other people can give you guidelines, but you have to establish your own rules about sex and intimacy.

As for Mary Harvey, the ex-Mrs. Harvey? I feel badly for her. You don’t save letters, emails, and other evidence of your ex-husband’s infidelity this many years after the divorce, if you have truly moved on. She appears to still be in a lot of pain over her husband’s betrayal of their wedding vows.

If telling her story helps her process that pain and helps other women in the process, then her revelations are a good thing. If she’s still coming from a place of bitterness and vengefulness, she will need to heal for her own sake, no matter what she writes or posts on YouTube. Only she knows what her motives are. I wish her well.

doing it again

This is the second night in a row that I didn’t see my kids after I dropped them off at preschool at 9:30 am. Last night it was because by 5:30pm, when their dad was picking them up, I was already in the bed, knocked out from exhaustion. Today it was because I had classes from 1:15 through 7, only to make a quick pit-stop at home (where they were already in the bed) on my way to choir practice at church. I didn’t make it in until 9:45pm. Tomorrow, we’ll spend the morning together, because their morning preschool is closed, but they’ll have to come with me to my office because I have a meeting with my advisors. I suppose I’ll entertain them with a movie they can watch on my computer. I wouldn’t necessarily call that quality time.

Since the quarter started last week, I’ve been perpetually exhausted. I have done no yoga, my exercise of choice. I started out doing a daily meditation before bed, but that has also slowly disappeared. I’m taking two law classes, two workshops, and a beginners piano class. I have to co-op in the preschool at least once a week. I’m singing in the church choir. I’m TA’ing a class.

I enjoy all of these things. Although I wish I’d not taken all of them on. But I want to honor my commitments. They all “fit” into my schedule. Last quarter, I was a wreck because I wasn’t sleeping and I wasn’t eating. This quarter, I’m getting 8 hours of sleep and I’m eating three meals, a definite improvement. I think I’m tired now ’cause I just haven’t found my rhythm. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. And I spend too much time on the internet. Hence, I’m here with you. But that’s for another day.

But the kicker really is this: I want to do it again. I want to do THIS again:

That’s the Big A, moments after he was born, January 20, 2006. He’ll be 5 in just a week.

I want another baby.

I know, it seems crazy. My life is crazy. The timing seems all wrong.

But something is strongly pulling at my heart, pulling at my body, something that I can’t explain, can’t account for, something….dare I say, PRIMAL?

I’ll be 30 years old this year. I had the Big A when I was 24, right before I turned 25. So much has happened in the last five years, including getting married, the Little A, grad school, a cross country move, going into the hospital, healing from that trauma. And one would think, quite rationally, that throwing a third child in the mix, a third child to where the kids outnumber the adults, would be a risky decision. I know that.

But the past five years have been all about taking risks. And for the most part, they’ve turned out to be winners. And what’s that saying – the bigger the risk, the larger the reward? And that other one – there really is no good time to have kids?

I don’t know. What do y’all think? I won’t be offended. Really. (Unless you say that I’ve already screwed up the kids I have. I will take that personally so don’t go there. Let’s just talk about the future, shall we?)


The other day my father-in-law (never-before-used term) and I shared a little secret regarding how private my husband is. We were neither menacing or overly critical at the moment we were just candid as we casually arrived at the same conclusion about my husband’s inability to open up with us. I have to admit, I am frustrated by the reality that I do not have a truly intimate relationship with Jaron, my partner. At the same time that I relish the ability we have to unite around common interests, the ease at which we “flow” around our household, and how we manage both a new co-professional and familial relationship, I wish that there were ways in which we could communicate better, more deeply and more often.

It’s quite crazy to me how with children this bond is generally taken for granted. I do not have to massage, manufacture or labor over my relationship with my children. They are “natural” fits. Or at the very least, a mother and child are socialized (in many cases) into a bond that is predicated upon the former nurturing the latter. In return, we get an unconditional love that is (in many cases) “easy,” and genuinely fulfilling.

Unlike with my children, I feel like there are times in which my husband and I are not “family,” a word that was lovingly thrown around at my in-laws as a way of making me feel welcome and at home, in a space where of course we only infrequently visit, or else they would not have to remind me that we’re “family.”

All I mean by this is that I have to work much harder to create a sense of intimacy with Jaron than I do with most others.

I am a teacher and I truly believe that there is a solution to every problem. I also subscribe to the good-old-fashion-inner-city-public-school teacher ethos of “rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty” with a problem. What do all the Cocoa Mamas out there do to get “close” to a partner, particularly black male partners who are arguably the most “guarded” men there are?


I am somewhat newly inducted into the official celebration of Christmas. I was born in the Middle East where Christmas, if it was at all celebrated, was a small affair, mostly in people’s homes here and there. Oddly I don’t have specific memories of Christmas in Europe, where I spent a few years as child, aside from some references to Papa Noel, and special cookies and chocolates.

Christmas fully entered my consciousness in the 1980s when I came to America, and how! I love everything about Christmas. I love the decorations, the reds, the greens, the luminescent whites. I love the lights adorning streets and houses. I love the store fronts and hot chocolate and the smell of spiced apple and cinnamon. I love the nativity scenes, the dolls, the elves, the Santas, the reindeer. I love the way people seem warmer and kinder.

I mostly enjoyed all this as an outsider until about ten years ago when I met my husband, who is Catholic and in whose family Christmas is a big deal with family members traveling, sometimes cross-country, to be with each other.

I took to Christmas like fish to water, with one exception: the whole gift thing. The buying just to buy; the mountains of gifts for some and very little to nothing for others; the thank you for my ceramic buxom, blonde angel in a bikini statue that plays the muzak version of All the Single Ladies when you wind it up. All my gift apprehensions came to a head last year when my then-3-year-old stood before what seemed to me to be an obscenely huge pile of goodies and lamented in his lisp: “Thanta never bringth me anyfing!”

Since I recognize that this issue is the subject of long-time debate among the good people who have been celebrating Christmas their entire lives and for generations, and that anything I, Janey-come-lately, have to say about it has probably already been said before ad nauseam, I will now stop and instead let you know how grateful I am for the beauty and magic of the celebration surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ—that feast of tastes and scents and sights, and joy, love and service.

Merry Christmas, our beloved readers. May your lives be blessed with peace, health, abundance, and the gifts of spirit.

Learned Incompetence

“You don’t think any of it is genetic?  None of it has to do with inherent gender differences?  The ability to multi-task, even?”  This was the question I asked a colleague as we discussed an article that concluded, yet again, that women do more than their fair share of parenting, regardless of whether or not they work outside of the home.  This colleague is the only woman I know who seems to have gotten pretty close to a 50-50 parenting split with her husband.  Among other things, not only has she changed very few diapers, but she has also never given her 19-month old son a bath.  Never.  “Please,” she said.  “That very question—why men do less—is asked through a cultural lens.  It’s all learned incompetence.”

“Be careful about the patterns you set early in her life; they’ll be hard to undo later.”  Those words were spoken to me by another female colleague, warning me that my job flexibility would lend itself to a division of parenting between my husband and me that would tip in his favor.  One year into parenting, it turned out she was right; the scale did, indeed, favor him.  She’s wrong, however, that the pattern began early in my daughter’s life; rather, these are patterns that have been setting long before my daughter’s birth. There may, indeed, be a genetic basis for different brain wiring that make women better at multi-tasking, coordinating, or scheduling.  But the parenting imbalance we witness today in so many marriages is more nurture than nature.  It’s learned; learned incompetence on Dad’s part, and learned competence on Mom’s.

And so it is that my learned competence began 30 years ago, having witnessed my mother run our household without my father’s help.  She’s a consummate scheduler and meticulous planner.  She did all the food shopping, and coordinated all of our meals.  She did all of the school shopping, from new clothes to classroom supplies.  She signed all permission slips, orchestrated all doctor and dentist check-ups, shuttled us to all sporting events, signed us up for extra-curricular activities, and nurtured any new interests we had.  She kept track of our family life, our social life, and our academic life.  Although formally married for all of my childhood, functionally she was a single-parent from the start.  And she was damned good at it.

After having my own baby, I picked up where she left off.  My husband is not my father, and is eager to do his share, especially if I ask.  Nevertheless, I insisted on becoming the expert in baths and hair washings, mealtime and sleep time.  I made the toy and clothing purchases; I scheduled the doctor’s appointments and play dates.  Because my work schedule is fluid, I picked up the care-giving slack, pushing my work off to late nights and weekends.  And at the end of my daughter’s first year of life, I was out of balance because of it: tired, out of shape, and often resentful of my husband.

“I have to take responsibility for what I let happen in my relationship,” my mother says of her marriage.  I used to think it absurd that my colleague had never given her child a bath, but today I applaud her for refusing to become the expert in all matters of child-rearing.  I now recognize the brilliance of learned incompetence on Mom’s part.  My colleague was right: the patterns that I set, patterns that I began learning a long time ago, are indeed hard to break.  But my mother is also right; achieving balance in my parenting life is partly my responsibility.

The other part of the responsibility belongs to my husband, and despite the difficulty of breaking old habits, my partner and I are setting new patterns.  On most days, he takes care of our daughter for half of her waking hours all on his own, and in recent months he has given me a few tips about mealtime.  My learned incompetence has resulted in a better balance, and my well-being, as well as that of my family, has improved because of it.

A Family Affair

For all the talk about husbands and children, and the occasional grandparent or two on CocoaMamas, we don’t very often communicate about our extended family networks. I often brag that in my house growing up there was always an aunt, play cousin or godmom around to chew the fat with. Lately, my network is getting somewhat smaller. I still agree by the general spirit however that, “it takes a village, to raise a child.” Tonight, I was reminded of the constant role that my siblings (two brothers and one sister) play in the shaping and development of my new family’s future. Are CocoaMamas (at large) still resourced and supported by their “old” families?

In my paternal side’s “heyday,” we use to gather for family sing-a-longs; mainly we would sing spirituals, peppered with a Stevie Wonder or Bill Withers balad here and there. My children, regrettably, will never share in those memories. However, my family has continued its artistic impulses, working collaboratively on film and digital music projects. My daughter (1.5 years) proudly joined us tonight for a “business” pow-wow. She moderated the meeting, all loud and boisterous on the other end of my brother’s speaker phone.

I am grateful to have a ton of friends, female friends in particular, that have nutured their relationship with me over the years to the point where I have no doubt that we will always be cool. It is trickier for family sometimes though. You have to come up with common interests and be equally invested in maintaining traditions to keep relationships going. Isn’t it funny how with friends you embrace new experiences; a “girl’s trip” to this exotic location or a new movie? However, with family you tend to only sign yourself up for the “same old, same old.”

What are you doing to keep your relationship with your siblings going, and most importantly, how are you modeling the role of family for your children?