When I started Beyond Baby Mamas in 2013, my daughter had just turned 3 and I was working part-time as an adjunct professor, trying to take my freelance writing career to the next level. I knew I wanted BBM to be an online support group for single mothers of color, and I thought I understood how very broad a category that was. I anticipated BBM drawing mothers of all ages with different professional goals and interests, different self-perceptions about being single mothers, and a common aversion to being called “baby mamas.” In fact, that latter idea was supposed to be a unifier; our point of common interest would definitely be that none of us enjoyed being labeled as “baby mamas.” No matter our other personal beliefs, we’d band together to turn that term and the stereotypes it connotes on its ear.
BBM did draw a wide range of single mothers of color. A Latina PhD student. An unpartnered black adoptive mom. A poetry professor with a special needs son. A web design entrepreneur and mother of two who strives to conquer her inner voice and stay trill daily. A mom of two preteen daughters with an aim to run for public office. A Spelman grad raising a small child while studying for the bar (which she recently passed!). A chemistry professor whose husband abandoned her while she was pregnant with twins. A creative writing MFA, like me, with a daughter just a few years older than mine who not only didn’t mind being called a baby mama but would also begin to build her own brand around it.
These women expanded my views about what my own single motherhood journey could look like. Through the reading and sharing of their stories, I learned that I had greatly limited my own ambitions and expectations, when I had my daughter. At the time of BBM’s inception I was feeling a bit sidelined. All my childless friends’ careers were soaring forward and I was low-income Disney Jr. diaper-land, trying to gather clear, concise opinions for essays over the din of Doc McStuffins.
Everyone says this; it’s widely known, yet I cannot stress it enough: there’s power in surrounding yourself with people who understand the landscape of their lives. For parents in the Beyond Baby Mamas community, unpartnered, unmarried, divorced, and/or solo motherhood is one facet of our landscapes. And it’s completely navigable, but it can also be isolating.
I took some time off from Beyond Baby Mamas because my writing career did, in fact, pick up. Last fall, my daughter’s dad relocated from California, where he’d lived since her birth, to Baltimore where we’ve lived since she was one. Long-distance co-parenting became right-up-the-street co-parenting. And my mother, who’d been my daughter’s alternative caregiver since birth, moved hundreds of miles south just last month.
Those big adjustments led to a much longer hiatus than I’d intended. But that hiatus gave me time to consider how this space should be used and who should benefit most from it.
We’ll still be called Beyond Baby Mamas, but we won’t spend as much time myth busting as we did before. Now I want most to center women’s stories. I think single mothers benefit most from understand how best to get from Point A to Point B, when Point B is a huge undertaking like finishing a degree with a breastfeeding baby, transitioning from an admin office job to a career as an executive, or starting a time-consuming business without much childcare support nearby.
I also want to continue taking the occasional look at media representations of nontraditional black motherhood. It’s worthwhile to examine those story lines and images, to discuss how they make us feel, and to challenge them when necessary.
And I want to resume community-giving initiatives like our Back to School Supply Drive, our Holiday Dinner Giveaways, and our Toy Drive.
But mostly, I want all our mothers to get their squads together. This space exists primarily to remind single mothers of color that they’re not alone, that their goals are achievable, and that there are women like them, overcoming the same impediments every day. Meet one another. Connect on social media. Make mom friends who understand your life. We’re out here, ready to roll deep, amped to support you.
I want people to revisit this blog and read, hear, and watch real women share their real concerns and conquered challenges, and my hope is that only two words spring to mind when they leave here: squad goals.