Mother, May I?

I was talking with a sista-friend of mine about her experiences as an elementary school teacher in the public school system. She’s also seven months pregnant with her first son.

The baby is still in the womb, and she and her husband are already getting their game plan together. They recognize that they will be raising a black man in America.

When we started talking about one of the two schools where she teaches, she mentioned that the majority of the kids classified as mentally disabled are black boys, but what’s more alarming is they aren’t disabled, they lack discipline.

Among the crazy stories she told me, this one was too much. There was a boy who one day arrived at school in his mother’s arms. He’s friggin’ four years old. She carried him to class because he didn’t feel like getting up that morning. So, does that mean everybody else is supposed to carry him for the rest of the day?

I told her this is the little boy who grows up and expects me or other single women to “carry” him.

I asked her if she believes that single mothers coddle their sons out of guilt because the father, for whatever reason, isn’t present. She said yes. We both admitted something that may sound sexist – we believe children need both genders in their lives.

That doesn’t mean if the child has a sorry ass father then he should be there. I mean a competent male and female adult. Little black boys need a man who is emotionally, spiritually and physically available to teach him what a man is. And, I hate to say this, (actually I don’t), mothers can’t be fathers to their sons.

If you are a single mother, it is your duty to find a competent man to be an example for your boy. Period. And it’s a mother’s responsibility, all mothers – married, divorced, widowed or single – to heal themselves from the guilt or any other negative emotions concerning the father. I threw married mothers into that bunch because some of them know they got a sorry ass husband.

I feel so strongly about this, because as a single woman I see there are more men running around who have no clue what a man is.

When they experience failure, like not getting a promotion or a business venture didn’t pop off the way they expected, some men wallow in it. They don’t know how to acknowledge their feelings, create a new strategy and keep it movin’. Some want their girlfriends to actually baby them. There is a difference between a woman giving emotional support and her babying him like his mother would after a nasty fall off of a tricycle.

I have one friend who had two jobs and a side-hustle while her husband had one job, and his one job was really a side-hustle. I just couldn’t understand. As a man, how could he be comfortable letting his wife out-work him? Man, that situation honestly made me step away from the friendship because I couldn’t watch that mess no more. That’s her husband and I have to respect that, and the only way for me to respect it is to not be around them.

I was raised by my father, so I know what a man looks and acts like. I know he’s not perfect, but the older I get, the more I respect him because he did whatever he had to do to make sure our family of seven had what we needed. But, he wasn’t just a dude who brought a check home. He got in our asses!

He was there talking to my brothers about police brutality, white supremacy, education, being passionate about your work, responsibility, integrity (he hates liars and manipulators), and being a leader. My father was always, always, and I mean always, lecturing us. But he’d been through a lot, especially as the youngest of five kids of an impoverished single mother. Most of his childhood friends are either dead, in prison or addicts. There are some things from his past that he doesn’t talk about now, even at 63 years old.

Looking back, I see that he could have never given us what my mother gave us, and likewise, she could have never given us what he gave us. And I am so thankful to God that I have both of them.

Envisioning you with much love, light and fulfillment. See you next week.

Yaminah Ahmad is editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Voice and contributing editor to Collective Voices, a newspaper published by the non-profit, SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. She can be reached at

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May 6th, 2008 at 7:53 am Coretta Scott Queen says:

I believe it is always preferable to have two parents – male and female. Agreed. But when its not possible, just one CAN do the job well IF they are diligient and serious about filling the voids in constructive ways like with mentors, pastors, etc. Lets get real.

May 6th, 2008 at 8:02 am solo is so low says:

I am a single mother of two boys &two girls & do wish I had a father figure for them & I have tried to include that male energy in other ways as best I can but sometimes it is just not possible.

May 6th, 2008 at 8:03 am 1GOODMAN says:

I hear what you’re saying. A strong male hand is needed in raising a man.

May 6th, 2008 at 8:07 am Tawnie says:

As a single mother of a boy I find this offensive.

May 6th, 2008 at 8:12 am kamalp says:

i was raised by a strong single woman and i turned out just fine.

May 6th, 2008 at 8:14 am kamalp says:

i play on here alot w/ what i write sometime but ima strong black man w/ his head on straight. dont drink, drug, rob, steal, have a whole bunch of baby, graduated, work two jobs, take care of my moms, and my whole family when i can, i dont lay up on nobody. and its all taught to me by my moms. this article is filled with a bunch of stereotypes, for real.

May 6th, 2008 at 8:15 am Binta Rohan says:

Sister Ahmad, please be advised that women can raise young men just fine. We have many examples of this. Barack Obama anyone?

May 6th, 2008 at 8:21 am Elsa Harkins says:

i’d expect this from a man - not a woman

May 6th, 2008 at 9:12 am Regina Holloway says:

Respectfully, I disagree with this article.

May 6th, 2008 at 10:38 am RichardW says:

Read more closely is my suggestion

May 6th, 2008 at 11:52 am missme says:

her point is valid - she is not generalizing - she is saying some people.

May 6th, 2008 at 11:53 am missme says:

She Says:
“Looking back, I see that he could have never given us what my mother gave us, and likewise, she could have never given us what he gave us. And I am so thankful to God that I have both of them.”
This is the real point.

May 6th, 2008 at 11:57 am Tina says:

I understand what you are saying. A strong male figure is needed. I wouldn’t knock the single mother though. In the society we have now sometimes those positive role models are not there so women have to do what is necessary, including raising their young men alone. I know how fortunate I am to have had my father in my life and feel blessed that I did.

May 6th, 2008 at 12:01 pm thelma says:

its a tough subject all around.. but i agree with the bottom line - all children need a wide range positive influences, male and female. it still takes a village ya’ll.

May 6th, 2008 at 12:15 pm teradise says:

ideal but not always possible and certainly not necessary!

May 6th, 2008 at 2:46 pm Babe says:

Having friends that have children in both the two parent home and single parents, I know it is hard on both sides. I agree that it takes the village to raise our children, all of us have to step in and help out.

May 6th, 2008 at 2:50 pm culturepop says:

you guys have the wrong idea. this sista is making some very valid points here. my sister has two sons, no father. if it wasn’t for me those boys wouldn’t know the simple important things that make a man a man. single mothers are the strongest women on this earth. i don’t think she is taking anything away from that!

May 6th, 2008 at 2:53 pm superj says:

I had all kinds of different male figures in my life not only my father. I needed and still need all of them.

May 6th, 2008 at 3:10 pm Ginger says:

in my opinion you gotta work with what you got

May 6th, 2008 at 3:12 pm Ashley says:

I just got back from South Africa and it was wonderful. I bungee jumped from the tallest bridge in the world. Amazing! There are so many things that you can only do in Africa. Everyone has to go at least once!

May 6th, 2008 at 3:13 pm Ashley says:

Sorry I entered my last comment in the wrong place;-(

May 6th, 2008 at 3:18 pm Ellene Miles says:

i agree with both arguments. but i think we all know that black children, male or female, benefit greatly from being raised around strong, positive men. seeing grown men unable to make their own, confident decisions is a painful sight.

May 6th, 2008 at 3:20 pm thelma says:

folks is upset!! people…let’s all agree that we all need each other!! LOL

May 6th, 2008 at 3:38 pm Miss Yaminah says:

Wow. There are some very passionate comments. I feel the need to respond. First, I have a huge respect for single mothers. I can’t imagine doing it and I am humbled by those who get up everyday and do it. So, I’m not making a generalization. My perspective is based on what I see and experience as a single Black woman interacting with Black men who happen to come from single-parent homes. After writing this blog and reading your comments I feel the need to stress the importance of honoring both sexes and what they bring to the table. I believe our patriarchal society needs to honor feminine power and I also believe we independent women need to honor the power of men. I think our society is jacked up because we live in a male-dominated world. It baffles me that some men think they can heal the world without the healers (women). But if we lived in a female-dominated society it would be just as jacked up in a completely different way. I believe we are made in the image of God and I believe God is feminine and masculine. I also believe the divine design of human conception requires the feminine and the masculine because it takes the yin and the yang energy to create balance. You work from the inside out. We honor it within ourselves so we can honor it in our homes and ultimately in our world.

May 6th, 2008 at 4:14 pm says:

For me, it’s this simple- if God intended one parent to raise a child, we would’ve been able to conceive asexually.

I come from a single parent home, where my mom raised two brothers- and both are doing great. But I know she wishes she would’ve had a male partner to raise them with. The point isn’t whether or not it can be done, it’s that it shouldn’t have to be.

May 6th, 2008 at 5:47 pm Sahar says:

I greatly appreciate this article and am also in agreement with Ms. Yaminah. Hats off to single mothers everywhere-my mother raised two boys and two girls alone. But what was missing was a stable mentor/role-model for my brothers. Yes, they’ve turned out alright however; I believe had they had that one-on-one time with a consistent male figure in their lives, they would have believed in themselves, their dreams and not made so many of the trial and error mistakes that they have.

Bottom line for me is do the best you can with what knowledge and resources you have at the time, but also reach out and find the help that is available to you to assist in raising responsible adults if you need it. If you are a single mother, raising a son alone, I recommend finding a respectful, able-bodied, man as a mentor. Same if you are raising a female child, maybe you work long hours and don’t have a lot of time to invest in them; mentoring is the key! If it’s Granddad/Grandma, Uncle/Aunt, teacher or good friend, it is so important that your child have a consistent, positive role model that will shine a bright light of self-confidence, integrity and determination. Parents can do it, but if you are a single mother or father, there is loving help available.

One Love,

May 6th, 2008 at 7:42 pm hisherness says:

well, this is certainly sexist, if nothing else. while it may be true that some women are incapable of raising a male child without a male adult, i find it unrealistic and, frankly, silly to project that incapability on women as a whole. do you really think there are no women who can lecture? none who can ride their children’s asses when necessary? none who believe in and can teach responsibility and integrity?

let’s get down to brass tacks, Miss Yaminah. i write this with all due respect, but when you say mothers can’t be fathers to their sons i return that half of the mothers i see can’t be mothers to their sons, either. they can’t be *parents*, and that’s the real issue. not whether the parent is male or female, but whether the parent is a *parent*. the woman to carried her son to school … was that parenting? no. molly-coddling and parenting are not equivalent, and are not mutually exclusive.

historically speaking, some of the greatest men have been raised by women. some of the greatest men, indeed, have *been* women, but we won’t discuss that.

i disagree that the male/female parenting model is ideal. i disagree wholeheartedly. there are women and men who, based on their individual traits, will find that situation ideal. there are women and men who, again based on those traits, will do far better with a single parent model. there are women and men who will even do best with two parents of the same gender.

May 6th, 2008 at 10:14 pm ratty says:

this spicy debate is dope - i like this alot - some intelligent passionate black folks up in here!

May 7th, 2008 at 1:30 am Jacquetta says:

I know this subject was alittle hard, however as some of the other people have said I’m not for this one. I beleive a son can benefit from both parents. A mom can do as alot these days we are stronger because we have to be. If something ever happened where as I was alone to raise my son I know for a fact I could handle it and he would not suffer at all. I am a strong black woman who is determined and strong minded, have rules that must be followed, and don’t play. Respect is a must. If I had to do it I could, no doubt about that.

May 7th, 2008 at 11:59 am kris says:

When it is my time to be a father, I am going to be there for my kids no matter what. I learned that from both of my parents.

May 7th, 2008 at 4:03 pm pmatters says:

I understand what you are saying Yaminah. I have a lot of friends that are single mothers for one reason or another and they really need help. It would be appropriate that it be the father but if not they need a male influence for sure.

May 9th, 2008 at 3:51 am Dee Dee Cocheta says:

THANKS FOR WRITING THIS…now I can share with a few of my female friends. I am glad you started this YAMINAH!

May 9th, 2008 at 9:07 am Tiffany says:

I am a single mother of two boys. I agree Yaminah on this topic. It seems to me that no one wants to take responsibility for what is happening with our children. The is so little focus now on the whole child. Children now are educated by things, and television. My children often tell me that their friends at school don’t have to do any chores. They can’t understand why I make them earn their toys, video games, etc. by putting in extra reading time and taking on additional chores around the house. But I am clear that I am raising black men, and nothing will be given to them for free. We do need as Yaminah said, two competent adults doing their job on their children’s behalf. If not we are setting our children up for failure. We are sending them into the world truly unprepared.