The Official Book of Black Mothering has yet to be published. Luckily, there are a million rules in the unofficial version on how to raise, discipline, “train-up,” feed, guide, spoil/not spoil and love Black children. As a quintessential rule breaker, I have had a rather divergent mothering path. I was a stay-at-home mom for more than 10 years.
I ignored all our cultural rules and did what worked for my family. My dream of working for myself, and being a published author, came true. And, after almost thirteen years of marriage, I found myself the divorced mother of two teenagers. On top of that, soon after, I met and fell in love with my female partner. I’ve never cared about labeling myself, nor felt that “coming out” is required as many in the LGBTQIA community deem a right of passage. I support it, but for me I only felt obligated to come out to my kids.
I had to share with them my new relationship before anyone else. Why? Because they were raised in a traditional male/female relationship, where there was Mom and Dad. This was my kid’s norm. To share that mom is not just dating, but in a relationship with a woman, would be a monumental shift in their experience.
I prepped myself for months. Read countless articles on “coming out to teenagers.” I knew in my heart that my crew would be open. I raised them to be loving and accepting of all people, even when someone’s choices are different than their own. I had gay friends that were close to my kids, and I have always been outspoken about LGBTQI rights.
Still, I was nervous. When I finally told them, my mind was BLOWN! They were both loving and accepting. My son said, “Mom, I just want you to be happy.” My daughter didn’t say much, but she smiled, smiled, smiled. Both my children accepted me, unconditionally, as well as my partner and her teenaged son.
My partner and I have maintained a long-distance relationship for 2 years now. She lives on one coast, and I live over 2,000 miles away on the other coast. We travel to be together at least once a month—a requirement. We speak every morning, text several times a day, and Facetime almost every night.
I believe the key to our relationship is simple: true love, commitment, communication, and the amazing technological advances, which allow for daily visual contact. Emails, texts, greeting cards, surprise gifts, sharing novels that we read aloud to each other, flowers—you name it, we do it. The distance adds an increased level of romance, creativity and excitement.
Children who support my “lifestyle.” Check. Romance unexpected and fulfilling. Check. A loving relationship with my partner’s son? Check. Co-parenting? A work in progress.
When I was married, we both were committed to presenting a united front to the kids. No matter how I felt, I always (mostly) showed support of my ex’s rules and decisions. Post marriage, it’s a bit of a challenge. For the most part, he and I agree on the major decisions for our children—private school, travel experiences, support of sports and arts activities, and most of the major aspects of raising teenagers.
Co-parenting, though, is a constantly evolving dynamic. No matter how he feels, or I feel, the children’s well-being is paramount. My kid’s father, no matter how things ended for us as a couple, is an awesome dad. Aside from disagreements here and there we try to co-parent in a way that makes life for our kids happy, healthy and strong.
Mothering for me started as a plan to depart from the heavy dysfunction of my own childhood. The bottom line? I have always had a singular focus since the birth of my children: to create the best foundation for them to be faithful, compassionate, loving, educated, community minded, and well-rounded individuals who experience opportunities that many of our children don’t.
The result? As of Mother’s Day 2015, my oldest is headed to the top liberal arts school in the country to play the sport he loves. My youngest is a talented artist with opportunities to enjoy life in unusual and unexpected ways. My partner’s son is headed to a top private high school. I am not just blessed this Mother’s Day. I am the luckiest mom on the planet because my crew has taught me things about love, acceptance and non-judgment that I am ever thankful for. Happy Mother’s Day to me!