Parenting

Mamas on Bedrest: The Myth of the Missing Black Father Debunked

May 19th, 2015

Greetings Mamas!!

Seldom do I revert to childish gloating, but occasionally I just have to go there. Such is the case as I am gleefully reading the report put out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention utilizing data from the National Center for Health Statistics which shows that Black fathers are just as engaged-if not more so-in the rearing and support of their children than fathers of other races. 

Excuse me while I take a moment to gloat.

Yeeeeeeeee haw!!!!!

Yaaaaaaaahoooooo!!!

“Ha! Told yaaaaaaa!!”

“Na na na na na, you were wrong!!!!!”

Now you may be wondering why I am so over the moon about this research? Well, there are several reasons.

1. I am sick to death of hearing how black men are no good, they “hit it and quit it” and don’t take responsibility for the children that they help create.

2. I am sick and tired of hearing that all the ills of the world are because of black men.

3. I am thoroughly done with the portrayal of black men-black people actually-as uncivilized and bringing down the status of US culture globally.

4. And I am beyond through with this nation feeling that it is okay to kill a black male simply because he is present in time and space!

Now you all may be wondering, “What in God’s name does any of this have to do with high risk pregnancy and bed rest??” Well, it has everything to do with it. As I have often reported, African American women and infants have the worst birth outcomes of any other race or ethnicity in the US, with 2-4 times the morbidity and mortality of women and infants of other races and ethnicities. An African American infant is more than twice as likely to die before its first birthday than infants of other races and ethnicities and this is due primarily to preterm birth!!!

Are you following me yet?

Let me continue. Ever since I can remember and at least for my adult professional life “the party line” regarding the black family has been,

“It’s the breakdown of the black family, and the absence of black fathers in particular, that is the cause of the high maternal and infant morbidity and mortality that exists amongst African Americans.”

As an African American, and now as a divorced single mama, I knew that isn’t at all the case but had no way of substantiating what I knew to be true. Now there is concrete data obtained by one of the most reputable scientific bodies in the United States that has shown what many of us African Americans already knew. Yes, many more African American children are born to  and/or raised by “single” mothers, but what this study has shown is that while the parents of a child may not be married, they may in fact be together (co-habitating) and even if they are not living together, African American fathers are intricately involved in the rearing of and support (and here I do mean financially) of their children, in many cases more than White or Latino fathers.

IMG_0200

My son and his dad reading at the library.

 

So again you may be asking, “What does this have to do with preterm labor and infant mortality?” Stay with me.

There is a lot going on in the United States as regards race and quite frankly none of it is good. We have all seen and heard the news reports of police shooting unarmed African American men, racial profiling of both African American men and women, disparities in discipline for African American School Children and so on and so on and so on. These are daily facts of life, daily stressors for African American women, and daily stressors for the infants they are carrying. Additionally, poverty for all families is reaching heights not seen since the great depression and other times in our history. The unemployment rate is still teetering on the high side and looms highest amongst African American men. More depressing is the fact that people of any race with higher educations are now just as likely as those with little to no education to endure a prolonged time of unemployment, and those numbers are again higher for African American men. This amounts to markedly elevated stress for African American men and African American women, their partners. Stress, as well as poverty, is not good for anyone, but particularly not good for pregnant African American women and the infants that they are carrying. We know that stress is an independent risk factor for preterm labor, prematurity and low birth weight all areas in which African Americans have the highest rates. So I think that it is safe to say that poverty, unemployment and racism are far strong predictors and stressors on maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in African Americans than “absentee dads”.

Now I know that many of you are going to come right back at me and say, “But what about black on black violence? What about the crime rates in predominantly black neighborhoods? And we know that many African American men abandon their family responsibilities.” Agreed. But the data from this study, which was broad and the study well constructed, shows that despite all these negative influences, African American men continue to be hands on fathers, and at greater rates than white or Latino fathers.

I wholeheartedly admit that there is much that needs to be done within my culture to heal it. But let’s not look astray too much to lay blame. Much of what we see in these urban, depressed areas is poverty; boarded up buildings, non-existent stores and services, poorer schools and no revenue coming into these areas. Add to that no jobs, no way for people in these areas to support themselves and their families, no money, leads to crime and yes, homicides. Is it okay? No. Is it an excuse? Of course not. But let’s consider the fact that if people in these areas had jobs, income and ways in which to support and sustain their families, then, according to data from the CDC again, crime rates would in fact go down and quality of life would go up.

But I myself have veered a bit off topic. The bottom line is this-even in depressed economic times, even in economically depressed communities, even when jobless, even with the threats to their lives black men are taking care of their children. Contrary to the sensationalized news reports and the stereotypic depictions on television and in movies, black men are taking care of their children-their families. The question now becomes, how can we as a culture, as a nation give them a hand so that this can continue? What are we as a nation, as a culture doing to reduce poverty, increase jobs, increase opportunities for education so that not just black men, but all men, can have the means to raise and support their children?

Finally, we have to ask the question, “Have we too narrowly defined “family”? We know from this work that there are men and women living together and raising their children but not married, or married and helping to raise their spouse’s children. Aren’t they still a family? What about blended families? Large extended families? This is all data that is yet to be analyzed-or even obtained. We know that African Americans being of the African diaspora are a “tribal” people. Migration and dispersion-both voluntary and involuntary-has also played a role in the depressed socioeconomic status of African Americans resulting in decreased community support for families. How are we as African Americans going to re-establish our communities and our families going forward?

There are many unanswered questions and I am sure that many more studies will come about, but what we do know is this: African American men are supporting their children and its time to toss out the stereotypes of them as “absentee fathers” and do what we can to support their efforts and the efforts of all men who want to be active parents to their children.

References:

Jo Jones, Ph.D., and William D. Mosher, Ph.D., “Father’s Involvement With Their Children: United States, 2006–2010”. National Health Statistics Report, Number 71, December 20, 2013

The Causes of Infant Mortality-The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

African-American Women and Their Babies at a Higher Risk for Pregnancy and Birth ComplicationsThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Black Unemployment Rate 2015: In Better Economy, African-Americans See Minimal GainsInternational Business Times.

Murry, V. M., Brown, P. A., Brody, G. H., Cutrona, C. E. and Simons, R. L. (2001), “Racial Discrimination as a Moderator of the Links Among Stress, Maternal Psychological Functioning, and Family Relationships.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 63: 915–926. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00915. x

The Absent Black Father Myth Debunked-by CDCThe Daily Kos

Mamas on Bedrest: My Evolving Role as Mama

May 4th, 2015

Hello Mamas,

Happy Mother’s Day!! I know that Mother’s Day is yet a week away, but I wanted to take a moment and wish each and every one of  you a wonderful day! For some of you, this will be your first Mother’s Day; It doesn’t matter if you are still gestating or holding your precious darling in your arms, you are a mama! For others, this is an annual notch marking your progress as mama. Congratulations to you all! Where ever you happen to be on your motherhood journey, do take a moment to reflect and give yourself a rousing round of applause. You have earned it!!!

I have been thinking a lot about my motherhood journey lately. Perhaps it’s because my daughter has been chanting her mantra, “13 in 2015”!! since the beginning of the year, indicating that as of this October, I’m going to have a full fledged teenager in the house. But that’s not the only thing that has me pondering. A few weeks ago, my son, my 9 year old, asked if he could ride in the front seat. My knee-jerk response was to say “no”. But when I took a look at him, I mean, a really good look at him, I changed my mind. As I said, my son is 9 and he weighs upwards of 85 lbs and stands about 4ft 8inches. (My daughter was just measured in school and she tells me that she is 4 ft 11 in. I’m 5 ft.) He is as tall as my mother who sits in the front seat every time she visits. While she spots him a few pounds, I looked up the guidelines and he meets them all! So now he rides in the front seat when I take him to school and it’s a complete mind bender that the darling little bald-headed baby that I hugged and cuddled for so long is now ‘riding shotgun.’

Everything is changing. My relationship to my children is changing and my role as their mama is changing. I find myself not so needed anymore and I have to admit that I am a teenie bit sad about this. The infant and toddler stages are so intense, you can’t take your eyes off of the little ones alone for a second! In the blink of an eye they are wandering into the street, putting kitty kibble in their mouths or reaching towards something hot. When they want something there is no negotiation. They wail their discontent and you do your best to soothe them. A kiss can make the world spin right and let’s face it, when they are in that phase of only wanting you-yeah, it’s a bit constricting but at the same time, how good does it feel when your child is screaming, you can walk into the room, pick them up and instantly they calm down and nestle into your arms in utter contentment? Call me crazy, but it was like having sort or magical power and I will go on the carpet right now and say – I LIKED IT!!

But I like this stage, too. I like being able to say, “Hey, go get ready for bed,” and they go into their rooms, shower, change into their pajamas and come out ready to turn in. I like that on Saturday mornings my daughter sleeps in later than anyone and my son can now get himself some breakfast. I like that they have chores around the house and I am not the only person doing all the maintenance and upkeep. I like that they are great at putting items on the shopping list when things are running out. I like that I can talk to them about things that may have happened and that we can often come to an agreeable solution (This is a work in progress but we are doing well!). They are becoming more independent, exerting their own personalities and I find it fascinating to watch them grow and begin constructing their own thoughts and opinions.

Until they use those thoughts and opinions against me. One thing that is both a blessing and a curse is that I have 2 very intelligent children and when the going gets rough, it’s gang up on mom time! I have to admit that they have come up with some very plausible arguments against things that I have said. I have apologized to my son and praised him for holding his firm to his opinion when he and I disagreed, and I have had to admit to my daughter that I was wrong when we had “mixed it up”. While both my children are very clear that I have the final say on things that happen in our household, I have tried my best to allow my children to have a voice and an opinion about things as much as possible. Sometimes I cannot allow their opinions; as the responsible adult, I have to make decisions that are in the best interest of safety and security for the three of us. But when possible, we have “family meetings” and as a family make decisions.

Motherhood at times is really hard. It’s hard to tell your children “no” when they want something, or want to do something “everyone else is doing” and yet you just don’t feel is right. It’s hard to stand firm in the face of rolling eyes and heavy sighs. And some of my toughest decisions regarding my children came as I was navigating the divorce from their father. Sometimes life seems as clear as mud, yet you have to keep going because there simply isn’t any other choice. So you review whatever information is available and make the best decision possible; sometimes with success and sometimes with colossal failure. And just as I tell my children, at those times of failure, I have to push myself to get up, dust off, learn from the mistake and move on.

My road to motherhood was so dicey with 2 miscarriages, a surgery to be able to carry my children, 2 high risk pregnancies, 2 cesarean sections and a preterm birth with a low birth weight infant. At the time everything was so intense, so critical. I now look back at that 5 year span and it is but a blip on the continuum that is my life. Motherhood itself is so much more, so much juicier! Having kids really is a gift of a lifetime and I am so grateful that I have been blessed to have been given this gift twice.

To all you mamas out there, whether you spend the day in bed with your family fawning all over you, or cuddling a new little love, or spending the day having some great family adventure (which may simply be successfully getting everyone clean and out of the house off to dinner!!) I want to wish you the happiest of Mother’s Days from me and mine to you and yours!

 

There is still time to contribute to the Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond March for Babies campaign. We are hoping to raise $1000 to raise awareness of preterm births and prematurity. The Austin Walk is Saturday, May 9, 2015. A donation as small as $5 will help. Donate now!

Don’t know what to give mama for Mother’s Day? If you are in Austin, give her the gift of care! We offer in home care for mamas on bedrest. Click here for details and mention this blog to get 3 hours of in home care for the price of 2!

Mamas on Bedrest: The Conscious Parent

February 24th, 2015

The Conscious parent Book CoverI was watching Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday and she had this very lovely woman on named Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Dr. Tsabary is a clinical psychologist and an internationally known expert in “Conscious Parenting”. Her book, The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves and Empowering our Children is a bestseller on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, and explains how we as parents are not to “lord it over” our children, but our job is to really get in touch with the spirit of our children and thus guide them towards their higher selfs.

Dr. Tsabary states that in the parent-child relationship, children actually mirror and act out issues parents have regarding their own childhoods, and this is often a source of stress between parents and children. For example, a parent who may be very insistent that their child be a soccer player may have had soccer aspirations themselves as a child. But the child may hate soccer and manifest this dislike by not being prepared for practice, trying to avoid practice, misplacing or losing equipment, etc…Then the parent and child get into power struggles; the parent trying to “instill good team skills and agility/athleticism” (actually their own desires for team skills and athleticism) and that child trying to assert his or her own preferences.

Dr. Tsabary also emphasized that we cannot expect our children to be perfect. Their bad behavior is just behavior and we should not take it personally. She said that when our children throw tantrums, it isn’t a reflection of us as parents, but a sign that the child is upset. Okay, I agree with that in theory, but each of my children threw exactly one public tantrum and I have to admit, it made me crazy and yes, I was concerned that other customers in the stores were thinking,

“She can’t control her kid!”

This is where we err, according to Dr. Tsabary. We should be focusing on what is going on and what has triggered our child. The tantrum isn’t about us. But when we take it and judge ourselves as parents for it, then we set our selves up for confrontation with our children.

I have not read this book (yet), but I was very taken with what this psychologist had to say. As someone raised in the “you do it because I told you to do it” line of parenting, I really do have a desire to be a more “conscious parent” and I do give my children a chance to voice their opinions. I actually came into conflict over it with my mother on a visit to my parents one summer. I asked my daughter to do something and she asked me “Why”. The moment she asked “Why”, my mother threw a fit and started yelling at my daughter to be quiet and to do what I asked. I actually had to “back my mother off” my daughter and tell her that I was fine with my daughter asking why she was to do what I asked. I then explained to my daughter why I needed her to do what I asked and she went ahead and did it.

“I’m not into this ‘new parenting,” my mother gruffly stated.

“It’s not ‘new parenting'” I said. “It’s allowing my children to learn to respectfully express their opinions. She wasn’t out of line, she simply asked a question about why I asked her to do what I asked.”

My mother grew up in a very different time than we live in now and in her day, Children were to be seen and not heard and to be obedient little robots, yet expected to live and function fully in the world. While one may argue that many grew up this way and have fared just fine, I know that I have had my own issues with communication and asserting my opinions. I don’t want either of my children to be this way. I want them to be firm in their convictions and to not be afraid to speak their minds.

I am looking forward to reading through The Conscious Parent and seeing what else I can learn and take into my parenting arsenal. I invite you, Mamas on Bedrest, to take some time to think about how you want to parent those little loves you’ve got growing inside of you. If you decide to read the book, please post a comment in the comments section below. I’d love to hear if and/or how this book changes your parenting perspective and what tips you are taking into your own parenting arsenal and the things with which you are in disagreement. I don’t feel that there is enough emphasis on really thinking about the type of parent you want to be, and quite frankly once the baby is here, there just isn’t time. So while you are hanging out and gestating, you may want to read this book and formulate your parenting style.