In 2021, the Annie E. Casey Foundation brought to light a concerning trend: the number of single mothers across all ethnicities in the United States has risen by a staggering 80% since the 1980s. To provide a snapshot of this phenomenon, the Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2013 revealed that approximately 25% of all white mothers are raising their children as single parents. In stark contrast, a striking 72% of children within the African American community are being raised by single mothers.
These statistics are a stark reminder of the complex challenges that single mothers face in the United States. As someone who has been a mother since the age of 18, I've experienced a decade of my life as a single mother. Throughout this journey, I've encountered a myriad of obstacles, including economic struggles, academic pursuits, and discrimination based on both gender and socioeconomic status. Additionally, raising sons (and one daughter) as a Black woman in a household without a father has presented its own unique challenges. It's been a delicate balance, teaching my children about the path of a man, especially a Black man, while continually having to defend the value of my efforts as a woman who is "trying to do a man's job." Moreover, there's the constant pressure to shield them from the grim statistics that often predict their futures.
However, it's time to dispel a prevailing misconception. I'm tired of reading articles in the media and hearing journalists assume that because we are Black single mothers, we must be doing it all on our own, without any support. The erroneous assumption is that there are no grandparents, fathers, father figures, aunts, uncles, community members, or educators involved in our lives.
Let's set the record straight: single parenting (while Black) doesn't equate to being alone. It doesn't mean there are no support systems in place, or that fathers are entirely absent or uninvolved. It doesn't mean that because we may not have a college degree, we are uneducated and incapable of providing for our children without public assistance or housing subsidies.
The truth is, our journey as single Black mothers is characterized by resilience, resourcefulness, and the invaluable support networks we've cultivated. We are mothers who wear multiple hats, often with grace and determination. We may face unique challenges, but we are far from alone in this journey, and we certainly shouldn't be underestimated or reduced to stereotypes. Our stories are diverse and dynamic, and our strength lies not just in ourselves but in the web of support that surrounds us. It's time for society to recognize and celebrate the strength and determination of single Black mothers and to challenge the stereotypes that persist.
Danielle Y. Hairston Green, Ph.D., CFCS-HDFS