Quick Hit: Stacia L. Brown’s advocacy for the voices of single mothers

Writer Stacia L. Brown is changing the conversation around single motherhood within communities of color and beyond. Brown rightly highlights the glaring omission in recent trend pieces reporting exploring the rise of single parenting in America.

“The latest numbers on unmarried parenting are out. The National Marriage Project reports that 58 percent of first births in lower-middle-class households and 40 percent of all U.S. births are to unwed mothers. Like clockwork, society has turned its collective gaze to the social and economic crises facing the single mother. And like clockwork, we mothers these statistics represent brace ourselves for the public’s moral scrutiny and fiscal concern. We become like specters; we may be at the center of national conversation, but we don’t often see much of our real lives reflected in it. Everyone’s asking around us; few people are speaking to us… The simplest way to gain accurate perspective about unmarried mothering is to ask unmarried mothers.

It really is that simple. Just ask. For the past six months, Brown has been building an online community of women willing to share their stories on the site Beyond Baby Mamas, a resource for single parents of color. Where there are gaps in mainstream coverage, and politicians continue to preach the mantra of family values and personal responsibility to communities of color (ahem, Obama), Brown’s initiative fills the void, providing a space for women to share their own experiences as parents without the stigma of statistical analysis taped to their backs like targets.

Our national conversation around parenting is dated. The default public voice is through the mouths of married and/or professional women, focuses on balancing home, children, and career, and wanting to “have it all.” The trend pieces are alarmist at worst and woefully ignorant at best. Layered within them are a host of derivative conclusions about morality, class, privilege, and race. I’m not sure why journalists seem reluctant to talk to single mothers to render a more complete picture of their experiences. I do know that they are failing the public by rehashing decades-old belief systems when we know some very successful, high-functioning adults that were the products of single-parent households. On the real: Sometimes heterosexual marriages aren’t in the best interest of the child. Sometimes the greatest source of stability is a responsible single parent. These are individual choices that deserve equal respect and support. That would be the curative to a host of social ills, wouldn’t it?

Brown says more about marriage and single motherhood on the Takeaway this week that is worth a listen. If you’re looking for community and have a story to share, consider submitting to Beyond Baby Mamas. I think we’re long overdue (even here in this space) to expand our discourse on single parenting.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

Syreeta McFadden is a contributing opinion writer for The Guardian US and an editor of Union Station Magazine.

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