You, Me and WE (pt.2)
What lessons were you taught when you were growing up? Were you taught about a work ethic? As an African American female, I was taught the lesson that I had to be 10 times better than my white counterparts in order for me to receive minimal recognition. I was taught that I had to do “it” for my family when no one else would because otherwise, “it” would never get done. Whatever the “it” was, I had to bend and submit to whatever the solution was because family was too important to let down. Pride doesn’t put food on the table. After all, we are the ones who are taught how to run a household at a young age right?
Who sits down and shows their growing boys their method for making a grocery list, shopping and even bagging the groceries? Who is taught to prepare meals for the family? There is a saying that goes, “Mothers love their sons and raise their daughters”. What does that mean? It means that women are given the tools we need to thrive, and seasoned with tough love while sons are given unconditional love but not given the tools they need to thrive. What does this all have to do with black relationships today? It has everything to do with what we bring to the table and how we bring it. I know that my mother loved me and was attempting to protect me when she taught me to never tell any man, even my husband about all of my money but that message planted the seed of independence. Even though I would be forced to submit to whatever greater thing when the cards came down to my family or my pride, I would slowly build up a way to take care of myself. While there is nothing wrong with independence, it does become unhealthy when it is viewed as a first option despite our partner’s desire and ability to help us in areas where he in fact should. Mothers raise their daughters so that they can take care of themselves. Whatever the reason may be, the implicit expectation is that a man will not be around to take care of her. Let’s leave the word “fault” completely out of this equation. Let’s not even make that word part of our vocabulary for this ongoing discussion. If we can do that, we can draw a clearer picture as to how our present day relationships are not only affected by external factors, but how our past can play a part in them as well.
I’ve categorized this experience as an external factor because it was created as a result of inputs from another person. Over time the inputs are internalized and become part of our perspective. I believe it’s nearly impossible to change that perspective without understanding where it came from. That’s what gives us the power to change things. As much a mother loves her son, she does him a disservice by not feeding him the same tough love she almost instinctively feeds her daughter. Laying blame at this point doesn’t solve anything at all. The reality is that these things transpired, and impacted the course of our relationships and we need to figure out how we can change these perceptions within ourselves so that we can become better contributors to our relationships. Some of this will require acknowledging the pain we have directly or indirectly caused one another. As a single parent, it was incredibly difficult for me to watch my son go through any pain because I knew that life was going to be so exceptionally hard for him. I didn’t give him the consistent tough love that he needed, the kind that a father would have given him. I had no idea that my inability to do so would contribute to his inability to manage the difficulties of life later on. This is part of the downside of coming out of an era where more than 50% of all black households were headed by a single female parent. That is another external factor…more related to our social standing in society than anything else.
Again, for the purpose of understanding the root cause and not for laying blame, let’s take some time to examine the lessons we were taught growing up and think about whether or how they affect the way we approach relationships today.