(Photograph by Barbara Olsen/Pexels)

By Sherri Kolade

Black single mothers can do it alone, but why should they have to when resources are all around?

“Our issues often get pushed to the back burner and COVID made it abundantly clear that … mothers and mothers of color and Black mothers hold their communities in times like this, but we should be prioritizing their needs so that our communities can thrive,” Danielle Atkinson, national executive director and founder of local non-profit organization Mothering Justice, said.  

Mothering justice empowers mothers of color to influence policy on behalf of themselves and their families.  

For Black mothers who need assistance, especially those who are on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, it can be hard enough to find them while they are busy rearing children, being the sole breadwinner, and being the emotional and foundational support 24/7 with no immediate relief in sight.   

The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” especially still rings true for the many single mothers who have no choice but to rely on family and friends to babysit their children and provide extended support for them when daycare is too costly and many times out of the question.  

In 2020, there were roughly 4.25 million Black families in the United States with a single mother, according to nationwide statistics. This is an uptick from 1990 rates of about 3.4 million Black families being raised by a single mother.   

In Detroit, according to Smartest Dollar, 72% of single mothers are raising their children solo.  

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Even beyond babysitting needs, single mothers looking for more resources and assistance might not always know how to navigate but there is help with several organizations eager to aid single mothers, especially Black women, allowing them to blossom.   

A Mother’s Justice  

Atkinson said that Mothering Justice is an advocacy and leadership development organization that is concentrated mostly on changing policy through available dollars to educate the public on reclaiming what should be theirs through legislative change.  

“We want everyone to be aware of the opportunities they have given by the federal government and by the state of Michigan to relieve them,” Atkinson said of ensuring things like childcare is more affordable. “We’re partnering with a lot of organizations and … we think it is important to have one on one convos with moms.”  

Atkinson added that Black single mothers are often “underrepresented.”   

“I was also raised by a single mother,” Atkinson said. “Every sacrifice my mother made has made me who I am today.”  

She added that the country is “catching onto the burdens” that single mothers have been facing for years.  

[Single mothers] are the people that hold our community so strong and do it so well that the only policies that make sense are the ones that center the ones that …literally take care of the community,” Atkinson said, adding that paid leave should be a requirement at companies and childcare should be less expensive. “Childcare should not cost the same as college.”    

Showing Up for Yourself 

Dr. Joanne Frederick, a Washington, D.C-based licensed mental health counselor, told the Michigan Chronicle that some single mothers are looking to cope beyond the emotional turmoil they might be going through due to the death of a relationship. She said it boils down to recognizing that the romantic breakup is a loss, and grieving that loss is normal.  

“You will go through the stages of grief. You may cry and feel sad and down [depressed], you may bargain with yourself or the ex-partner, you may get angry, you may go through denial [this can’t be real], ultimately you will accept the change and readjust,” Frederick said, adding that single mothers may also have to explain to their children the change in the relationship. “Explain age-appropriately to each child, but be mindful not to unload too much on the children. If the romantic breakup seems to be very emotionally difficult, seek professional help to talk through the relationship, the loss and the recovery/rebuilding of oneself as a single woman.”  

Jenny Hutchinson, director of Detroit-based Sistahs Reachin’ Out (SRO) organization, told the Michigan Chronicle that her organization promotes proven pathways beyond poverty while helping financially at-risk women in Detroit.  

One of their programs. Pathways, is a 13-week coaching and mentoring cohort that prepares SRO’s target population to access higher education or entrepreneurial opportunities, according to its website. In addition to coaching and mentoring, Pathways also provides many wraparound services that “lower barriers specific to the educational or entrepreneurial success of low-income, single parents.”  

Hutchinson said that through entrepreneurship and higher education the program helps women through “proven pathways” to escape low-wage living and poverty.  

“What we’re hoping to do through our programming is capture that population through assistance,” she said of connecting with other already established local programs to help even more women. “We can open up a door for a young mother in our program to go on to complete a college degree program.”  

Hutchinson added that the program helps hopeful college students also fight the barriers to finding reliable transportation while supporting the family.  

“Lowering barriers is critical to ensure individuals we endeavor to serve are inherently successful in those two proven pathways,” Hutchinson said.

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