Village Baby Mama

This post is dedicated to my daughter, Zaheera, who called me to start strengthening the village for her from my womb and to my first great-nephew, Chase, born this morning. 

I recently decided to start opening the day with deep breathing and reflections. I do this with my 3-year-old daughter. After engaging in our new ritual this past Thursday morning, I recognized something that my counselor shared to be absolutely true – to children, Mother is God, the one who meets all needs. 

With my hands on her knees to keep her calm and centered, I asked my daughter the following questions and these were her responses: 

Me: Tell me one thing that you feel. 

Zaheera: Mommy! 

Me: Tell me one thing that you see.

Zaheera: Mommy! And water! 

Me: Tell me one thing that you smell.

Zaheera:  Mommy! 

Me: Can you tell me something that is making you feel happy today? 

Me: Mommy!!!

She then leaned into my chest for a big, life-affirming hug. 

I am not arrogant or entitled about her affection. I am honored to have it. But…I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also overwhelmed by love for me at times – it is so BIG! Rearing my daughter as a single mama who is learning to build, strengthen, and lean into the Village has been quite a journey. Before children can conceptualize The Source, they know Mama to meet their needs. The gravity of that is sometimes hard to accept. 

This pandemic season has magnified a lot of what we individually and collectively feel, how we individually and collectively show up. My story is the same as that of many single mamas right now – we are mama, full-time employee, creative, counselor, educator, chef, bug-killer (or screamer for help if you’re me), constant cuddle buddy, nurse, playmate, and more. I’ve found myself feeling guilt and shame in being exhausted by trying to be all the things for my daughter while also exerting a ton of physical and spiritual energy to protect her. I had to work through this in counseling sessions and had to be reminded to extend myself grace. 

I have guilty-parented even more in this season than usual and over-compensated for her lack of peer-interaction coupled with her father not being consistently present. It’s a shame I have to say this, but this isn’t about bashing him. It’s just fact. I came to terms with our relationship ending a long time ago. It was best. I have no regrets. Yet, people were hopeful that we would end up back together because they deemed it best in God’s eyes, it was respectable, and would prevent our child from having…complexes *eye roll*

I’ve had moments when I was completely worn out and angry because there aren’t two of us in the home to share in the love but also the responsibility. My Mommy moved in with me in 2017 to help. I am eternally grateful for that, for her. She is Z’s grandparent. Sometimes, I feel lack because I believe it’s her other parent who should be consistently present and doing the work. I’ve felt like I’ve failed her by not providing that before. And yes, I felt shame for having a baby out of wedlock, at first. And I felt like she wouldn’t have enough with just me but…our children believe Mother is God. Say. It. Out. Loud.

Of course, I don’t rear Z alone. But…even though we have a village, sometimes it feels smaller than what I expected. My Mommy and Twin brother are the closest to us and I don’t want to exhaust them. This is an honest feeling but the reality is… we were never meant to do life alone. The more we try, the more difficult I think it becomes. It’s not a matter of apparent self-sufficiency. It’s about being wise enough to know when connection and support is needed. 

As I grow wiser and reject the static idea of a Black nuclear family, I recognize that many of the ways in which we live are counterintuitive and unnatural. Certainly, being a single mother is challenging but the social constructs we live in is what teaches us the lack. We should all be able to fully lean into our villages. All of our children should be taken care of and healthily shared. We should all be able to have our needs met regardless of marital or household status, and regardless of whether or not we’re with those we’ve created these lives with. 

I’m a radical, left Black Mama. The more I accept this identity and grow in it, the less support I feel I have. I’m working through this feeling but it’s new—er. A newer and freer way of being. In doing away with respectability politics, elitism, woman-shaming, and fully embracing who I am as a womanist, I recognize that my politic and beliefs don’t always align with the spaces I’ve been a part of. It can be difficult to navigate this reality and certainly creates feelings of loneliness at times but I have been reminded all week that – just as the teacher shows up when the student is ready, so does the village; we are worthy of love and belonging; we’ve been taught that hyper-individualism and co-dependence are unhealthy, but we were not meant to do life alone. We can and should be able to depend on one another; as I continue to work toward being my best and most authentic self, those who I am meant to be community will show up. 

I also recognize that I am a push and pull kind of mama, kind of person. I guess I could have said that I’m a Virgo for which your response may have been, “Say less, sis.” Haha. So, part of my work is in accepting the love and support as it comes and not pushing it back into the Universe, spitting in God’s face because it didn’t come from whom or how I thought it should. It’s in having firm boundaries, yes, but also using discernment and knowing when I can trust people to join our community. It’s in allowing my daughter to choose my partner the ways she does. It’s in allowing him to meet needs for her in the ways that he can. It’s in accepting help from my family more easily, taking breaks, and again, it’s in not being stingy with this Ancestor returned. 

Do you know how lionesses mate? They mate with multiple lions in a season. To be colloquial, this means they don’t know who the baby daddy is! But all the lions in the pride step in to help care for, protect, and love the cubs. Ain’t it beautiful? I honor their way of life and want to adapt parts of it for myself, for us. Zaheera is my baby, my cub. But if you’re reading this, she may be yours too. I am the Mama Lion but the village has to be a part of the Pride – a part of the caring, rearing, guiding, and loving. 

The point is, the family structure matters a lot less than making sure our children have everything they need to thrive and lead healthy, happy, robust lives. 

I recently created a new Twitter account after not tweeting for 6 years. It’s been overwhelming and a whirlwind to say the least, but I always find gems! Someone recently tweeted, “We are worthy of love and radical imaginations.” Delicious. We are. I’m going to hold on to that. 

My focus now is to keep curating a good and healthy life for my daughter, to share her with my community and understand that she is not mine alone to rear, guide, or love. I want her to always know that she belongs deeply to God and herself, but she is also OURS. 

I am a Village Baby Mama and proud. My pride in this will help my daughter to grow up reducing shame and fully embracing all that is meant for her. 

Let’s keep building these villages for these babies. They are worthy. 

My daughter often says, “It’s me and you, Mommy” because I’ve said, “It’s me and you, kid.” Now I’m teaching her that yes, it’s always the two of us but it’s not only us. We are not in this alone.

I give thanks for what is and what is to come.

Thank you, Zaheera, for making me commit to this. I will never be able to meet ALL of your needs alone, but you’d better believe Imma give you a village to make sure you have everything you need.

Published by Raina La'Shea

Mother. Writer. Social Justice Champion. Lover. Orator. Liberator. Marvel Fan. Delta. Abecedarian.

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