Last week, a story about an Atlanta woman who left her four-year-old son alone so she could go to work sparked a heated conversation on the TJMS. The emotional comments from our “Text Tom” members let me know that there was definitely another side of the story that may have not been represented.
There’s no question that it takes a village to raise a child. The question is what happens when there’s no village around?
From the 901: [you have to know what] it’s like to be a single parent, to get no help from the father, have to work and not be able to afford to pay the village to help!
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It’s no secret that our core TJMS audience is majority female moms, nor is it a secret that it is a group that rarely has a voice on our airwaves. That isn’t to say that mothers don’t have a say in the studio. TJMS staffer Mary Boyce and I – aka Mamas Gone Wild – make it a point to chime in off the air, through blogs, and in weekly meetings about issues that impact parents and children. And, of course, there is a plethora of maternal representation in every department at our company.
A day rarely goes by where a news story doesn’t command our unique perspective, whether it’s breastfeeding in public or mothers being arrested for sending their children to schools outside of their home districts.
But since this story had such an unprecedented reaction, I thought it might be helpful to stand up as a single mom and speak for people like me who are raising children thousands of miles away from their dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
And while I’ve never had to leave a four-year-old child home alone so that I could go to work, I can say that there but for the grace of God, go I … and you, too if you’re a working mother.
Before I get personal, let me throw some stats out there. Twenty-six percent of the children in the U.S. are being raised by single parents, and 84 percent of those parents are women. When it comes to African-Americans. 48 percent of children are raised in single-parent homes.
In an ideal world, a home run by a single mom would be surrounded by a village that would include, if not family members, good neighbors, church members and friends. But in the real world, as our texters pointed out, in a lot of places, that isn’t happening at all.
From the 407: Our villages have disintegrated into 35-year-old grandmothers and grandfathers, and a host of supposed aunts and uncles “tryin’ to get theirs.”
I’ve moved a lot in my radio career, but this last move to Dallas was the most challenging of them all. It was the first time I had moved with children to a city where I knew absolutely no one. My support system was just me, and it was a struggle. Luckily, there was a built-in “mom network” at my job, but that can only take you so far.
I had no one to call when the nanny didn’t show up or to watch one child while I took the other sick one to the doctor. It was by the grace of God that I bonded with my BFF so quickly. Knowing that I can call on her for help in any situation has alleviated a great deal of pressure from my shoulders. But I realize that not everyone is that lucky. My boys are nine and seven, and it’s still a difficult decision whether I can make a five-minute trip to the grocery store without something disastrous happening while I’m gone. And I still choose not to, but running to Walmart and having to leave my children alone because I have to go to work are light years apart.
As I said, but for the grace of God, there go I.
If you’ve had to leave your child home alone or thought about it, I want to hear from you.
A lot of us rushed to judgment regarding the working mom without having walked in her stilletos. But being able to relate to her in any way is humbling. The good news is we can turn stories like that one into a teachable moment. If you’re blessed enough to have the time, resources and compassion to help out a single mom – or any working mom who runs into a bind – share the love. Too often, we don’t hear about these stories until they make the news. But I promise you, you don’t have to look far to find a mom – or dad, for that matter – who has to make difficult choices when it comes to raising their families. Give them your number, and reassure them that you’ve got their backs. There’s no better feeling than to know your kids are safe when you’re away from them.
Parenting is tough – and so is today’s job market. As several Text Tom Club members recognized, this mama didn’t leave her kid alone to go to the club or the crack house (not that these women wouldn’t need help, too); she was going to work. She may have messed up, but so did the village.
Instead of tearing her down, let’s start building a village. Now.
Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.