Crabs in a Barrel: Baby Mommas That Want Others to Suffer Too

| 10/05/2010 | Comments (27)

Young black women can avoid becoming a “baby momma” and instead accomplish great things in life. Decades of research shows that an involved, loving, dependable father can influence his daughter’s life in many positive ways. Thinking back on my own childhood and the relationship I had with my father, I can see a direct causal effect in how he helped produce the woman I am today. Allow me to share a few examples:

    • My intellectual abilities and academic achievement.  Though highly intelligent, my father didn’t go far in school. He frequently stated his expectation that my brothers and I achieve more academically than he did.  His mandate:  our studies were our top priority.  Straight “A” report cards were rewarded with a cash gift.  I can add up large sums of numbers in my head quickly and accurately to this day due to the spot “tests” my father would give… rattling off a series of numbers and checking our speed and answer.  He painted my third grade teacher’s house for free that  summer in exchange for coaching  me, which helped me to skip an entire year of school that fall. I learned about Chinese culture that summer through our conversations. My teacher took me grocery shopping in Chinatown and to the back rooms where the live animals were kept.  While she cooked and my Dad painted, her oldest son (a doctor) taught me a few words of Mandarin Chinese. A city kid, I’d never seen anyone kill and defeather a live chicken before! I learned how to make won tons, won ton soup and egg rolls that summer as well.
    • My family values.  Both of my parents come from large families of more than 10 children.  Though my Mom’s family was closest, my Dad always wanted my brothers and I to take care of each other. He preached that to us. We were a team, never to be broken, always to stand together and have each others back.  As a result we’ve never fought or tried to hurt each other in any way. I would kill someone that tried to hurt one of my brothers, and I know they would do the same for me.
    • My ability to analyze and assess situations quickly.  At the dinner table my Dad would throw out ideas or concepts, or things that were in the news, and ask our little child minds to come up with solutions.  We were challenged to assess and analyze motivations and behaviors… to see behind the message and understand what was really happening. He trained us to THINK fast and see the big picture, the real issues.  It was FANTASTIC training for the real world and helps me to this day in my work and life.
    • My entrepreneurial drive and fearlessness about jobs.   My Dad was always self-employed. When younger he worked as a carpenter, then he became a contractor and income property owner.  He would tell me things “like never get too attached to a job because they hire and fire at will over stupid shit. Those that think a company can’t get along without them are stupid because they will have a new body in your chair before your car clears the parking lot!”  When I was about 18 I got fired for the first time. LOL!  I was told by the owner of the small business I was working for to take care of his big ficus plant in the lobby. My Mom had one and I know how fickle those things are. I also knew I would kill that thing off quick fast and in a hurry. Anyway I don’t pick leaves and I don’t pick cotton. So I mouthed off and told him “no! I was not hired to be a gardener!” He fired me on the spot. I was all bravado and told him give me my check and “it better not bounce!” I gathered my things and left. When I got to the corner I burst into tears and used a pay phone to call my Daddy who was still at home that morning.  He said “Are you all right?” Yes I guess so I choked out.  “Did anyone hurt you… anybody touch you?” No I said sniffling and feeling sorry for myself.  He said “Okay then.  Good!”  What? My tears dried up instantly because that was NOT what I was expecting to hear. How can it be good that I got fired? He said these words to me that I will never forget: “Now that you know what it feels like to be fired, and you know you will survive it, no one will ever be able to use the threat of firing you. You are now what businesses hate – a person they have no power over.  You are a person that isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and who doesn’t give a shit if you work there or not, so they are gonna have to deal with you in a totally different way because you have no fear.”  Wow.  Well that was a Thursday and I had a new job that was much better by the following Thursday. That was the best lesson I could have ever learned about working in corporate America and I’ve never looked back.
    • My confidence, free thinking independent mind,  and fortitude.  The only time I remember getting a spanking from my father (I’m sure there were others but I remember this one!), I came home from school saying I wanted to do something kind of out of character. I was probably about 10 years old.  My Dad asked why I wanted to do it. I made the fatal mistake of saying “because ALL THE OTHER KIDS were going to do it.”  He beat my little ass! Told me “don’t you EVER come in this house and tell me that you are going to do anything because everybody else is doing it! If everybody else is jumping off the bridge into the Bay, you gonna do that too?” Hey hey hey! I get it Pops!  Never made that mistake again!  Always encouraged to think about things in a nonconventional manner, I am a questioner of the accepted way, rhetoric, widely held beliefs.  I am strengthened by using my own brain to analyze situations and make decisions. I don’t follow other people’s thinking, path or opinions – I follow my own. I also know there is nothing in this world I can’t accomplish if I put my mind to it.  My father taught me that.
    • My beauty, grace and feminine charm.  When I turned 12 I had a birthday party.  Quite the little lady, I had my first boy/girl party where we actually danced with the boys… like real couples dancing!  Of course there were plenty of parents there as well, and we all had a good time. Right before it was time for me to cut the cake and open my gifts, my Dad came home with three boxes, some roses and a card.  He was a little embarrassed and left after dropping them off, saying he had to get back to work.  But the card said “You are now a young lady, and I’m so proud of you.  I wanted to be the first man to give you roses, candy and jewelry.  Love, Daddy.”  In one box was some See’s candy, in another a pair of jade and gold earrings, and in the third a “SORRY!” game.  I still have the earrings and card; I cry every time I read it.


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Veteran social researcher, relationship advice columnist, author and radio host. Author of hundreds of articles on American and black culture, gender issues, singles, dating and relationships. Author of "Sucka Free Love!" , "The 24 Types of Suckas to Avoid," "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Pray," and "Why Vegan is the New Black" all available on Amazon.Com. Her unique voice and insightful commentary have delighted fans and riled haters for 20 years. Read her stuff on SurvivingDating.Com and AskHeartBeat.Com.

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  1. Robin says:

    I agree with this article , but can’t seem to shake the sentence that states that women who did not grow up without a father in the home do not know what they have missed, thus have no clue about what their children will miss.

    It is foolish to assume that because I did not grow up with my father in the house, that I am ignorant to how important it is for children to have a loving and supportive father in their lives. I didn’t need some ridiculous sounding campaign to come to this conclusion ****SHOCKER**** I believe the attitude exhibited in that sentence is the reason why we even have this big baby mama vs. non-baby mama debate.

    There has to be a better way to reach out to young women, because no one is going to want to stick around & listen to pretentious bullshit spewing from daddy’s little girls all day.

    I applaud your father for being the man HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE. It seems you turned out grand, but lets take another approach.

    • Deborrah says:

      Robin, if this article were about YOU, just YOU, then your point and defensiveness would have merit. But it’s not about YOU at all. If YOU are one of the rare women that made an effort to understand what you missed by not having a father in your home, and you want to make sure your children have those things, then you are the exception here Boo, not the rule.

      The majority of young women having babies all over creation have no problem with their children growing up without a father. They did it, they don’t see what the big deal is. There are hundreds of thousands of young women having babies with this attitude in any state in the country. I know what I see, and I know what I hear. They say things like “Me and my baby are fine, we don’t NEED no man!” They have no example of positive fatherhood to model for themselves and their children, none of their friends have Dads, and they have no clue about what they are missing. That is why I am telling them. Flatly, without holding back, that those attitudes need to be changed.

      If you think reality of the difference having a good father in your life being discussed is nothing but “pretentious bullshit spewing from daddy’s little girls” it makes you sound like one of the hater-aid drinking crabs in a barrel women I was writing about. If you weren’t envious of their fathering, you would never make such a negative comment. You showed your hand girlfriend. Not a good look.

  2. Friday says:

    Recently, there was a story in the media about a single mother of three who sold a personal letter that was written to her by President Obama. The letter sold for $11,000.00 and the proceeds were going to be used to keep the mother of three and her family from becoming homeless. Apparently, this mother who had a two year degree; had lost her job due to health complications during and following the third pregnancy. I was left wondering why this woman was on her third pregnancy as a single mother. It did not make sense to me that she had gone to school, completed a vocational two year program or something like that and then placed herself and her children in this position. What happens when the $11,000.00 runs out? Why did this person lack the ability to plan her life for the long term? Where is/are the father (or fathers) of the children in all of this? I felt that this mother was like an inept captain of a ship taking on water and never trying to stop up the leakage or even scoop the water out of the hull.
    Who was really raising these children? This kind of thing happens much too frequently but while the statistics are often illustrated it seems that no understanding is being driven home. Critical thinking courses should be mandatory for all. I thank you for your article and willingness to state the truth.

  3. Ms. Dimples says:

    I had a lot to say about this commentary. But, I digress..Who cares? Live, Learn, Love..If your not doing that, again who cares!

  4. Aubrey says:

    I totally agree with everything you had to say. I myself have several cousins in that category. They are insanely jealous and have spread rumors about me.
    I consider myself a successful person even though I am in between jobs now. But I have the entreprenurial spirit,and I will not give up. I can’t even tell my family where I work @ because I will lose my job due to some anonymous phone call!
    They ask me if I am pregnant,but I have been celibate for 6 mos.? Y?
    I know they don’t want me to succeed,but that will not stop me. They thought having all of those babies by drug dealers was the thing to do
    I am so glad that I listened to my Mother,Aunt & Uncle the best I could so that I would not end up like the ones who did not listen.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I totally agree with all of this. I was one of those beautiful girls, fresh into college…and got suckered into having a baby too soon. I ended up leaving college (first biggest mistake), I didn’t abort, and got kicked out and disowned by my father. I kept my baby but married his father. It was a volatile relationship…we stuck with it for 2 years, but inevitably, we failed at our marriage. We got divorced and I met my now current husband two years later. My husband has been such an amazing father to our boys.

    Anyone who says fathers aren’t neccessary are LYING to themselves. I do NOT think it’s smart for any woman to make the decisions I did. I

    • fallyn2003 says:

      While I believe it is necessary for a child to have both a mother and a father, I would rather raise my daughter as a single mother than have her father as he is in her life…He is abusive, controlling and does not treat women with respect in the slightest…I also have my father in the picture and he plays a great role in her life…now you all cannot tell me that a father who is like he is will be good for her and help her…he may be an example of what not to be but I’d rather have positive role models in her life…and while I hope to meet someone down the road who can be my husband and a father to my daughter, I’m not counting on it and am making plans to be prepared to do it on my own for the rest of my life should that happen…I feel that I’m a good example of what a strong independent woman should be as I have no help whatsoever from her father, not financially and certainly not emotionally…he hasn’t even wanted to see her in a year, now tell me that’s not bad for a child’s self esteem…”mommy why don’t I have a daddy?” “well hunny, he just didn’t want to see you…” and of course I wouldn’t answer it like that but that’s what she’ll probably hear…so yes, it is important for a child to have a mother and a father, but in the situations where that is not viable, a single mother with a great support system can do just fine…so please just keep that in mind the next time y’all decide to bash single moms…

      • Raz says:

        Fallyn: “in the situations where that is not viable, a single mother with a great support system can do just fine…so please just keep that in mind the next time y’all decide to bash single moms…”

        Did you even watch the video fallyn2003? Nobody is bashing single mothers in this article. I applaud those mothers who go on to do the best they can with raising their child when they are in a situation where the fool father behaves trifling and shirks his parenting duties. The very first sentence in the article states that:
        Decades of research shows that an involved, loving, dependable father can influence his daughter’s life in many positive ways

        Obviously you don’t have that with the father of your child so you have to do the best you can. I firmly believe that a child who receives support/nurturing/caring and having an involved parent can do very well. They don’t have to have 2 parents especially if only one parent is doing most of the parenting and the other parent is absentee. Look at our current President Obama and how successful he was with his mother to raise him, but like you, he had supporting parents like his grandparents who were there for him. This article is for those single baby mamas who try to glorify their position and encourage young girls to forgo their careers and become baby mamas instead.

        • Lisa says:

          Obama had a stepfather too. His mother remarried very quickly. People forget about that… he had a father (not his biological one) raising him through his formative years. He was not raised by a single mother.

          • Raz says:

            I’m not sure how influential his stepfather was in raising him Lisa. Obama only spent 3 years in Indonesia and came back to the US when he was 10 years old and stayed there with his grandparents while his mother was in Indonesia for a time before coming back. Obama lists his mother and especially his grandparents for providing him the stability and home life he didn’t really have.

  6. Deb says:

    I love you. You are a fantastic writer, and you speak the truth.

  7. tyco says:

    I am new to your site, and just wanted to say this is a great post. I don’t know why anyone would argue in favor of single motherhood. I was raised by a single mother, and there was nothing enviable about it. You mention that women brought up by single mothers can never know what they missed, but that is not true for me.

    My father married and had children by another woman when I was in my twenties. He is now a devoted father to my three siblings, all in elementary school. The oldest is a girl, and I’ve seen the way she interacts with my father, and the way he dotes on her. I also see that even in elementary school, she is more self-assured, and confident than I was at that age. She is aware of her place in her father’s heart and I believe that makes all the difference. My father has acknowledged his mistakes, and has even apologized to me, but even still, I know that he and I will never have that kind of relationship. It’s just too late.

    I really wish these proud single mothers would take a moment and look at this from their children’s point of view. Look at their situation through their children’s eyes. The first, and greatest gift a mother can give her child is loving, devoted (full-time) father.

  8. Lyndon says:

    I’ve never come across a woman who had such an involved father. I now understand where your confidence and sense of validation comes from. The relationship with your father is the cornerstone to the woman you are. SO many women and men are denied this opportunity.

    I have always believed that if that relationship was not established and allowed to blossom, people will be in for a long painful ride.

  9. Anonymiss says:

    Well said!

    My dad was a poor example of what it means to be a husband and father, but he instilled values in me that I will never let go.

    I’m 29 and child-free, so you can imagine the number of times I’ve been asked “Why you ain’t got no babies.” And you can also imagine the number of hateful baby mommas that roll their eyes and scoff at my decision to wait for marriage.

    Thank you for writing this article. I hope this goes viral. Too many young girls are being encouraged to fail.

  10. Bellydancer says:

    Thank you ladies for your support I think that is one element of NWNW that did not get touched on and that is how black women sabotage their own daughters – not just mothers but other female family members as well.

    My mother has a sister she does not get along with and is always bragging about how she (my mother) had kids and my aunt did not but my aunt has retired from 2 jobs and has her own car and house paid for and is looking forward to retirement.

    My mother has nothing put away and is always talking against her sister saying things like “you can’t take it with you” and “money ain’t everything” My aunt just looks at her and tells me “this is why you don’t depend on anybody for anything, work and get it yourself”.

    My mother also thinks that she will be living with me if she gets sick. Wrong! I have diabetes and high blood pressure my damn self! I will not be aggravating those illnesses by putting up with her. She will not be living with/off me while supporting two sons in the penal system. Part of the reason why I became diabetic at 27 is from genes and family stress.

    No siree I will not be putting up with my family for too much longer. I moved to another state 10 years ago and stayed for 3 years and was actually a lot healthier. I then came back and all kinds of shit went wrong with my health.

  11. Caribeanne says:

    Hello, I approve of the NWNW movement. SO much can be done in life that one should not settle for misery. Of course, sometimes, when you look at your friends with their children , you’ll feel like you’re missing on something. But it’s better to wait and give YOUR children the best: an available you that can participate in their lives.
    On the other hand, I don’t agree with abortion: Why get into something that is too much to handle? Sex is like a drug: once you tasted it, you’ll always come back for more. It’s THE thing that overrides the brain! SO if one has no control over herself, don’t get into this mess. And if you can’t help it, then at least, keep yourself safe and don’t bring a baby to life just to take this life back later.

  12. Bellydancer says:

    Sometimes single mothers act out towards their daughter if they sense the daughter is actually going to make it out from a bad situation. I am 40 and I can remember the things my mother put me through. I was the oldest of 6 kids and a soon as I turned 18 I moved in with my grandmother to get out from under my mother. I worked during summers and had to buy all my toiletries and clothes for school, my aunt would help get my hair done. It was like my mother resented me for finishing high school because she didn’t. There is still a lot of tension in our relationship, of course my brothers could do no wrong even while being in trouble constantly. My mother mentioned to me just last week about giving my brothers my address and phone number in case something happened to her, both by the way are in prison. I told her no I was not about to take over with all that bs and did not want to be bothered after she dies I will not be involved in sending money, writing letters, taking phone calls and prison visits. Hell No! I get sick now thinking about how much money she spent on all that shit and would not buy me a pair of jeans one year for $10. Sometimes I have to stop from crying at my mother because she knew I was not going to end up like her and she treated me badly instead of being proud of me.

    • Well you know what Bellydancer? You don’t have to worry about that. I am EXTREMELY proud of you for recognizing the Okey Doke and getting out of the way of it before it got you! I love your assertiveness and ability to stand up to your mother and say “NO!”… stand your ground and do what is best for YOU. YEAH!!!!! That’s what I’m talking about girlfriend! That is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. 🙂

    • Raz says:

      Blood is thicker than water but you can drown in both. I’m glad you realize that your family is poison and will take you down if you let them. Don’t become a co-dependent like your mother. Realize that you can come here on this blog if you need to vent or if you feel you are in a situation where you are not sure, talk it out with women who will empower you and raise you up, not tear you down. Good for you! Leave those knucklehead brothers of yours where they belong and you get on with your life. You only have one, and live that according to how ‘YOU want to live it. You don’t owe anyone else any damn thing. your brothers are not your kids, you didn’t bring them into this world, they are not your responsibility. But even if you were their mother, there comes a time when a mother has to let go and not become a co-dependent. You see all the things your mother did for her sons, didn’t help them to become better men. And the one child who shined above the rest she kicked to the curb. I tell you, I don’t know what it is with the human race that we get it backwards and we’re supposed to be the smartest animal on the planet.
      In the animal kingdom, the weak offspring get kicked out of the nest, out of the circle of family left behind to die off. The animal kingdom realizes that that offspring is better off dead instead of living and taking up limited resources away from the stronger offspring whose genes are better suited to be propelled into the next generation.
      But the human animal will use limitless resources trying to prop up weak offspring even to the detriment of the strong offspring. We can see the negative results of that. Weak offspring are like cancers, they spread and bring down the strong which is why animals instinctively recognize this and will kill off weak offspring. They don’t nurture that cancer. Your mother has allowed your cancerous brothers to grow and drain her dry now she wants them to drain you dry. NO!! The madness stops. They aren’t adding anything positive to society so why continue to ‘nurture a cancer’?

  13. Raz says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing your stories Ms. Cooper. I think these stories paint a picture many single women don’t see. How can you miss what you never had? You painted a vivid picture showing readers what you had, and what they are missing. What single mothers don’t realize is that denying their children to active parents in their lives are opening them up to heartache that may not manifest itself until they are adults.

    There are plenty emotionally damaged adults who grew up in single parent homes. The interactions you had with your father, the way he molded you, the intelligence and wit’ he instilled in you…. PRICELESS!

  14. sisterlocgirl says:

    Brava! Brava! Deborrah, you tell the truth which is a frighteningly rare commodity in the BC. Your You Tube video had me laughing out loud and raising more that a few halleujahs. Unfortunately, not everyone was fortunate enough to have parents like mine and yours. Everything you address are things that I learned from my parents. These self serving purportedly adult women trying to make a sow’s ear into a silk purse are so full of crap it makes me ill. As I say to many folks, if OOW was so great for the population at large, then why isn’t everyone else hopping up to champion this BS? Because it DOESN’T WORK in the long run.

    I think some of these people need a ” self preservation ” Boot Camp, because obviously commonsense on the most basic level is no longer present for the vast majority of black folks. Babysit someone’s child for a day and then come back telling me so day old crap about how fufilling it is. Rearing children is hard work & often tough for a 2 parent household PLUS Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie & Uncle. Keep up the good work Deborrah!

    • Raz says:

      Sisterlocgirl: “These self serving purportedly adult women trying to make a sow’s ear into a silk purse are so full of crap it makes me ill”

      I love the quotes, so apt!

  15. Aina says:


    “But the card said “You are now a young lady, and I’m so proud of you.  I wanted to be the first man to give you roses, candy and jewelry.  Love, Daddy.”  In one box was some See’s candy, in another a pair of jade and gold earrings, and in the third a “SORRY!” game.  I still have the earrings and card; I cry every time I read it.”

    And I burst into tears reading it. I grew up without my father and he recently blamed me, insinuated that I was to blame for his absence. If there is anything he taught me, it’s to run like hell from men like him. Still, it’s kinda sucky to not be on Team DaddysGirl. I have never been pregnant and don’t want children but because I learned so much about how it feels to not have a father in my life. If I had an about-face and decided that maybe I do want a kid, then I’d definitely select a quality mate to marry and be my childs father. Lucky for me, I am dating a wonderful, respectful, honest and ambitious guy who loves children. So when we marry, I know that if I decide to become a parent, the great daddy is already built-in.

    • Happenstance says:

      Aina, my dad wasn’t/isn’t the greatest father either, so this taught me not to date men like him. I’m married to the type of man I wish my father had been.
      My husband is a wonderful father to our two daughters and a loving husband to me.
      I’ve finally forgiven my mother for sucking as a parent to all four of her daughters yet while being a loving mother to all three of [my brothers] her sons. Basically, thanks to both of my parents insufficient skills at being parents; I learned how-not-to-be like either one of them and I’m a lot happier for it.
      There is always a lesson to be learned in any given situation.

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