The Bounce Back: No. I don’t have a baby mama
3rd February 2014 · 0 Comments
By David Dennis Jr.
I ran into a childhood friend a few weeks ago — one of those rare old friends who doesn’t know my whole life story from Facebook and vice versa. So we did that almost-archaic practice of catching up.
What are you doing these days?
How’s your mom?
Then my favorite part: showing off my family. I have a toddler son so I’m always looking to show off pictures of my kids. After flipping through my phone and showing what was probably a few too many pictures of my son, I was asked a peculiar question: “So, are you and your baby mama cool?”
“Your kid’s mom. Do you guys get along or is she difficult?”
It was one of the most incredibly awkward interactions I’ve had in recent memory. What made this guy automatically assume I wasn’t married? That I’d had my child out of wedlock? And that if there were a strain in the relationship, then it would automatically be the mother’s fault?
Now you can simply dismiss this interaction as a guy with his own personal issues working themselves out in our conversation. I did find out that he had a “baby momma” that he was having issues with, which probably contributed to his assumptions.
However, just a few weeks later, I ran into another person who asked me almost the exact same question when I showed off my son’s pictures: “does his mom live in town?”
When did these questions become the norm? Even when I’d tell people I’m married, they’d assume my son came from a previous relationship. I honestly don’t get it. Our community is full of wedlock, divorces and broken homes. As I’ve come in contact with more adults and discussed family, I’ve learned that some of the issues are mental, a belief that “baby mamas” are the norm and anything else is an anomaly.
Now, please don’t read this the wrong way: I understand how unending socioeconomic and societal issues have contributed to the decimation of the nuclear family. I also understand that sometimes it’s better for couples to separate for the good of themselves and the child. So this isn’t nearly an indictment of people who can’t make their relationships work or who make mistakes. This is, though, a push back on the mentality that these circumstances should be the established norm. I want for us to be encouraged and expected to maintain loving relationships with our co-parents and have strong families.
But everywhere I turn, it seems like people have given up on that ideal. When I’m alone with my kids somewhere, people ask or assume that I’m on visitation. That we’re on “my weekend.” Even more, I get treated like a golden unicorn with a pot of gold on my back for taking time to walk around the mall with kids by myself. I’ve gotten unending encouragement, surprised reactions and even discounts for just being by myself with the kids. I appreciate the idea that men should be encouraged to care and spend time with their children, but please have at least some sort of expectation for me. Meanwhile, my wife is treated like a mother just doing her job whenever she’s out with the kids.
We obviously need to address the issues leading to broken families, dysfunctional parental units and abandoned children. There’s no easy answer, and a few hundred words written here won’t solve the problems. Still, I can suggest that it starts with our mentality. Let’s start treating marriage or familial togetherness as an expectation. As a goal to strive for and a true attainable lifestyle we can achieve. Maybe that can affect some change.
…Or maybe I should just start putting more pictures of my wife on my phone.
This article originally published in the February 3, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.