S3E7 - *Rebroadcast* On Challenging the Assumption that Single Mothers by Choice Hate Men w/ Clinton

Episode 7 June 12, 2024 00:30:48
S3E7 - *Rebroadcast* On Challenging the Assumption that Single Mothers by Choice Hate Men w/ Clinton
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S3E7 - *Rebroadcast* On Challenging the Assumption that Single Mothers by Choice Hate Men w/ Clinton

Jun 12 2024 | 00:30:48


Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

This is a rebroadcast of the Bonus Episode from season 1...

In anticipation of Father's Day, Aisha Jenkins challenges the assumption that Single Mothers by Choice harbor resentment towards men. Her lens is shaped by her own positive experiences with her step father and close relationships with brothers and friends who actively participate in her children's lives.

Aisha's guest, Clinton Johnson, joins the conversation as one of those trusted male friends. They discuss their collaborative work and exchange insights on navigating single parenthood. Clinton shares his experiences from two decades ago, allowing for a comparison with Aisha's current journey. The discussion delves into the stereotypes surrounding single parenthood and how these perceptions impact various aspects of life, from education to the workplace.

Together, Aisha and Clinton challenge societal norms and shed light on the diverse experiences of single parents.

Clinton Johnson along with Aisha and others are founders of NorthStar of GIS an organization focused on increasing representation and inclusion in geostem fields.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Speaker A: Welcome to start to finish motherhood, a podcast for those thinking or already single mothers by choice. Just looking for practical advice for navigating life's relationships. When you decide to have children on your own, it doesn't mean that you're completely alone. I'm Aisha Jenkins, and I'm partnering with you every step of your journey. As a single mother by choice, I think that there's sometimes an assumption that we don't like men. We don't have men in our spaces, or we don't have male friends, or you're single for a reason and you should date everybody that's in your orbit. I have a real loving place in my heart for the men that I consider friends that I respect implicitly and would allow and trust them around my kids. When I was sitting down and reflecting and envisioning on the podcast and the episodes that I wanted to do, you actually came to mind. So, just for context, I'm open at work about being a single mother by choice. For those who are closest to me, I explain to them what that means, and anyone who's had the pleasure of speaking to me after hours, they know that my kids are always around. The kids will pop in and say hi. Then I'll tell little parenting antidotes about my kids. And as I recount those stories, I am always reminded of what a cool ass dude you are and that you can just flex in and out right along with me, because I will flex from, yes, I need to do these reports, project management, what we're doing with Nordstar, and then, oh, Camille, she just would have did a refrigerator. She got her own food, and then get back into, okay, what are we doing for black History Month? And you have the uncanny ability to just laugh and flex with me, and that is something that is so priceless, and I truly appreciate. And so when I think about the value of men to my own personal life, to the life of my girls, and to the life of women, I think of it in terms of abundance. I think of it in terms of positivity. So I want to welcome my friend Clinton to the podcast. And before I ask you to introduce yourself, I want to say to our audience, it's always been important to me to establish that black men are important in the lives of all of our children. And so, Clinton, please introduce yourself. [00:02:32] Speaker B: Hey, first of all, I deeply appreciate that introduction. Introduction is, like, the simplest way I can describe it, because that's fundamentally what it was. But likewise, I value our friendship, and I'm happy to know that you value it as well. I'm Clinton Johnson. I use he him pronouns. I work in the geospatial industry and I'm a co founder with Aisha and some other folks of a nonprofit organization that focuses on black representation and geography, gis and STEM fields that are related to geography in particular. I happen to be a parent as well, and an uncle, and just a firm believer that parents do an invaluable service to society. Without parents, we would stop as the society. I have a deep appreciation for people who parent, so always do what you got to do and work wraps around that. Our activities wrap around that. [00:03:33] Speaker A: Thank you. Okay, tell us a little about your parenting situation. I'm going to segue into that because I did not know about your parenting situation. It unfolded with our friendship and it unfolded in a rather interesting way. Like, if I could cover your face, you would be one of my girlfriends or one of my sisters. Just recounting the same stories. [00:03:58] Speaker B: And I'm just like, I became a parent when I was 20, and coming into being a parent, I had the influence of my grandmother, my mother, as parents, as mothers in particular, and as people who cared about all the kids, everybody's kids, if they were in visual scope or range, they were a concern of those people in my life. So when I'm around kids, I'm paying attention to the kids more than I'm paying attention to anything else that might be going on with adults. So when I became a parent, my life adjusted to being a parent. And that included just embracing all the things that it means to be attentive and aware of what's going on with children, yours or other people's, and trying to be respectful and mindful to model behaviors that if kids were paying attention, they might inspire them to be positive contributors to society. And my work life balance, when I was a parent earlier on, maybe throughout the time that my son was grown up, was horrendous because I had this intense overemphasis on trying to make sure that I was doing everything I could to provide resources that would set him up for the greatest level of success. That was from the gate. My thought process. I have to work harder. I've got to do more. I've got to make sure that I grow as fast as I can so that he has the best platform possible. That was like a thought I had when I was 2021, internalizing for myself what it meant to be a parent. And some of that is like, oh, it's not an 18 year job, right? It's a lifetime experience. There's no cut off point when you're no longer a parent, the relationship just constantly evolves, because I could see that with my mother, I could see that with her and her sister and siblings. And I started to imagine what that would be like for myself. I feel like my folding into a parent was like this overemphasis on providing financially, sort of morally, maybe the idea was create a healthy contributor, positive contributor to society. That was the idea from the gate. So that's what I wanted to do. [00:06:14] Speaker A: Yes. So take a step back. You are a single parent. I don't want to get too much into the whys and the how, but you raised your son as a single parent. I think that's an important distinction, because being a single parent that is a father, versus a single parent, that is the mother. I think we talk a lot about the unexpected parent that shows up at the doctor's appointments or at the schools, or the unexpected parent who has to bow out of work engagements because you've got childcare or daycare pickup. So let's care and contrast and talk about that. If a meeting comes up that's outside of my time zone, I'm like, oh, can't make that meeting. Or if I'm in training and it coincides with daycare pickup, I tell people I have to pick up my kids, so I need to bow out, and people are pretty much okay with that. Has that been your experience? [00:07:03] Speaker B: I was just talking to my son about this, and we've spoken about hovering before. I always look younger than I am. That's been my experience. So when I was in my twenty s, I looked like I was a teenager. And as a young black man who to some people, look like a teenager who had a child at work, it was a problem. It became more and more a problem for me as I moved closer and closer to tech, to enterprise level. As I was climbing up the ladder, particularly as a single parent, I was co parenting with my son's mother. We use that language, co parenting. But when he was growing up, there were times when he lived primarily with me and spent weekends with her, and that spanned a number of years. And then it would flip. But we always operate as if we are both 100% responsible for him. And I remember the first time when I got to the tech space, when I mentioned that at a child, suddenly certain work opportunities started to disappear. People were making assumptions about what I would or wouldn't be available for. So I started to just not talk about being a parent at work for the stigma around it. And for how it was starting to show up, impacting my career. Now my son is having a different experience. We were just now talking. He was saying how today in his field, when he's sharing that he's a parent because he's also married, people seem to appreciate that and think of that as an indicator of his stability. [00:08:34] Speaker A: Yes, right. [00:08:35] Speaker B: And he is responsible and he is stable, and he is focused on his family or whatever. I wasn't getting that experience. I wasn't getting that reaction. When I would share with folks when I would show up at doctors appointments, sometimes people were still looking for mom or didn't believe I was the one to pick them up when I would pick up my son from school. I mean, also because I look young, there were times of middle school when they would challenge whether or not I was his father. And I remember a time when they asked him, is this your dad? After grilling me. And I was like, go get him. Is this your dad? And he said, yeah. Are you sure? And I appreciate that they were trying to protect him. And another time when on his first day of high school, I walk him to school, and he and I had a similar uniform for work, and I wasn't completely wearing mine on that day. I had my blazer in the car, or it was at work, but I had the shirt and a tie, and he had everything on. I'm just walking into the school and I'm leaving, and someone, an educator, just comes behind me, puts his arm around my shoulder, and he was like, where do you think you're going tomorrow? Make sure that you show up, prepare for school. I want to take you to the office where you have some spare jackets. And I'm like, no, I was dropping off my son. And anyway, those kind of situations now when it has come to drop off and pick up and things like that, very often when he was younger, the spaces that were available for us to send him to would have hours that just don't make sense with work responsibilities. Like, your summer program ends at 02:30 p.m. What am I supposed to do with that? Oh, well, I got to find a program that starts at about 02:30 p.m. As well. And then I got to go to the place, hit them, take them to the next place. And we almost always used the pay for extra to drop off earlier, to. [00:10:24] Speaker A: Pick up later, before and after care. [00:10:28] Speaker B: And there were times when, because of work commitments, I needed that. So I would show up sometimes if the endpoint was 06:00 p.m. Sometimes I was there at 06:00 p.m. I was never there. 601. But frequently I was there at 06:00 p.m. Or 550, and he'd be the last child getting picked up. And he hated it. And I couldn't understand why he hated it so much. And then he explained in this one situation that the person who had to wait with him was saying negative things that made him feel bad. So I had to send a letter. We have to send letters sometimes. He hated that I sent a letter. But after I sent the letter, life was better for him. And they were very responsive. We were paying for that service. That was their message, too. I could probably still find this email. And we needed it. We needed it. And again, when I say we, like me and him, me, him and his mom, we needed that extra buffer. Being a single parent, even when you're co parenting, this is what I had to accept, is still challenging, because for that day, for that week, for whatever that period of time is, it's all on you. And you can't expect that someone else is going to be there, going to be able to pick up. [00:11:44] Speaker A: So now, just an aside, I know that this is a bone of contention in the single mother by choice space, that when people who are co parenting or people who are divorced say, I felt like a single parent. And I think that this is an example of when. It's just like in that moment, in those moments, you do feel as if the world is on your shoulder. There's nothing that says it has to be that way all the time. But in those moments, when people are making judgments, when people are assuming certain things about your character and your parenting style. Yeah. In that moment, you feel very seen and you do feel as if you are a single parent. And that just happens. So can we just let people live? We have more in common than the things that separate us. You had your kids, you had your son when you were in your twenty s. I obviously had my kid when I was like, closer to 40. So almost a 20 year difference. And things have still not changed. The hours for school are not conducive to parents who work, so we do have to pay for additional services like before and aftercare. The pandemic has halved that for me in that I now feel like I have a little bit more wiggle room in the mornings to do school drop off. So I save a little bit of money there. But last year when I tried to do school drop off and pick up, I think it nearly killed me. I was like, I love my kid, and I love hearing about the end of her day and capturing her when it's fresh. But that interruption to my work day meant I needed to make up hours in the evening. And it was just a lot. But I did it. I got to enjoy the time with her. But we're back to our regular routines. Okay, so I don't want to get all into your business, but dating as a single parent is different than just dating as a single person. Can we talk about that a little bit and compare and contrast? I know for me now, all right, 20 year difference. I'm dating. So you just need to know at that point in time when you're looking at my profile, I'm a single mom. Right. And then that's it. Like, you're going to hear kid noises in the background. And that might work for some people, it doesn't work for some people. But as a single parent, I feel I have very specific needs in terms of dating, and I am very clear about what those needs are. And I'm okay walking away from situations where it's just not for me and all. [00:14:13] Speaker B: Yeah, I'm terrible at it. I've always been terrible about it. I'll be honest about that. And for me, I didn't care as much because I decided I was parenting good periods of time. And so that was a priority. That was the priority. And that also made things difficult. Right. Because the picture we paint for children is that the person who's your ideal partner will be someone who puts you first, who sees you as the most important thing in their world or whatever. Well, that's not going to work for those of us who see ourselves as single parents who are parenting. And sometimes I feel like there are these toxic patterns where people will follow that. They will think of their children as secondary, not just to their partner, their mate, but to the person who might become their partner or mate who might also not. In those moments, I never wanted any of that. So I was the kind of person who rarely dated around my son when he was growing up as an adult. Sometimes he hasn't really appreciated that, but I think his experience benefited from that because, yeah, I can't imagine doing the thing where there's all the aunts, I guess, is what it would be. Aunt this or aunt that. I definitely saw people whose kids had all these uncles or all these friends. [00:15:42] Speaker A: Now, these were uncles or, like, dating. [00:15:46] Speaker B: Yeah. How they introduced them to their kids initially, when they're introducing them early, when things are still developing, sometimes they'll say their friend. Or they'll say, this is your aunt or your uncle or whatever, which is, to me, I don't disparage because it's a pattern. It's like people are trying to figure out, what am I going to do? How do I navigate this? And they see that pattern out there in the world, and they're like, all right, well, I'll try that out. But when you create relationships with people and kids are people, you can't expect that these relationships just get torn apart if things don't work out with you or this other person. That's the thing I always dreaded just thinking about. Yeah. So also add this, that very often I felt like when I was trying to date, I was looking for other people who were also single parents so they could get that part, so they could understand that this potential partner as primacy kind of principle doesn't really work in practice when you're a parent. [00:16:36] Speaker A: Yeah. So definitely a lot of things to relate to. Like, as a single mom, what does dating look like? Look, dating is very expensive and very time consuming. That was one of the things that hit me the hardest in the realization once I became a parent, is that a lot more time? Or maybe I'm just more aware of the time that things take. Now, all of my time is not my own. Like you said, I have priorities in dating. And so when I was single, I did date men who had children, and I've also dated men who didn't have children. And I made adjustments. And I think it helped to have that firm boundary on what the situation was and how much time. Even before I had kids, I was cognizant of the impact that I could have on my partner's kids. Right. And I took that responsibility very seriously. And so now that I consider dating as a single mom, it is like, who gets to be introduced to my kids and when. How do you navigate that? And the confusion of seeing TDA with your mom and your uncle is just mind boggling to me. [00:17:46] Speaker B: Like, yeah, how do you explain, right. [00:17:49] Speaker A: Like, that's going to trip somebody out, but it also makes you look a bit like a liar. And I don't want my kids to perceive me as lying or incestuous with Uncle Joe, for me, but also having had enough time and space, I'm not trying to both parent and date. Right. So my priorities are similar to yours. Like, I am in a parenting workspace. Dating is the icing on the cake. If I have time and if I feel up to it, I let that be known and that gets mixed reviews from people. But I think being clear on what you're looking for, being clear on what the relationship is and what it isn't, and then, look, you're never going to beat my kids. And it's just like, what do you mean? I dated a guy who once was like, what role will I play in the lives of your children? None right now that's relevant. And it was just like, so for some people who are looking for that type of stability, who are just like, this is the role that I have to have if I'm going to date a person with kids, that doesn't work for me because I'm also of the mindset. We'll come together and then we'll decide. But it can't be preconceived because you don't know me, I don't know you, and you don't know my kids. So, yes, dating is always interesting. [00:19:06] Speaker B: Yeah. When you said that you tell people that to whatever degree is optional, that they don't get to meet your kids, do they always believe you? And if not, do they somehow get shocked later on that it hasn't happened or that it hasn't happened yet? But even though you've already told them, I for sure had those experiences. I think some of it is those ideas that are barriers for us in the world, those ideas that relationships look a certain way, start to set expectations for folks early. So whether they mean well or they're being clumsy or whatever, those preconceived notions that they may have about what their role is going to be or should be or how they want it to look, don't work unless you somehow also share those same ideas. [00:19:50] Speaker A: But even what you're looking for, and I'm okay walking away from situations where it's just not for me. Like, many will assume you're a single mother, right. They somehow missed the by choice part. Like, you know, I went to a doctor. You know, I looked through a sperm bank catalog, right? You know, I dropped all this money. It was intentional. But they'll be like, oh, you're looking for a dad, right? A husband. You're looking for a father for your kids. And I'm just like, no, if I wanted that, I would have done it in the situation that I was in. So I intentionally went this path because that ship had sailed. But to answer your question, like, how is it usually received? I have had people who are just like, oh, that works for me, or it doesn't work for me, but I don't think I've had a situation, a dating situation that lasted longer than six, seven months as a single mom by choice, where it ever got to the point where they were like, hey, when am I going to meet your kids? Or something like that. It was just pretty much compartmentalized. So for me, I haven't gotten a lot of that. I have had people that are in different places and they're like, no, I could do this. But the questions you're asking, the amount of time that you want is just like, can you drop everything after work and go to, like, an extra? And I'm just like, part of, I need to know in advance and line up. Childcare does not compute, right? And so then there's a lot of adulting that happens when you're a single parent. Because regardless of how I like you, this type of pressure I don't need, right? And it's just like, you, handsome it all. I enjoy the time we spent together, but I could do without this pressure. So then you end up having to be like, sorry, but not sorry. [00:21:28] Speaker B: There was a point where I was also primary caregiver for my mom when she first had something really strange happen with her as a consequence of her having diabetes. Since my days were picking up my son, going home, doing homework, making dinner for all of us, helping my mom with things, spending time, my son, and then chilling. And then sometimes I didn't have that break and I was seeing who, and we really enjoyed each other's time and everything, but she didn't believe me. The times when I would say either, no, I can't make it, because I do something for my son, or, no, I can't make it. Got to do something for my mom. Just thought I was lying and she'll laugh about it today. But she sent me every form of miscellaneous, I guess, to break up for me. An email, a text, a phone call, left a voicemail because it was very upsetting to her that I wasn't making time for her. And she was a single mother, which was always really interesting to me, that she had those expectations. I guess the roles that we were playing in the relationship meant that I was the one traveling. I was the one coming, too. I was the one driving. Maybe I was making all the moves in her direction. And she met her child day one. And it was cool, but it isn't a thing I would have done right, as we're describing. But when we were growing up, there were all those movies. If there was a single parent in the movie, especially if she was white, then day one, there was an oops encounter with the kids or an intentional encounter with the kids, because you got to know about the kids. And then this falling in love with the kids, as if that was the thing that was always going to happen. Never any awkward encounters with the kids, because that would be traumatizing to see on screen, but it would also be informative to see on screen. Anyway. It was a struggle. [00:23:38] Speaker A: All right, so shift gears. So the moment that I really clued in that you were that parent that could be a parent mentor for me was last year when I was going through a lot of issues with the school. And so I will typically say, when you are envisioning your life as a single parent, because I did envision my life as a single parent, you don't fully anticipate what it means to go from the frying pan to the fire when your kids enter school, right. You are no longer in control of their environment. They go to the school door, it closes behind them, and you're looking through the window, like, I wonder what their day is like. And then you get filtered information. So going from your kids leaving home to going into school is like frying pan to the fire. So I had to lean a lot on being a black person, navigating white spaces. There's a lot of messaging, microaggressions that happen, and gaslighting. It's just like, what happened really just happen. Am I misperceiving? So this issue that I had with my school was that they were like, your child's behavior is not developmentally appropriate, and we need to get some intervention. There is a learning disability or something that's going on there. So it was really gratifying and nurturing for me to have other parents who have been there and also with a bit of knowledge on how to navigate these situations. So, Clinton, have things stayed the same, or have they changed over time? [00:25:09] Speaker B: I had experiences as a child along those lines that informed how I handled things with my son and the choices that we made for schools. So for his elementary and middle school experience, he went to a predominantly black school where we got really lucky. And it wasn't just that it was predominantly black. It wasn't even just that they had this great focus on nurturing black children. There were a couple of teachers that he had who themselves coached me and his mom whenever they had an opportunity on those kinds of things that we might encounter. So whenever they would happen, we weren't shocked because we had sort of been prepared by these two other parent mentors that we had who happened to be his teacher, and so we could navigate them differently. So when those things would happen, we had language around how to message. We had books back in the day that we've been looking at, very often written by black teachers who were parents who've gone through these same experiences. So, no, these things have not changed. And I found that the wider the spaces that he got into, the more likely that these things would happen, even though he's getting older. So also, helping to find in ways to carefully prepare your children to navigate that stuff as well is hard because they're like the first line of defense. My mentality is to get everybody on Team Kalil, team whatever your kid's name is. And as team members, we all have a role to play. So don't shift everything on to me. I'm not going to try to shift everything on to you, but those things that you're supposed to do, I'm going to challenge you on. I remember times when teachers would say things like, oh, he's not paying attention. His attention is drifting when I'm doing the lesson. So when I would ask a question like, what did he say was happening when you asked him about it? Sometimes it was clear that they did not ask. They had already made some assumption that that's how he's going to be likely because he's black, possibly also because he's specifically a black boy. Given what the studies are showing around certain kinds of situations, black girls have similar but also different things that they're going through. So weeding out those kind of biases, making sure that they are doing their jobs, is important. So I always told my son and every kid that I encounter who I feel like I can talk to about this. The teachers have a job to do. The people at the school, they have roles to play. They have jobs to do. And it's not all on you. You have a job to do as well, but it's not all on you. We have a job to do. As parents, your parents have roles to play, too. But honestly, in the education system, I put more of a burden on the trained educators than I would on the parents became parents are doing their best and reading what they read and spending time doing what they do, but largely relying on an education system with qualified professionals to help to educate their kids. Yeah, it hasn't changed. And you have to constantly be careful and wary and navigate things with that frame of race and gender. Always. Yes, people will always try to put your kids into a bucket through that lens. [00:28:24] Speaker A: And I will tell you, I had to become a fierce advocate. And it took all of my professional training to go in there, and I hate this, that I had to go in there so that I didn't get irate and show how frustrated I actually felt because of the racial bias lens that they view us with. But it's just like, okay, how do I hold you accountable using language that you use? Like, they gave me a book and I was just like, okay, I read that book. Have you read that book? Because according to that book, this is where she's at. And it's just like, similar to you. I got this complaint, but it's like you couldn't listen to a six year old or ask a question because she could potentially be right. And so now you're caught up in this ego, this push and pull, this tug of war with a seven year old because you were wrong and you wanted to double down on being wrong. Right. And so it's these interactions that it's like, it is about the adult in the situation and how do you get around that? And so I hope to advocate. Seriously, like, the Alfred was like, oh, I set up a meeting with the principal. We can go talk. The principal is black. I was just like, yeah, I don't need you. I would like to talk to the principal on my own because I needed to get to the level of her blackness to say, you know, this happens and hold her like, so what is your plan for the teachers so that this doesn't happen again? So I really think that we are not done with this conversation. So we are going to have a part two. We're going to come back next week and finish up the conversation with Clinton. Thanks for listening. To start to finish motherhood with Aisha. If you want to keep the conversation going, follow start to finish motherhood on Instagram or email me at [email protected]. If you love this episode, please share it with anyone who's thinking of becoming a single mother by choice, anyone who's already parenting as a single mother by choice and just looking for advice on navigating it all, or a friend or family member who's looking to support someone else's single mother by choice journey. Until next time. Bye now.

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