Quick note before we begin: When I started writing this blog post, I thought I would be able to get it all out at once. But that’s not the case here. This subject is one that’s close to my heart. One that I struggle with and see so many others struggle with daily. Most times, we laugh, cry, and pretend we’re okay and have this parenting thing down. But we all know, deep down, we have no idea what in the world we’re doing. I have over 10,000 hours, which is the amount of time it takes to be considered an expert into this and I'm far from knowledgeable. As a matter of fact, the math geek in me told me to be more specific. I am 157,680 hours on one and 70080 hours with the other, to be exact for a whopping total of 227,760 hours, over 5,000 full-time work weeks into this parenting thing, and I'm doin' the shifts two at a time now. But most days, I feel like I'm still in training, and within my probationary period in real life. So, all I can do is speak my truth, and hope that it resonates with some of you.
Sister Gypsy, Sister Moon by Joi Miner, from Socioanthropologicfeminisms
I have been a mom for eighteen years. To some, that may not be a big deal, I mean there are moms everywhere, right? But for me, a woman who didn’t want to have children, that’s a life sentence, without possibility of parole. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my children. They are the best things that ever happened to me. The motivation behind my greatness. The steam that keeps me going, and I love them for that.
Now that I’ve given that disclaimer out of the way… being a mom is hard as hell! I know people say that all the time but raising functional members of society— this society— is a task that only a moderately sane person would take on. And to be a single parent… even though it’s rarely a part of the plan… is something that takes a person who has lost all grasp of their senses. It means taking on two roles, when you are only truly equipped to act as one. I mean, it takes two people to make a child, so why would it not be realistic to expect it to take two people to properly raise one. And I use the term “properly” very, very loosely.
There is no handbook for this shit. How many parents have said, or have you heard say this at least once? Lol. It’s true though. And that’s the crazy part. There’s no handbook, there are no courses, there’s nothing breaking down how to parent, and damn sure not how to parent alone. But do something wrong, and Child Protective Services will have social workers beating down your door, telling you what you should have done. It’s like being given an 18-year pop quiz, and not taken a single class. Not because you skipped the classes, but because they weren’t offered… at all. How does that work, exactly? Sounds like you’re being setup to fail, huh? Bearing all of this in mind, I am the single mother of not one, but two outspoken, intelligent, stubborn, artistic daughters. Listen, Linda… I lost my whole mind a long time ago.
So, the other day, after a conversation with my teenager where she gave me the worst critique on my parenting that I’d received in my life, I sat down and cried myself into a headache. Then, I got angry. Then I cried some more. Called friends who were single parents and ran that this down to them. Listened to them tell me about her limited scope of knowledge, even though she’s quite intelligent. Listened to them tell me that there’s no handbook for this shit. Listened to them tell me that I am a great mother. I took them loving on me and allowed it to keep my depression at bay. But, then when I was laying in my bed alone, a parent to two children that I didn’t ask for and didn’t make alone, beating myself up about what I was doing wrong while their dads are out there not doing a damn thing at all, the anger came back.
After I got all my emotions under control, I took what she said into consideration. I weighed the amount of it that was just teenage angst against the amount that was due to me being the only parent she had anything to measure parenting against, first hand. Then I looked for the truth in it. Objectively. I mulled over it, and instead of saying that my daughter hated me, or dismissing it, which would’ve been easier to do, I did what I do with my book reviews. I took it as an opportunity for growth. No, I’m not changing myself in order to appease a teenager. That would be very un-mom of me. But I did appreciate her speaking her truth, even if she thought it was going to come back and bite her in the ass later. And I couldn’t dismiss that. Not when I was transparent with them, sometimes too much so. Not when I tell them all the time that their voice matters. Not when I wanted them to know that I respected them as people. I couldn’t teach them those things and then not take what they shared with me into account. Within reason, of course.
My Parenting Style
I’m what some would call an unconventional parent. But then again, I’m learning that I’m an unconventional individual in general. I don’t really hit or punish my children. I have spent their entire lives protecting them from the anger and abuse that I caught from their fathers. When I finally left them, I made it my business to create a home where they felt safe, not just from abuse but from the world in general. In our house, you can be your truest self. There’s no judgment. There are rules, but we all have to abide by them. I’m not the do as I say and not as I do type of mom. I laugh at the dark and slapstick jokes that they make.
I encourage their creativity. I don’t make them feel pressure to do anything, and have no expectations other than that they be content with themselves and in their lives. You want to be a stripper? Make that ass clap better than any other stripper that touches that stage then, babes. Wanna live under a bridge? Let me go get you some cardboard and markers. I know that sounds extreme, but that’s the reality. The world has enough pressure on them to fit in, to be pretty, to be popular, to be successful. I offer a space where they can express their joys and woes, come to me about things they may not understand, offer guidance, and lead by example.
I am a socially awkward performer with issues with authority who curses like a sailor and just came out of the closet at 35. I twerk and head bang. Love trap music, but I also live for jazz, rock, heavy metal, r&b, and classical music. I’m goofy and laugh really loud, and often. I fall fast, love hard, and let go faster. I talk openly about sex, relationships, life, logic, reasoning, emotions, and anything else that may come to mind. My sleep schedule sucks. I can cook like a chef and fix a car. My tunnel vision make me forget that anyone else in the world exists.
I hate cleaning, but I’ll do it. I neglect myself and give too much to others… especially my children. I cry when someone hits a note perfectly in a song, and have road rage like you wouldn’t believe. But I loathe dealing with emotions because I’m not a naturally emotional person. I don’t like people but am intrigued by people. I hate disciplining because I think I’m being mean. I’m chill and hate to raise my voice. But will blow a gasket when they do things that they know are wrong, while teaching them that if they want something bad enough, they should be willing to take an ass whoppin’ for it. I’m a walking mess, and the Universe thought it was a good idea. Worst… joke… ever. Yet and still, people say that I’m a great parent.
My signature is “My Life Is A Joi Miner Novel” and I always find myself writing about the complex relationships that children have with their parents. I love showing how these relationships, or lack thereof, impact my characters. I can definitely say that my daughters inspire me. I watch them and their peers, listen to their stories and learn as much from them as they do from me. I even compare my parenting to my mom’s and see where I can learn from her, whether it be what not to do, or what worked. I also watch my friends, both male and female, who are single parents, as well as the ones who are parenting with their spouses and mates. Life is my muse, and I gave birth to it’s sirens. They lull me to sleep sometimes, while others draw me to the stones where I feel like I’m going to crash and burn. As if life isn’t hard enough, I have two other lives that I’m responsible for. How’s that for a plot twist?
So, while I was sitting in my room, worrying about bills and my children and my writing and my nonexistent social life, two things came to mind.
Epiphany Numero Uno
The first thing that came to mind was the fact that I had no idea what I was doing. Parenting is living life as an improv show, where the spotlight was always on you, sometimes blinding your view, with no intermissions, and an audience that may just throw tomatoes at you sometimes, while other times giving you a standing ovation. There’s no script. There are no lines to learn. No rehearsals. You’re expected to work the ticket booth, the sound board, the lights, move the set around, and create song and dance on the fly. And I am a one-woman show, with an encore performance. Honestly, most days, I want to yell that they drop the curtain, so that I can exist stage left and let the understudies, their dads, get their time in the limelight. But then, I realize that no one can put on this performance like me, and I have a reputation to uphold. So every single day, I step out on that stage and slay, making it up as I go.
Epiphany Numero Dos
The second thought that hit me was... what is being a good parent, really. I mean, they’re clean, clothed, fed, have a roof, regular doctor appointments, their own rooms, working transportation, and don’t really want for anything. They are loved, and they know it. They show it in return as well. I take them to therapy, so their mental health is cared for. And I figured, with a mom like me, they would just have plenty to tell their therapists when they grew up and needed someone to blame. As long as I get them grown and they can go out into the world without needing a helmet, I think I’ve done a pretty good job.
So moms, know that I see you. You are not alone. Give yourselves a break, what we do isn’t for the faint of heart, at all. Living in general isn’t easy. There’s no cheat code to any of this. Just do what you feel in your heart is right, and know that behind every amazing child, there’s a parent that feels like they’re doing everything wrong. I am that parent. You are that parent. They are we.
Stay up. Remember to take care of you, too. The rest is up for grabs. Part Two coming to you next week. ‘Til then, smile. You’re powerful. So powerful that you made people! Embrace the dopeness of that when you have no other leg to stand on.
Stay tuned... coming up, we're gonna talk about everything from co-parenting to bills to learning from mistakes, coping with mental health while realizing that you've handed down chemical imbalances through DNA, and the death of the personal life. Lol. The fun is just beginning!