The bible says, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Well after watching the three-part episode of Iyanla Fix My Life, I was doing some judging–serious judging. A man who fathered 34 children with 17 women was seeking to have his life fixed, when it is probably something else that needed to be fixed. After watching every Saturday night for the past three weeks, my feelings ran the gamut. I felt disgust for this man who recklessly produced that many children without a care about how he would feed, clothe and, most importantly, love each and every one of them.
Then my feelings shifted to empathy for the mothers of the 34 children. I, like many women, have been where they are. Certain that you have found “The One,” only to discover that “The One” has divided himself amongst many with all having nothing more than mere fragments of a man. That is the moment when you realize and accept that despite him being your husband, years-long partner, or father of your child(ren), the dream that you had for your family will never be. Like Iyanla Vanzant said during one of the episodes, these types of men may not mean to hurt you, but will. Why? Because they are not bad, but broken people. It is a painful and devastating awakening; however, life can and does go on.
But for the children, my heart broke. Of all parties involved, these are the truly wounded–some temporarily so, others permanently. I do not refer to them as victims because there are countless children, myself included, who were raised by single-parents, yet had the guidance, structure, and resiliency to ultimately be bigger than our circumstances. It is possible, but it is an outcome that must constantly be fostered. It does not just happen. I hope the same for each of the 34 children discussed on the show. There is no way that their father will ever be able to emotionally and financially care for them all equally. No one could with that many children. Because of that fact, it will be all the more vital that the mothers work on healing and strengthening themselves for their own and children’s sake.
We could easily reduce Iyanla’s feature to yet another tale of a despicable womanizer, woeful baby-mamas, and illegitimate children who will have questionable life chances. We could sit shaking our heads as we ask, “how could they” and “why would they?” Or, as women, we can stop comparing the severity of our mistakes, and show compassion for one another. Newsflash–if you have ever chosen wrong, done wrong, or lived wrong, you’re in it too. The Iyanla segment is our teachable moment. Let it ignite conversation about how we can begin to change harmful patterns of behavior that have plagued our families and communities. Here are my five suggestions as to what we can do to curtail the pathology of promiscuity, irresponsibility, and recklessness that has left exponential numbers of sons and daughters in its wake.
1. Have a Lifelong Vision
According to Lifesitenews.com, by 2010, the number of children living in single-parent homes had nearly doubled in 50 years. As of 2013, one-third of children (totaling 15 million) were being raised without a father. While many people have chosen to parent alone, the vast majority of single-parent homes are the result of failed marital or non-marital partnerships. Life happens and some things are truly unforeseeable. However, for many of us, there were predictors of what I call the “Four Fs”–fidelity, financial responsibility, family values, and future behavior. Over time, situations revealed just how much our partners valued each. In many instances, we saw what we wanted to see and denied that which we did not until we simply could no longer run from the truth. Some are fortunate enough to emerge relatively unscathed from mistakes, while others pay a far greater price whether it be financially, emotionally, physically, or all three. As adults, we are wired to be resilient, but the resiliency of our children is something that remains to be seen. Decisions that feel right to us adults, may be costly for our children down the line, so we have to be more contemplative in our choices about with whom we make children. Not one child has ever asked to be born. The choices we make before they arrive are the circumstances we create for them for the rest of their lives. For this reason alone, we must choose wisely.
2. Baby Mama’em or Wife’em
Never in my grandparent’s day (now remember I’m 42), would the question be asked in regard to a man, “How many baby mothers does he have?” Today, the question is as common as asking for the time. Over past few decades, it has become the norm for a man to have a child with one woman, and then another, and another. Some are decent enough to wait until their relationship with one woman ends before having an additional child by another; some are not. In either case, any man who has a flock of baby mothers, but never a wife, is sending a signal as clear as a flare on a pitch black night–that the women in his life are fit to lay with, but not to wife. And that even her being the mother of his child, did not make her marriage material in his eyes.
The honorable man commits to his woman and their family in all ways. It is something that he wants to do. He does not have to be coaxed, threatened, or tricked. He takes pride in calling his woman his wife, and not just his baby’s mother. He looks forward to going home every night to his family. This is the type of man that women should seek. Not the ones who have planted seeds near and far, but have laid roots nowhere. As women, we tend to bolster ourselves by believing that what he did to others, he would never do to us. Until he does. History truly is his story. Pay attention to it.
3. A Man Only Has As Many Children As He Can Take Care Of
No man fully committed to providing all that he can for his children will ever produce more than he can afford. It is just that simple. Having multiple children by different women without the financial means to provide equally for each and every one of them is a clear demonstration of that man’s original intent not to concern himself with their support. There have been many a night I lie awake worrying and wondering how I will provide all that my son is entitled to and deserves. It is non-negotiable that I provide him with an education, travel, and experiences that enrich him and make him a conscious, learned, and compassionate citizen of the world. There are many “men” out there who have fathered children and rest easy every night unaware of whether their child has eaten or has a roof over his/her head. Women do ourselves and, more importantly, our children a disservice when we provide men like these the opportunity to “father” children over and over again.
4. Stop The Man-Poaching, Stealing, and Sharing
Men will always cheat as long as there are women willing to cheat with them. The saying, “stay in your lane,” has never held the value it currently has in this no-strings-attached-do-you era in which we live today. Infidelity is a breeding ground for illegitimacy. No one wins in these situations. A man does irreparable harm to his family, a wife is betrayed in the worst of ways, and children are confused as to why daddy has other children, but mommy does not. If a man truly wants to be with a woman, he will. Nothing will keep him from her. Even if he has to go through the pain and upheaval of extricating himself from an existing marriage or relationship, he will do it. But if he does not have to, he won’t. If made possible, what man does not want to have his cake and eat it too? And this is where we as women come in. Give a family a chance to stay a family. Families are hard enough to maintain. A man will not work as hard on his marriage/relationship when there are ever-present distractions and escape hatches. We have to stop being interlopers in the lives of other women. Marriages are at stake. Children growing up in a home with both of their parents is at stake. Another woman’s peace of mind is at stake. We cannot continuously call men dogs when we are howling at the same moon. Also, when karma finally does show up, she just may knock the door off the hinges.
5. We Raise Better Boys, We Get Better Men
Lastly, mothers have to make a conscious effort to intercept and re-program harmful messages that are transmitted to our boys every day. We have to teach them that sex comes with responsibility. My message to my son will be clear. Do not have unprotected sex with any woman whom he does not envision being in his life forever whether as his wife or as the mother of his child. That spot should be reserved for one special woman. I will teach him that having multiple children by several different women does not make him a man at all, but is rather a poor reflection of himself, his respect for women, and his sense of responsibility to those children. My hope is that he will be married to the woman with whom he fathers a child; but if not, that he will respect her as the mother of his child and be fully involved both emotionally and financially in the rearing of their child. Hopefully, our journey together will always be the light that guides him in his relationships with women and, one day, as the father to his own child.
So with that said, my dear lady in the mirror, fix your life.