Jankail Adams is nothing without her village.
“My friends carry my water. They have journeyed with me through some of my darkest times,” says the mother of two from Pennsylvania. “When I found myself on my own, in middle age, I struggled to let anyone help. But a friend once literally told me, ‘you sleep. I’ll pick up the boys.’ I cried. It allowed me to mourn all of my losses.”
She adds, “I’ve had to become unafraid to be vulnerable and transparent with my mess so that someone who loves me can stand in the gap.”
She is not alone in realizing the necessity in relying on more than just herself. Black moms are over five times more likely to define themselves as single compared to their white counterparts, according to Motherly’s latest annual State of Motherhood Survey. In place of support from a spouse or partner, presently, these women are most likely to rely on each other. Dr. Markesha Miller, a licensed psychotherapist in South Carolina, explains why this might be the case. “When we think about the historic coping methods of Black women, spiritual support and a circle of good friends getting together to support each other are at the forefront.”
In addition to building a village to lean on, more Black single mothers are also seeking support from the experts. A quarter of Black moms started therapy or counseling during the pandemic, compared to 15 percent of white moms.
“I am seeing Black moms wanting to rewrite their narrative and change unhealthy generational patterns,” says licensed professional counselor Erin Scott of New Jersey. “They are understanding that it didn’t start with them, but it can end with them. In therapy sessions, I discuss the importance of using community as support and taking moments to just breathe.”
Licensed therapist Dr. Erika Beckles Camez, who works in California, believes therapy is a great way to feel seen, heard, and supported. She’s encouraged that not only are more people becoming open to it in response to the global pandemic, but that resources are being made available to make it more accessible.
“Funding through government agencies and other non-profit organizations have aided in supporting many Black families in accessing therapy services — a very refreshing and encouraging change that needs to be sustained,” she says. “These resources act as insulation to help prevent mental wear and tear, reduce the severity of existing distress, and allow for an extra set of eyes from your friends, family, or therapist in your healing community to know when to check in on one another and provide support.”
From caring for older family members to being ignored in the workplace, the global pandemic has forced Black moms to find any and all external resources to help them “push through.” They’ve embraced internal ones as well. As a result, self-care and the preservation of mental health have become a priority. Zakia Torres, a Maryland mom of four, started learning more about spirituality three years ago when she separated from her now ex-husband. Relying on it, she says she’s found peace, success, and love again.
“Left with nothing but three children, I had no choice but to tap into my spirituality because I was down bad,” she says. “My new spiritual journey is what led me closer to God and helped me grow from a very dark place. Studying spirituality, taking time to meditate, and being mindful of my thoughts took me from broke single mom to manifesting a beautiful business and what felt like miracles.”
Maryland-based private yoga and meditation teacher Tianna Christine has seen a drastic increase in Black mothers who have turned to mindfulness as a tool to help them to cope with the many issues and traumas faced during the pandemic. “Yoga and meditation have been influential in giving Black mothers a way to channel negative thoughts and process emotions,” she says. “Breathing techniques and supportive mantras enhance the movement practice and have made it more appealing to those who never thought about giving yoga a chance in the past. Healing through meditation and mindfulness is not just reserved for white women.”
However, even with all this community support, caregiving support is one area where many could use more support. A great number of Black single moms are solely responsible for household management, that includes everything from laundry, meal planning and preparation and grocery shopping, to scheduling medical appointments for the family, paying bills and even pet care. Some are taking advantage of help where they can.
Texas-based mom of one Nakia Myles was fortunate to have a nanny for her daughter until she turned 10 years old, allowing her the freedom to decompress from her daily routine. Now, she helps other single moms reduce burnout by making herself available to the ones in her tribe that need a break. “We get so consumed by our responsibilities as moms we tend to lose ourselves, and I’ve found it key to have a supportive village to live a balanced life,” she says.
“Many of us saw our mothers and grandmothers do it all, which helped give us strength and determination, but I’ve personally made it a point to show my children the normalcy in having support from our housekeeper,” says California-based founder and CEO of Single Moms Planet, Neferteri Plessy, a mother of two who runs a national non-profit that uplifts and educates single mothers and their children through financial literacy. She is proud to sees the ways in which Black single moms are changing what motherhood looks like for them through proper support.
“Society has conditioned many Americans to view Black women as broken or damaged. But Black women across the United States have worn single motherhood as a badge of honor, not victimhood,” she adds.
As Black mothers, we’re often expected to play Superwoman, supporting not only our household but also our corporate organizations and society as a whole. We receive very little assistance and even less praise for doing so. The stressors of the pandemic have helped us to reprioritize things, allowing us to redefine the village that raises our children. That village now includes other Black moms, therapists and those who encourage self-care practices that bring us relief. We celebrate these resources, as they revolutionize Black motherhood from servitude to an enjoyable experience.
New York chef, entrepreneur and single mom Deyana Canteen puts it quite simply: “we’re learning asking for assistance doesn’t make us any less strong. For years we’ve been told ‘it takes a community,’ so shouldn’t we utilize that community?”