Over the last three years or so, I have read too many stories to count regarding children being hurt or killed at the hands of their mothers’ boyfriends. Most recently the story of Meleah Davis. Unfortunately, despite these tragedies, I have also seen posts on social media where people blamed or criticized the mother for putting, allegedly putting, their kids in harm’s way. Admittedly, I have been one of those critical people. I wanted to know how these mothers could allow this to happen to their children?
And then I thought about it a bit, and I realized—if I’m being honest—that I too have put my children into harm’s way on more than one occasion. Almost all of us have, at one time or another.
Thank God, my children have never been physically harmed by any of my actions or my lack of attention, physically. I cannot say that there have not been some emotional damages from my choices, however. When one is being completely honest, taking oneself off of any pedestals, refusing to say to ourselves that we are not THAT woman and taking an unbiased look at the situations we placed ourselves in (and, by osmosis, our children as well), we can no longer do the why/how/not me thing.
The situation that sticks out the most in my life is when I allowed myself to be in a relationship with a man who physically assaulted me—more than once. Again, being open and honest with myself, I didn’t think I could do better than him; didn’t think I deserved better than him. I was a single mother with three children by three baby daddies. I did not believe that anyone would WANT me anymore. I was tainted goods, less than desirable, amazed that anyone would still actually want to be with me romantically rather than just sexually. Because of my own low self-esteem, I was not asking the right questions or paying attention to the red flags. These are the things that women often miss, the things that put them in the why/how/not me situations.
I missed all of the signs that should have told me, “hey girl, leave this dude alone. He is not the one for you—I don’t care if you have more than one child by more than one dude.” There were signs like, you know, he was married! Or like, he just got home “from vacation” upstate for kidnapping his ex-girlfriend? You know, the little things, right? Hindsight being 20/20, I am thankful—it could have been my children along with me that were physically abused. I praise God for His protection in the midst of my not paying attention. The emotional trauma that accompanied that relationship…. I am working on that with them regularly, and I do it as best as I can without beating myself up over the why/how/not me situation that I got myself into.
There’s a saying that people have: “but by the grace of God, there go I.” I was one of these women whose child suffered. If not for His grace, I could’ve been one of those same women we spend our time bashing on Facebook and Instagram. Realizing that I WAS one of those women, however, makes me see those women in an entirely different light. For the rest of their lives, they will have to live with the emotional scar of the physical damage that these men have done; men that they allowed into their lives and allowed around their children. While I know what it is like to be abused personally, and while I sincerely believe that that man would have killed me had I allowed it to continue, I still cannot imagine the pain and devastation—let alone depression and despair—that those women have gone through. There cannot be any why/how/not me on my end; I’ve been too close to it.
But my empathy with them isn’t enough. We as a society, we as a community, we as mothers and women need to talk more about the truth of who we are—and what we cannot allow ourselves to endure out of shame and low self-esteem. We must be more real with ourselves; we must admit that we do not find ourselves to be worth enough to protect ourselves—and by association, our children. We have to start pulling each other to the side—our sisters, cousins, homegirls—and tell them, “hey girl, you are acting like you don’t know your worth. Let’s get you some help.” Instead, we mask our pain with smiles on our faces and edge control on our hair and Gucci on our feet. Those are merely Band-Aids on a severed limb—futile attempts to cover up our own personal why/how/not me situations.
The next time you read one of these stories, check your own self-worth. Then call one of the women in your circle, and check hers. Call a couple of ‘em. Every single one of us is one poor decision away from being one of “those women,” from someone talking about us on Snapchat saying, “Why? How? Not me!” Do not let it be you—and do not let it be someone you love.
Until next time it’s her, she, me
” If you focus on the hurt, you will continue to suffer. If you focus on the lesson, you will continue to GROW!”