I’m not a big American football girl. Sure, I’ll watch if the home team is playing and it’s an exciting game but I can take it or leave it.
So when I tuned into the Super Bowl last Sunday, it was for the halftime show and the commercials, trust me. Beyonce did not disappoint. That girl was on fire.
If you’re not familiar with the song, it praises—you guessed it—independent women. “The house I live in—I bought it . . . the clothes I’m wearin’—I bought it.” The car she’s driving? You guessed it. She bought it. As a journalist, I want to correct her grammar but other than that, I’m with her 100 percent.
And in case you were still unsure if she’s dependent on someone, she makes it crystal clear by singing, “I depend on me” multiple times.
I have always responded to this song. My mother raised me to support myself in an era where many mothers raised their daughters to find a man. She drilled into me the importance of good grades, an excellent education and résumé building. I owe her more than I was ever able to repay her for this priceless view of my own capabilities. She assumed I’d be competent and independent, just like her. She was able to pull it off while staying married. I thought I would too.
The lyrics hit particularly hard last Sunday, when I’ve just purchased my home from my ex, bought my own car and have been supporting my kids for months. It’s. Not. Easy.
Let me say it again: Not. Easy. I have a heightened respect for single moms who do it entirely on their own.
I recently responded to a woman about half my age on her own blog. She was writing about her realization that she wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mother. She and her spouse couldn’t afford day care or her college classes because she’d gotten pregnant not once, but twice, unexpectedly. She was asking for advice about how to handle the situation and if she was “stupid” to hold on to her dream of college and a job.
How to answer truthfully but not cynically? I believe in marriage. I believe in good men. I believe in forever. But if all that does not work out, you’d better have a Plan B, sweetie. And be sure to keep it viable even while you’re living with Prince Charming. Sometimes your prince regresses to his frog days.
I advised her, gently, to pursue classes part time—even if it meant loans. To do this when her kids started school, if she couldn’t do it now Very few women make money that supports a family sans college degree. I then advised her, even if not working full time, to keep an oar in the water so she could reenter the work stream (pardon the pun) when possible. Or just know that she could reenter if she ever had to, or so desired.
I’m sure some of you think that’s cynical. Or crazy. Or paranoid. But—after my divorce, I can’t tell you how many women shared with me, unasked, their very private pain. Some are treated as children in their marriage, without equal rights, because they aren’t the primary wage earner. Others are miserable and putting up with affairs, alcohol abuse and emotional abuse because they are unable to support themselves and their children without him. Had they been lucky enough to have my mother cracking the whip way back when, they would have options. Like I had.
I’m sincerely happy for all those who have a loving, supporting spouse who values their role at home. But I’m also enough of a realist to know that if divorce can happen in my life, it can happy in almost anyone’s life. I depend on me. And thank God I can. This 23-year-old needs that same insurance policy. Not only does it promote healthy balance in a relationship, it also allows you to keep a hand in roles other than Mother. Mothering is a sacred job—but good mothers also have other interests to feed them and are better mothers for it.
So Beyonce is my girl this week. She may as well have been singing directly to me:
“All the women who are independent, throw your hands up at me. All the honey’s who makin’ money, throw your hands up at me. All the mommas who profit dollas, throw your hands up at me. All the ladies who truly feel me, throw your hands up at me . . .”
“ . . .I worked hard and sacrificed to get what I get. Ladies, it ain’t easy bein’ independent”.
Amen, sister. Amen. But it’s better than the alternative.