I don’t ever remember a time where my parents were happy together. I’ve always known them separated and divorced. Even at the age of five, while my parents were living together, it was constant arguments and silent treatments.
It was worse when my mom took my brother and me and moved us to another county. As the oldest child, I became the mediator between the two. Most phone calls ended with, “and tell your mother this,” while conversations with my mother ended with, “and tell your father…”
There were some moments when they were able to be civil and have conversations with each other regarding my brother and I. But those periods of peace wouldn’t last very long and I would once again be thrust into the middle.
Divorce is not a word kids want to hear from their parents. It can cause sadness, loneliness, and anxiety among children as well as the parents.
When my parents separated I was devastated. It took me forever to move on and realize that in the end my parents were just not meant for each other, no matter how much I wanted them to be. Even though they were not together, they have always loved and supported me in whatever I do.
One of the most important things I’ve always learned from my parents’ divorce is the value of self-sufficiency. Both my parents stressed on being able to provide for myself and to be independent, especially as a woman.
I don’t think my parents would say that they were feminists, but they were definitely raising one. I was already independent as a child, but my parents’ life lessons, most likely coupled with their own bitterness, continued to fuel the feminist fire in me.
It was my parents who made me aware of the world and what was going on around me. They were the ones who told me that as a woman of color, I would have to work three times as hard as my white female and male counterparts in order to succeed.
Racism was not a foreign concept to me, but it was at that time I realized what it meant to be a black woman in America. That gender, along with my race, automatically placed me behind everyone else. My qualifications didn’t matter, because racial and gender bias always won. It was a concept I never truly understood until I got older.
But there were plenty of things I didn’t understand as a child, like why my dad told me to never rely on a man, but on myself.
Or why my mom told me that sometimes you have to put yourself first.
I used to think it was bitterness. That it was anger and hatred embedded in their life lessons.
As a child, I resented them for it, because the only thing that mattered to me was having my parents together under one roof, but over the years I’ve come to realize that they were preparing me for my future. They wanted to pass on what they learned on to me. They knew how easy it was for a woman to be stuck in one place due to financial or relationship struggles and they don’t want me to experience the same thing that they did.
I couldn’t have asked for better parents, who have molded me into the woman that I am.
Sometimes they’re shocked by my feminist stance and my issues with gender equality within marriage, but it’s their own fault.
They made me this way.