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Oh Baby– On Office Shade for Unmarried Folks With Babies

I’ve been on a work-related post kick lately.

But something came up that was fascinating to me that I really want to delve into an examine. But first I want to share with you this very moving clip from a poet during the Arsenio Hall show recently. He is discussing what black male co-parenthood is. And when his voice cracks, I nearly started crying for this man. There’s a reason I’m including this clip. http://www.arseniohall.com/video/show-highlights/4127_Prentice_Powell_Performs_Good_Father/index.html

I hope you watched it.

There is one black young male that works at my job. There are a total of four black women. He’s a nice guy. He’s quiet and he’s knowledgeable about his work. There have been times that people who are uncomfortable with his presence have said they’d wait for another person to help with their problems, even though he was available and more than qualified to get done what they needed quickly.

It made me sad to hear that. It made me mad to hear that, because he worked a miracle for me while I was working from home. I know he’s smart.

I’d noticed it seemed he’d been out of the office for awhile, but I’m only in the office three days a week now, and with all the snow, sometimes I’m there barely two days.

But I didn’t think anything of it.

Today an email pops up, and he’s announced the birth of his beautiful son. And attached is a great picture of the new father holding his baby boy swaddled in a blanket in his arms.

Amid the replies of Congratulations via email… there were quiet, yet still audible whispers.

“What?”

“We didn’t know? Did you know?”

Then there were uncomfortable silences, where you could practically see other questions running through people’s minds.

“Wait, he’s never mentioned a wife or girlfriend.”

It ran through my mind too. I don’t recall seeing a ring on his finger. But it doesn’t mean he isn’t married either. I haven’t gotten to talk to him much about his personal life.

Which leads me to something else in my predominately female and married office.

I have a feeling my co-worker did want to keep it to the vest that he was a new father, because he may very well not be married. And in truth, that isn’t anyone’s business. It has nothing to do with his job.

And keep it to the vest he did.

Even his supervisor didn’t know.

Which means, this brotha just asked for some time off and didn’t give much detail. And according to HR, he doesn’t have to unless he wants bonding time off through FMLA. (Family medical leave act). And men on my job have totally used their three months or broken it up to help their wives. So he should take it.

When his supervisor was asked, he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know either and that he guessed the guy was just really private. While the folks on my job are well-meaning, they are nosey and they gossip. I really don’t blame my co-worker for his CIA-like steathness.

The very few men we have on the job, there were showers held for their wives who were asked to come into the office and baby gifts were collectively purchased. My job loves babies and weddings and they never mind ponying up to buy an expensive stroller.

But I think my co-worker knew his situation was different.

Since I don’t have any facts, I can’t confirm any possible scenarios. But I think if his situation involves a woman he really doesn’t want to marry or isn’t in a committed relationship with, but wanted to still keep the child, it’s very hard to go around prior to the birth without dealing with those kinds of questions around the relationship with the mother. It’s also hard to be completely excited about the birth, knowing he is going to have to deal with a woman he may not have wanted to for the rest of his life. There can be all kinds of sticky details.

But I honestly hope that is not the case. But even if it is, I want him to be the best father he can be to his child and have a positive relationship with the mother/girlfriend/wife/surrogate whatever she is.

Two, he knows the stereotypes placed on him as the ONLY black guy in the office. He knows even if he wasn’t married, people would already lump him into a category- which no doubt is probably happening right now and people still have no facts. Here goes the young black guy. Having babies. That’s what they do. Child support.

The email simply stated the child’s name and that he is a welcome addition to the family. There was no mention of the mother or a reference to my girlfriend or wife. His silence and the careful wording of the email kind of suggests, that he will be in a co-parenting situation. I wish him the best of luck.

There is a double standard when it comes to children out-of-wedlock for other races and for black people. Not taking into account the large numbers of women from a number of backgrounds who are mothers without husbands, especially lower-income women.

Precious is a tragic drain on society doomed to continue procreation. She had AIDS, was illiterate and morbidly obese. Well damn.

Juno was just a misguided girl who made a mistake. Her only afflictions were witty sarcasm and crushing on a married man.

So I watch my co-workers carefully as they try to dissect his situation, and politely ask for details, that they weren’t bold enough to ask him, themselves.

I had a wiry grin on my face during that discussion. Because I one time wondered if I showed up pregnant, unapologetic, and with no husband how supportive would people genuinely be? Would I be dropped down from my pedestal as the black girl who isn’t like the others (stereotypes)? Would I still be harshly judged for making a choice to keep my child as a 32-year-old woman with an education and a home and a career? Or would they look at me with the same lens as precious simply because of my color?

When I got engaged, I was the most popular person in the office. My office is big on marriage and family. They live for it, and they love throwing showers. I felt like I was finally in the in crowd. The women finally had some commonality on which they could finally reach out to me and have conversations. They seemed more relieved than I was. And when the news finally got around that my engagement ended, I may have gotten a few pity glances, but no one rallied around me or asked me how I was doing. Now that, that was my business.

I wouldn’t have wanted to go into details, but simply showing concern would have gone a long way.

There is another young lady around my age who went through a difficult divorce, and well, folks really rallied around her. One of my co-workers suggested that it wasn’t necessarily about race, but a level of openness. And I tend to be very private, meanwhile my divorced counterpart was quite vocal about the breakup. So I decided not to think of it in terms of race. But sometimes I do.

Sometimes I feel as a black person in the workplace any sign of emotion will cause people to equate that with being incapable and unable to handle stress… meanwhile black women have hypertension and diabetes and all sorts of ulcers and fibroids because they are putting on the strong woman front, and bosses continue to pile on the work, bragging about how so and so can handle it. She’s unshakeable. (I was described that way once by a very proud manager. And inside, it made me think of how proud Patsy’s master from “12 Years A Slave” bragged about her picking 50 pounds of cotton every day, out picking the men. And Patsy was being raped and beaten on a daily basis, but still outshone her male counterparts. This is historical yall. Same ish, different master.)

I started off this blog talking about black men and I got sidetracked bringing it back to me and black women. My bad.

Either way, I do think whether you want to deal with the facts or not, the brother at my job was very cognizant of the potential reactions and judgements if he mentioned his new son prior to his birth. And it’s not fair.

But it never is. Is it?

 

 

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One thought on “Oh Baby– On Office Shade for Unmarried Folks With Babies

  1. That performance was a tearjerker and brutally honest.

    I worked with a tight knit group at the museum. We threw baby showers for everyone married or not. One of my male (Black) coworkers was separated from his wife (some of us knew-most didn’t) when they found out they were expecting twins. We still threw him a shower. We threw a shower for a unmarried (Black) coworker as well.

    I think if your coworker was a little more vocal I’m sure the office would have been supportive. It hard when you’re ultra aware of being the stereotype however having a baby is life changing and should be celebrated.

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