For Single Mamas: From 'Welfare Queens' To The American Dream

05/14/2017 09:34 am ET Updated May 23, 2017

Tomika Anderson is far from the caricature of the single mother the media still likes to trot out – the “welfare queen” former president Ronald Reagan famously coined on the campaign trail in the ‘70s: a food stamps-collecting, projects living, uneducated, multiple-children-by-multiple-daddies-having, lazy Black woman.

Instead, the 41-year-old is a snapshot of a growing number of single moms of any race in this country: a never-married or divorced, gainfully employed professional with just one child.

But Anderson, a contractor for the federal government and a longtime freelance writer, doesn’t want the new narrative of single mother households to be one of merely “surviving” -- she wants it to be one of “thriving.” It’s the reason the Washington, D.C.-area-based communications director and her best friend Stefanie Sampson created Motivated Mamas, a virtual “incubation” space for single moms of any background to work together to improve the trajectory of their families’ lives.

“Single parents – specifically moms, who head up 83 percent of single parent households – need each other now more than ever,” says Anderson, pointing to statistics that still see a majority of single moms at a critical disadvantage, especially under the Trump administration, on everything from the wages gap to the price of child care. “By coming together regularly and capitalizing on each other’s expertise, skill sets, hacks and best practices, we work together to problem solve in areas we most need help in, on extremely tight schedules and, notoriously, little sleep or support,” she says. “The support provided is on anything from helping folks successfully navigate the child support system in their respective states to repairing their credit on the way to homeownership.”

Working with Sampson – a non-profit director of operations -- to develop the concept, the two decided to launch their mastermind group, coaching practice and “professional mommy university” following the success of an all-mommy mastermind group they led last year. “We had married and single members who originally did not know each other from the D.C. area, Ohio, New York and Texas -- lawyers, executive assistants and other professionals – all coming together for a couple of hours twice a month to help each other find jobs, ask for raises, negotiate co-parenting terms, work through the dissolution of relationships and other issues,” says Sampson, a divorced single mother of two. “What we achieved both professionally and personally was inspiring.”

“By checking in with each other sometimes daily via text to goal set and hold each other accountable, we became our sisters’ keepers,” she continues of the program, which culminated in a year-end retreat attended by all the women and their kids. “I think our ladies were successful because we provided a safe, nurturing space that, in the end, felt more like a sisterhood.”

With their creation of Motivated Mamas, which will officially launch this fall timed with “back to school season,” Anderson and Sampson, who are both internationally certified coaches, also join the ranks of the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the country: Black women.

“Entrepreneurship is clearly another area we strongly encourage and support single moms of all races and backgrounds in,” says Sampson, who also serves as an executive and leadership coach in both the for-profit and non-profit sector. “When a single mom breaks through the ceiling of what’s possible to earn with a traditional employer while, at the same time, creating the kind of flexibility she needs to spend more time with her kids, everybody wins.”

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Erica B. is an author and arts educator based in Brooklyn, New York. Erica writes fiction and memoir that elaborates the experience of the millennial woman of color. She’s written/published four books: (Intention, Boroughs Apart, and Of Micah and Men). Her latest is F-Boy Literature. You can find more of her work at IfNoOneHasToldYou.com.

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