“I told my son, ‘We are not going to play the victim card. We are going to empower those around us, and we empower people by leading by example,’” she says. “It’s great to say, ‘Just listen.’ But people really need to see you lead by example.”
What are some misconceptions about “MaaPaa moms”?
One of the misconceptions is that you made a bad choice, that you’re uneducated. We’re such a powerful group. We are worldwide. I tell people all the time, if you do this right, you literally raise a Barack Obama, a LeBron James, a Michael Phelps. You raise an incredible man that’s going to give back to society. And that’s ultimately everyone’s goal. And you did it in a single-parent household. So kudos to you, mom. I am working on a book right now with other moms that have been there, done that, because I’m a baby coming in. I am literally walking in your steps right now. And I want to know what worked and what didn’t work.
How do mothers respond when you tell them they don’t necessarily need a boyfriend or husband?
They struggle with it because we have been conditioned to believe that we need a man in the house. We have been conditioned to believe, to be a home, it’s mom, dad, children. Bean actually reached out to PBS Kids and he said, “I love Clifford. I love Sesame Street. But I don’t feel seen with Pinkalicious, Clifford and Sesame Street.” He goes, “When can I become a series with you guys?” And of course, there’s red tape, there’s protocol. But we’re doing great. And we can just show other people, and you see it every single day like, oh, here’s a single mom killing it. But that’s not normal. Let’s emphasize Clifford, a big red dog. Let’s emphasize Pinkalicious with her pink wand, and everything turns pink. Why? Because we’re not ready for the truth. We’re not ready to acknowledge that women make more money, and we’re independent, and that we are the prize.
How can people support MaaPaa?
There’s so many ways: Mentorship for the MaaPaa mom or the MaaPaa boy, donations of clothing, school supplies. Bean started a library at age 3. We’ve given out more than 10,000 books. So if you want to donate books or do a book drive, we welcome that. We’re going to take about 50 students to Washington next year to teach them how to lobby. So if you want to sponsor a child, you can sponsor a child. And I always ask people to get creative. If you were raised by a single mom, what did your mom need? And then talk to me, so we can create that. You’d be surprised at how many men were raised in single-parent households. I need you: This is a call for all men raised in single-parent households. Please reach out to me. Let me know what you needed when you were growing up, and let me learn from your lived experience.
Interview has been edited for brevity.