Lesson For My Future Daughter: Lesson 1: Never Compromise Your Dreams

I recently had a conversation with a young black female friend of mine who declared that, “If you are a black woman who wants to marry a black man, you will always have to settle.” I have just about heard everything that could be said about the state of the black man/black woman relationship dynamic, but for some reason this statement damn near took my breath away. I think I was mostly taken aback by the shear honesty and veracity of the statement.

What I found so interesting about the statement and the conversation that followed, is that the “settling” that my friend referred to is multifarious. We often look at settling in terms of marrying or dating someone who is not equally yoked educationally, financially, socially etc. But this conversation illuminated the fact that ambitious, intelligent, successful black women who marry ambitious, intelligent and successful black men are often forced to take the backseat in their relationships once they marry. They ultimately settle for a lesser position or role in their professional and even their private lives. Michelle Obama is a prime example. In his memoir Dreams of My Father, Barack Obama discusses the fact that Michelle was often upset by the fact that she was forced to change her schedule and alter her professional life because Barack was off pursuing his political career, while she was forced to spend an inequitable amount of time managing their household and ultimately compromised her professional career.

Now, I know that there are men who are supportive and caring in all races, but let’s keep it real, how many black men would be willing to sacrifice their careers for their wife’s ambitions? The inequities that exist within the relationships of educated couples might be universal and attributed to our sexist culture, which puts men's aspirations above women's aspirations. However, I think that the inequity in black relationships is often more pronounced because black manhood has a much more rigid definition. How many black men would quit their job as Vice President of a major hospital to travel around the country supporting their wife’s lofty (lets be real, I don’t even think Michelle thought he was going to win) goals of becoming President. Is it possible to have a relationship where both husband and wife are equally successful, or are black women more likely to sacrifice their careers for their families?

Let’s take a cursory look at Oprah and Condoleeza Rice; they are/were the two most powerful black women in the world and they are both unmarried. In fact an unusually high number of black female congressional representatives are unmarried compared to their white counterparts. And if we were to do a survey of powerful black men’s wives, we would find that many of these men are married to women who are either housewives, or they have careers that pale in comparison to their husbands. Just think about famous/successful men that you know…who are their wives without their husbands? I cannot think of many black relationships that are truly equal. Successful black women are either with less successful men, or they are with men who are more successful, and as a result they end up living in the shadow of their husbands.

As women we have to be careful to not suspend or abandon our dreams for the men in our lives. We must be in relationships with people who will support our ambitions and will be just as willing to make sacrifices as we are. Striking this balance is not impossible, but it can only be achieved if we are clear about what our dreams and aspirations are and if we do not allow anyone to compromise our resolve to achieve our dreams, even our husbands.

Rochee Jeffrey is a pop culture addict, new media consultant, and screenwriter. She is an avid blogger and shares her opinions about everything from pop culture, fashion, relationships, sexuality and life on her personal blog www.ithastobesaid.com. Hailing originally from Jamaica, she balances and navigates two distinct cultures through her writing and life. As a devout feminist, she strives to empower women through her writing and advocacy. Feel free to follow her on twitter @ithas2besaid.

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