Years ago, Shatina Drye saw herself barreling headlong into negative statistics that say chances of success are limited for families headed by low-income, single, African-American mothers. The single mother of three boys has defeated the odds and wants people to know about it. The graduating senior at Southern University wrote an essay about it called “Can Single Black Women Effectively Raise Boys in Today’s Society?”
It was packed with all of the footnotes that academic papers are supposed to have. It also had layers of personal information about Drye’s enormous struggles.
Drye had her first son when she was 15 years old. Drye comes from a single-parent household with four brothers. About a year after her first child was born, she met a man about two years older than she was. At 17 years old and senior in high school, she was pregnant with her second child. She says she had the first child out of a sense of loneliness and needing to fill a void in her childhood. The second time, it was love.
Drye graduated on time and seventh in her class at Istrouma High School. She and her boyfriend got an apartment, and Drye started at Southern.
But the pressures of being a young mother of two children caused her to drop out. Two years later, she had a third son.
She and her husband married when she was 21. Things at home went well until he lost his job. She headed back to the workforce, but her family life began to unravel. Not long afterwards, her husband turned to selling drugs.
Her husband was in and out of jail, then prison. Not long afterward, her husband was murdered. He was 25.
Life came crashing down on Drye. She was 23 and overwhelmed. “My happily ever after became my ‘til death do us part way too soon.”
It was at that point that Drye considered ending her life. “Thank God that I was unsuccessful.”
She rededicated her life to her children, who were then 3, 5 and 7 years old.
“I reorganized my daily routines, my life…I became overprotective and very stern in everything that involved my sons,” she said.
Drye recalled times when her sons would go to the movies. “They wouldn’t know it, but I would go there to see if they were where they said they would be and who they were with,” she said.
“I would check cellphone records to see who they were calling,” she said. “Yes, I was overly strict. I didn’t want them to be like me” and father children when they were teenagers. Drye worked multiple jobs so “that I could stay off welfare and provide my family with more than the basics as compared to other single-parent families.”
Things have worked out. She moved her family into a home in a middle-income neighborhood. Two of her sons attend college, one at Tulane University and the other at LSU.
“This has been tough. Anyone who says raising children as a single parent is easy, they are not telling the truth,” she said. “But my boys are awesome.”
Drye said graduating from college has been grueling. “Working full-time, my children playing sports and going to school has been hard,” she said.
In all, it has taken her nine years, first attending Baton Rouge Community College taking one class at time, then transferring to Southern to finish her degree in history. She says she might consider being a schoolteacher.
Now 36, Drye said, “I’ve heard so many times people telling me what I can’t do because of my situation. You know it hit me a while back that I can do anything I want to do.”
Ed Pratt is a former Advocate editor. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.