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Nia Long's Message to Single Mothers: 'Don't Feel Guilty'

10/05/2009 at 06:00 PM ET
Courtesy Nia Long

History has repeated itself for Nia Long, who, after being raised by a single mother, is now bringing up her own son in a single-parent household as well. “It’s very interesting how we repeat patterns in our family,” she muses in a new interview with Spotlight to Nightlight.

Able to relate on an entirely new level, Nia notes her mother’s determination — in a situation far more dire than hers — serves as an inspiration in her own life.

“It was a lot different because my mom was fresh out of college, she was a lot younger, we lived in South Central Los Angeles, money was hard, times were a lot more difficult.”

Despite maintaining a tight budget, Nia recalls a childhood filled with vacations and trips to museums, all a result of her mother’s effort to expose her children to opportunities outside of their environment. These days, the actress finds herself doing the same for her 8 ½-year-old son Massai Zhivago. “I think the most important thing with him is balancing the time and exposing him to things, but also showing him where I came from so he can have the desire to actually be something great in his life.”

In an effort to nurture the bond between mother and son — and keep the communication lines open — Nia has banned morning television, instead concentrating on quality conversation with Massai. “We talk about what’s new at school,” she explains. Often times, the conversation takes a turn and the duo end up discussing Massai’s love life, including his gal pal Ella!

“It’s usually about his girlfriend, Ella. Did I just say her name on television?”

Click below to read about Massai’s father’s involvement … and more on Ella!

Quick to point out that Massai’s father is “totally involved, so that takes off a lot of the pressure,” Nia still finds that the day-to-day decision-making is left up to her. “Honestly, it’s organization and planning…and keeping a clean house!” she says. That said, Nia understands the stress of balancing a career with motherhood often becomes too much to bear. “Don’t feel guilty about being a single mother,” she coaches.

“Patience is super important as a single mother. You do have to be a little more patient because all of the responsibility is on you…ask for help!”

No one will catch Nia’s son being parented by a third party, however; The actress prides herself on her dedication to Massai. “It is a nonstop thing and I’m very hands-on,” she reveals. “I certainly don’t want anyone else raising my child, so if you get the domestic stuff out of the way, and the business stuff out of the way, then you have mommy time.” And on those days where her work has piled up to the point where time spent with Massai is limited, Nia looks forward to bedtime. “Well my son still sleeps in bed with me…and I love it,” she raves.

“Every now and then I get a foot in my neck or an elbow in my back, but when the whole day goes by and he’s busy being a boy and I can’t even kiss him goodbye on the first day of school because Ella’s watching, that’s my time and we snuggle and it’s the best…it’s awesome.”

Source: Spotlight to Nightlight

– Anya

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Showing 21 comments

torgster on

There’s something off IMO about a mother encouraging an 8 1/2 year old to be sleeping with her. Not healthy for his development.

Chris on

Aw man he’s going to be so embarrassed. :)

Tmia on

I love Nia Long. She’s a great actress and seems like a great mother. And to the first poster, maybe you should be more concerned about the mothers that breast feed their children even after preschool age. Give me a break! Go Nia.

Tmia on

And might I add, let the child sleep where he wants. Try congratulating the woman for being a mother and not putting her responsibilities on a nanny, or 2 or 3.

Pamela on

haha it’s funny, i slept in my parents bed until i was 5, because as an only child, my mom hated hearing me cry as a baby. i loved it and i’m completely normal and everything now-no issues with my parents! i think whatever works for you and your family, go for it.

Thursday on

My Best friends Daughter who is 9 1/2 still sleeps in bed with her and her husband.I wonder if it’s because of the mother son dynamic that the other poster thought it was odd.

J on

Maybe I’m alone hear,but I don’t like when woman consider themselves to be a ‘single mom’ if the dad is involved. Just because you aren’t with the father anymore doesn’t make you a single parent. To me,if the child still has both parents involved neither parent is a ‘single parent’. Just my opinion

Liliana on

Single parenting tends to mean a person who cares for his or her child/children without the assistance of another parent in the home.

Although Massai’s father has a relationship with his son, he is not in a relationship of any sort with Nia so Nia is a single parent.

Just like any family dynamic, definitions of parenting vary from situation to situation. Some single parents are completely abadoned by their child’s other parent while others may not be involved with the mother or father of their child even though that parent still plays an active roll in the child’s life. In other instances, a person may become a single parent through the death of their significant other.

Kerri on

Nia sounds like a great mother. I would imagine that she has a very busy life so I think it is great that the father is still very involved.

amandamay on

Woo hoo for “family bed”! My 7 year old son still shares the family bed with me – He has his own room and bed but has always had the option to choose which bed he slept in – And he has always chosen to sleep in our “family bed”… It might be weird to some people, but to me it’s completely natural. Most non-Western cultures do the “family bed” thing and so do many Europeans. I’ve never understood the idea of putting your small babies and children in a separate room away from the parents. Humans are the only species who do that (Not that I’m saying we should do what animals do, but animals want to protect their young so they keep them close. I can relate!) And for those who think it’s weird or makes the kids too attached to their parents (In a creepy way), everyone I know who does the “family bed” thing has awesome, bright, emotionally stable kids (No creepy “mommy” issues lol) We just believe in keeping our kids close and letting THEM decide when they are ready to sleep on their own. And from all of my family bed friends (And my aunts and uncles who did the same), no one has heard of 17 year olds still sharing a family bed. Most opt out by 8 or 9. As my son puts it “I like my bed, but I like cuddling with you, Mommy” (Most adults prefer to sleep snuggled up to a partner, why wouldn’t kids like to feel cuddled and warm and safe too?)

Jessicad on

J what you said makes some sense. Maybe the term is also used like that because of the marital status. Even though the father of my child is involved now I still consider myself a single mother because he lives 6 hours away, so I do most everything by myself! But maybe they do need a better term instead of single parent:)

plannbb on

@ torgster That ‘s what you go out of the article? This is the first time I read past the jump and I thought it was a sweet article. Nothing wrong with sharing the bed from time to time. You make it sound perverted.Plenty of people do this and the kids are developmentally fine.

JM on

i say whatever suits each family best. personally, i would never want my kids sharing my bed at that age. i just think they are old enough by them to have their own bed and luckily my kids have never expressed a desire to sleep in our bed. but if it works for other families, why not? i mean it’s not like he’s still going to be sleeping in her bed when he’s 13.

i do have a question to the person who mentioned their 7 year old always sleeps in their bed. and this is honestly purely out of curiosity, not judging and it’s a personal question so you don’t have to answer, but there’s no harm in asking, what do you do when you and your significant other want to have some “affectionate time”. i mean, obviously you don’t do it with him in the bed, do you find other times? or how does it work? don’t answer if it’s too personal.

the only thing i would disagree with in this article is that maybe she shouldn’t have mentioned it. her son might not want his friends knowing this fact and he might by embarassed. JMO

Tifani on

yet, @JM I see amandamay has not answered your question yet, but I can. I have a 14 month old who sleeps in the bed with me and my husband. When it is mommy and Daddy time we go in another room. I mean who says you have to always be in your room or bed? When I get this question i am quick to let people know I have 3 other bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a living room and a dining room. I don’t say this to be rude but be adventurous. How boring to always have to be in your bed, do you always have to be in the same position as well? Let’s all get out of the box and realize that children are not Stopliving signs but muses for creativity!

Renee on

I am the parent of an 18 year old and a 14 year old. They both slept in bed with me and my husband until they were ready to go to there own rooms. Trust me they will not be sleeping in the parents bed forever. They make up their minds when they are ready. My kids are in no way lacking from sleeping with me. The are both very independent and bright. Kids grow up quickly, keep them near while you can.

Amandamay on

JM – Good question. I’m not in a relationship so it isn’t an issue I deal with (I’m a single mom), but I agree with Tifani – There are so many other places in the house to go :-)

Dee on

I’ve always found it so funny the things that we find completely ‘normal’ growing up on an island so taboo here in Canada and the states. I agree with the poster that says non-westerners are used to the ‘family’ bed. It’s just too bad some people find such innocent things perverted.

I have friends from all over the world and sleeping in their parents’ bed was something they did and there was nothing weird about it. My father gave me a shower up till a certain age and showed me how to clean myself properly so I could do it on my own.

I can guarantee you today that if the situation were to be reversed and we were living here, people would swear bath time was sex abuse. It’s so pathetic how quickly we can take something so completely natural to some people and turn it ugly.

Nia seems like a good parent and when her child is ready to sleep on his own he will. There are kids all over who would kill to have a parent they could snuggle up w/ at night.

melania on

I also always considered a single parent to be a person who is parenting alone or with little involvement from the other parent, but maybe she feels that she is a single parent. Our 8 year old and 18 month old sleep with us still. They go to sleep in their own bed and then somehow migrate. lol.

Shannon on

I’m a parent. I’m single. Voila! Single parent. I consider myself that mostly because of my relationship status, anthough since my kids’ father lives in CO, I suppose it could be because of my role too. I am completely on my own raising my 3 kiddos. So I am really a single parent.

S. Taylor on

Let’s stop being PC. A child raised in a single parent home is less likely to succeed in our society. Not in every case, but the odds are much worse than for a child raised in a married, 2-parent household (higher poverty rate, higher pison rate, lower achievement rate, higher likelihood of being a single parent themselves, etc.). Guys need to stop knocking up women that they have no intention of marrying. It is very destructive for the black community, particularly for black males. Most single parent households don’t have Nia Long’s resources. The blame should not be put on the single mothers who are workin teir butts off, but ON THE MEN who are knocking them up.

People, stop being PC and tell it like it is.

jmcgladr on

I was having a bad day, wondering why so many people judge single Moms (I’m separated and going through a divorce right now). Then I came across this article, and comments, and it brightened my day right up. I now know I’m not alone in feeling judged, OR in letting my little boys (ages 3 and 4) co-sleep with me. They are happy, bright and well adjusted just like all the other co-sleeping kids I’ve known/read about. As a bonus, they sleep really well too.

I’ll just ignore that last comment, it reeks of ignorance.

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