I’m not quite sure when it happened.

I’m sure that it wasn’t when Ne-Yo was crooning about “Ms. Independent” and why he loved her.

But somewhere between then and now, being an independent woman has been misconstrued and sometimes has a negative connotation when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex.

When I was younger and my teachers asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was not, “an independent woman”. And to this day, when I am asked to describe myself, it is not in the description that I give.

Don’t get me wrong. I, like thousands of other women around the world am independent. I have a job, can provide for my family, have a mission, vision, and values that I instill in my children.

But dare I say that these qualities are not the definition of an independent woman, more than they define a responsible one.

When it comes to heading a household, I’m not independent because I necessarily want to be. I am because I have to be.

I am a single mother of 3 and, no, I didn’t follow the traditional route of getting married and having children with my husband. The picket fence and two dogs eluded me. Life didn’t take me along that route. I had my children with two people who I absolutely loved at the time… and because we share the most amazing gifts in the world, I will love them forever.

But, I am not going to lie.

There were years of struggle placed solely on my shoulders. Turn off notices, eviction letters, threats of repossessions, and living off of oodles of noodles and hotdogs is not foreign to me.

What I learned during those years was that my destiny relied on my ability to take the reigns and steer us in the right direction.

I learned that at the end of the day, I had to take care of my children whether their fathers decided to be there or not. And that failure was not an option because I had 2 daughters who were watching and creating their definition of womanhood by my actions.

Independence was something I had to achieve. Not only for myself, but for them.

Our survival depended on it. And I did it.

Cars and houses, paying the bills, navigating daycare, home and work responsibilities, continuing my education; understanding that I was one of many out here striving and making a way for themselves in a world that is not always created for them.

Independence was a requirement. It wasn’t something that I chose for myself.

Granted, I love being an independent woman. I love having my own money and making decisions about my own life.

I absolutely love buying shoes and not having to hide them from my husband or reconcile my need to have another pair of nude heels with someone else. Don’t all women need at least 4 pairs?

But as I enter into this new season of my life, I do not find joy in only being defined as independent. Or in men assuming that, because I have held the reigns for my family for so long, the only thing that I want is to continue my independence.

I am tired of the stigma that comes along with it and having to justify it to the world.

When did it become a dirty word?

What makes you think that independent women don’t want to be taken care of? What makes you think that she doesn’t want her significant other to support and nurture her? Or that we don’t need to be uplifted and motivated?

We want to come home to someone to share the challenges of the day with and be vulnerable with. We cry sometimes, hurt sometimes. Desire to be held, hugged, and loved up on.

I am the contradiction of the independent woman. I am the dichotomy.

Why can’t we have it all?

The world should learn to rejoice in our strength and lift us up when we are weak. Understand that we can be a leader and a follower. And that this dichotomy does not make any of us less independent.

It actually makes us the most independent women in the world because we know what it takes to be great on our own, while still relying on others to nurture us, care about our well-being, understand and respect our hustle.

And allow others to work just as hard for our success as we do.

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