Parenting

Powerful Quotes About Motherhood From Taraji P. Henson

The "Empire" star had her son Marcell in college and kept pursuing her acting career.
Taraji P. Henson and her son, Marcell, attend the screening of "From The Rough" at ArcLight Cinemas on April 23, 2014 in Hollywood, California.
Taraji P. Henson and her son, Marcell, attend the screening of "From The Rough" at ArcLight Cinemas on April 23, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

Taraji P. Henson has a deep understanding of both the challenges and joys of parenthood.

The “Empire” star welcomed her son Marcell in 1994 while she was a student at Howard University. Marcell’s father, Henson’s ex-boyfriend William LaMarr Johnson (whom she refers to as Mark), was murdered in 2003. Over the years, Henson has candidly discussed her experience as a single mom in interviews, as well as in her memoir “Around the Way Girl.”

In honor of Henson’s birthday, here are 11 quotes from her about motherhood.

On Her Son’s Birth

“I went into labor on Mother’s Day in 1994, just after my boyfriend Mark took our mothers and me to dinner. I’m at least ninety-five percent positive I ate my way into the contractions. The whole time I was stuffing my face, Mark was clowning with me like he always did, calling me a beached whale and a few other things that had me cackling and feeling good. I swear, all that teasing is the reason why Marcell came out looking just like his daddy; they’ve got the same head and eyes, the same thick, hard, leathery hands. Marcell is Mark’s boy, indeed. And Mark was so excited to be his father. It was he who helped me into the wheelchair and rushed me through the halls into the emergency room. He was so excited and nervous, he was bumping me all into the walls. When Marcell finally made his big debut, Mark lay on top of me and cried tears so joyous, so infectious, everyone else in the room fell out in tears, too.”

On Parenting Today

“These days we’re so busy protecting our kids, when we really should be pulling back the blinds and showing them that we live in a world that’s not always fair and moral. Sometimes we try to protect our children so much that when something doesn’t go right in their lives, they’re unprepared to deal with adversity. I don’t think that does our kids any favors.”

On How Her Baby Changed Her Life

“I never saw my baby as a roadblock to my goals or a strike against my ability to do exactly what I planned to do with my life; I simply started planning and dreaming about ways I would get what I wanted out of life while I had a baby on my hip. Having my son gave me a laser-sharp focus. That is the miracle of single motherhood: it is not easy to raise a human being with a partner, but doing so alone requires a Herculean effort that is all muscle and grit, built up with repetitive sets of sacrifice. Whatever you gain, whatever you earn, you give to your baby and you work triple hard to show your child-not anyone else-that moving forward, no matter how tiny the steps, is possible. This is a single mother’s love.”

“I never saw my baby as a roadblock to my goals or a strike against my ability to do exactly what I planned to do with my life; I simply started planning and dreaming about ways I would get what I wanted out of life while I had a baby on my hip.”

On Her Desire To Be A Mom

“That vision of domesticity was ingrained in my DNA, and I’ve never strayed far from the ideal. Even as a little girl, I would set up all my ultragirly toys—my play iron and ironing board, my kid kitchen, my pretend vacuum cleaner, all of that—and imagine I was the lady of the house, cooking dinner and doing laundry while waiting for my husband to get in from work. Barbie? Please—she couldn’t do a thing for me but remind me that I didn’t have much. Barbie had it all, condos, shoes, cars. Hell, just having Barbie would have broken the bank, considering all the accessories you had to buy to make her extra fly. I was much more into changing pampers on doll babies, pretend feeding them bottles and smushed applesauce and peas, and then play rocking them to sleep. That instinct—that desire for motherhood, marriage, and domesticity—only grew stronger after puberty hit and stronger still after I trotted off to Howard in pursuit of an acting career. It bloomed right along with every other facet of me.”

On Breaking Up With Her Son’s Father

“Like my mother before me, I made the difficult decision to cut off that romantic relationship with the father of my child, not just for my sake, but also for that of my baby boy. With that separation, my forever man, my first love was no more and my dream of building a family with him was over. In so many judgmental eyes, I’d become another statistic: a baby mama. But my becoming a single mother was about making a sound parenting decision that would ultimately save our lives.”

On Dating As A Single Mom

“If I was going to get married, it had to be for love, because I wanted [my son] Marcell to see that real kind of love — the kind I yearn for. That old couple crooked and bent over but still holding hands. I know that kind of love exists and I’m not going to stop until I have that.”

On Single Motherhood

“Of course, choosing to be a single mother, even under such dire circumstances, still opened me up to some severe criticism. The common-held assumption used to be that if there’s no diamond on the ring finger of the hand pushing the baby stroller, the mother attached to it must be an irresponsible lazy ass who got pregnant by accident (or on purpose so she could live off the government), and the poor baby in said stroller is either a mistake, a statistic or a paycheck. Hardly anyone ever considers that the children of black single mothers are made from love ― that we care deeply about our babies and, like any mother with a heart that beats and a mind that is reasonably right, want the very best for them ... Hell, even the president of the United States-four of them, in fact-were raised by single mothers ... Nevertheless, mention that you’re a single mom, and all-too-many of us still have to cut through a thick, gristly layer of stigma before we’re given our proper due ... The grace and understanding for the familial choices of married women is a given. The humanity of single moms comes with asterisks, ridicule and judgmental questions.”

“My becoming a single mother was about making a sound parenting decision that would ultimately save our lives.”

On Therapy

“It’s the best thing I could have done in my life. Juggling being a single mother, raising a black man, how do I protect him? That’s a lot to carry ... He’s an artist now and he’s very open. From his pain, he had to be. I asked him if he minded if I talked openly about it, but if you don’t, who are you helping? Therapy is not easy. You have to look at yourself in the mirror. You have to deal with all those thoughts, with the pain. We have a very clever way of sweeping it away and coping in another way. You can do it in a healthy way. And all it takes is talking to someone.”

On Priorities

“I’m a mother first. I’m not trying to bring this guy and this guy around. I’m raising my son, and he’s gonna respect women, and that starts with me. [Dating] in the spotlight ― I have to consider my son. I don’t want to make it uncomfortable for him when he goes to school with his peers. And I have to answer to my mom too. And my 91-year-old grandmother. I can’t be like, ‘Nothing, Grandma, I didn’t do it; it’s just a [picture of a] girl that looks like me, I promise!’”

On Pressure

“It depends on what women equate success with. I think we try to do our best. And yes, we can do it all, but I wouldn’t wish being a single parent on my worst enemy. It is not easy.”

On Pursuing An Acting Career As A Mom

“When I got pregnant in college, people said, ‘This is it for her.’ But I did not stop. I never missed a class. I was in the school musical when I was six months pregnant ― we just made the character pregnant. My mother swears [my son] Marcell came out doing the dance; he had learned the choreography. When I graduated, I carried my son across the stage. I wanted to be an actress; I moved out to L.A. with him. People were like, ‘Are you crazy, moving to California with your son?’ My father was like, ‘Leave him home.’ I said, ‘I can’t leave my son at home.’ [And eventually] my father said, ‘That’s your baby. That’s your blessing. He’s going to be your strength.’ And you know what? He was. I didn’t have time to go to the club to ‘network.’ That’s B.S. No business deals go down at the club. So I didn’t get caught up in that. I had a mission. I had to make my dream come true. If I didn’t, what was I proving to my son?”