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Tika Sumpter on Marriage and Motherhood
by Jaleesa Diaz
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January 17, 2019

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Tika Sumpter on Marriage and Motherhood

“It was never my goal in life to be like ‘I want to get married, have kids and that be my life’ — at all. That wasn’t even part of my plan.” — Actress Tika Sumpter

Courtesy of Tika Sumpter

Tika Sumpter is an extraordinary woman and skilled actress who’s appeared in a variety of television shows and films, including: The Haves and Have Nots, Southside With You, Nobody’s Fool, One Life to Live, Gossip Girl, and more.   

Originally from New York City, Tika is the mother of a beautiful baby girl, Ella, and is engaged to be married to fellow actor Nicholas James. I had the chance to speak with Tika to discuss marriage and motherhood and learned so much more about her life experiences that helped her portray such complex, yet, relatable characters.

Jaleesa Lashay: Who has taught you the most about love?

Tika Sumpter: My mom is one of the people who has taught me about love, but it’s in a different way. It’s not a societal form of love. It’s just how much she gives to her family, how much she took care of us. Making things happen and literally making a dime out of nothing. Now, relationship-wise? It’s crazy. My dad died when I was so young, [Tika was 13 years old] so my mom remarried and I don’t know. It’s almost like I had to figure that part out on my own.

I had to figure out what was love for me — what it felt like— not just making me feel good, but for the long haul. Who treated me with respect and kindness, and we have fun together. Not just being in a relationship to be in a relationship.

JL: It’s interesting because now you’re engaged. What type of journey did you go on to think of what type of wife you want to be if you didn’t necessarily grow up with those specific examples?

TS: I know what I want, and I do know what love is. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not boast. Love does not make you feel inadequate. I know what love does not do. It’s almost like creating what I know feels right in my heart and my soul. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t have anxiety. I’ve been in relationships where I know what love isn’t, and so, I want the opposite of that.

Tika Sumpter’s fiance, Nick James Muscarella, and daughter, Ella. (Courtesy of Tika Sumpter)

Becoming a wife, you create who you want to be and what you feel like you haven’t seen that you want to be.

Tika Sumpter’s daughter, Ella. (Courtesy of Tika Sumpter)

There are certain things about my mom that I love, but there are certain things that I want to change pattern-wise. Things I’ve seen that weren’t necessarily the best way in dealing with people, in general. On one hand, my mom was amazing, and on the other hand, there’s certain things that obviously I want to do better and that I want [my daughter] Ella to also see in me so that she can do better.

JL: I’m sure motherhood has taught you some things about love, as well. How has motherhood shaped your perception of what a relationship looks like or helped in defining your womanhood?

TS: OMG. Being a mom has definitely changed my life. I wasn’t as vulnerable before I had a child. [Now I’m] being open about my experiences and not feeling judged for it. I wouldn’t have done that before Ella at all. Whatever happened with Ella, she opened me up, because…

I want to be the most complete, honest, and open human being that I could possibly be. Anything that can edify somebody else’s spirit, as well as my own to help me grow — and help them grow — then I’m down for it.

I think as a mom you just want your child to be the best human being possible, and that means giving to this world, being kind, being loving — being a lot of the things that sometimes we don’t see. I just want my child to be able to offer this world something and then hopefully it offers something back to her, where she also feels fed.

I’m honestly just trying to raise a kind, aware, human being, and that’s what I want her to see through me.

Vulnerability is a strength, and I didn’t necessarily always think it was – I was scared of showing me and people not accepting it.

So she’s definitely opened me up in that way.

JL: Do you think part of that fear impacted you not desiring marriage in the way most women have been raised to aspire to have marriage be the end goal?

Courtesy of Tika Sumpter

TS: OMG, yes. When you don’t necessarily have the experience that you think you would have [by] seeing a mom and a dad. Especially with my dad passing away so young, and then another person coming into my mom’s life. I was like: what is this? You know? Just seeing that relationship which was, at times, great but, at times, okay — that was not my goal in life. It was never my goal in life to be like “I want to get married, have kids and that be my life” — not at all. That wasn’t even part of my plan.

[I thought] of course I’m going to be with someone, but it wasn’t like the white dress kind of thing. Fear. Fear of so many things. My mom went through a lot of hurt that I saw. My mom went through a lot with men, and so seeing that hurt first-hand, especially as a child, I’m sure in some crazy way, my mind and my subconscious were like no, I’m going to protect you. This is protection. You don’t need that at this point in your life. That wasn’t my dream. It was definitely fear.

That’s the work people talk about in relationships — really retraining your mind and inner-self and bad habits to get out of the way. That’s what it means. It’s self-reflection and really doing the work of retraining your mind and how you think and how you love. You don’t want surface love, you want real deep love.

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