For me, mothering as a Black woman has become harder as the world we live in becomes more politically divided. Current political animosities have caused kid friendly spaces to become even more racialized and harder to navigate. Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with a group of Black parents. We shared the difficult conversations about race and skin color that we were ALL having with our children. Despite the age differences of our children (5-13yo), the commonality of our experiences stuck me hard. These conversations started either to respond something hurtful or as a preemptive warning.
This time in our nation’s history is critical. As parents, we have an enormous opportunity to love, invest in, and nurture our kids in race-informed ways that affirm who they are. We have access to resources that feature Black and brown faces. We can share with our children the legacy of those who have lived before us. We can use our ancestors’ lives to glean lessons and find sources of strength and inspiration. We can call on our faith to sustain us. We can take action.
Moms, we can tap into our past to guide us toward a stronger future!
My intention is to use this space to support the work of parenting. In this post, I offer some encouragement for mothers.
In 2017, commit to making motherhood work for you.
I’m five years into my motherhood journey. Although I love being a mother, on most days of the week motherhood doesn’t quite match the (pre-child) picture of it that I had in my head. The constant juggling of parenting, work, family and friend obligations is just well….hard. What is harder is resisting the temptation to compare myself to other mothers or the motherhood myth that lives in my head. One of my favorite books on mothering, The Myth of the Good Mother, a collection of essays, unpacks this idea perfectly.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Her kids have always slept through the night, and even if they don’t, she still manages to look like she has had eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. There is always a well-balanced, home-cooked meal on her dinner table. She either happily stays at home or holds down a fulfilling job while still finding time to join the PTA, run the school’s book sale, and makes it to every single soccer game. Her house is absolutely spotless, and if it’s not, she can effortlessly laugh it off. She has the energy and desire for a happy and adventurous sex life, and her partner is always satisfied. She is crafty, creative, and embodies the perfect blend of modern woman and hipster housewife. She is usually white, middle to upper class, heterosexual, and neither too young nor too old. But above all… she’s a myth.”
After struggling to contort myself into the mold of what I thought was a perfect mother, I realized that I was striving toward an end that not only isn’t real but isn’t who I am – as a person. In 2017, I’ve decided to make motherhood work for me. I’m releasing what does not work to embrace what does work.
Based on the realities of life that I deal with every day, here are three steps that I am taking to make motherhood work for me
- Accept that the ideal you have of being the perfect mother is probably not realistic. Unpack the origin of the ideal. The reasons for the disconnect are numerous from you thought you’d be living in a different part of the country, different financial situation. Maybe you are divorced and you thought you would be mothering as part of a committed couple or you thought you would be in a different place in your career. Maybe you’re caring for aging parents and realizing what it means to be a part of the “sandwich” generation. Or, as in my case, you realize to manage all of it at the same time is just hard. To accept the disconnect between the real and the myth is critical.
- Start with your assets. Always begin with where you are strongest. If you start at the point of where your life lacks, the deficits or the difficulties, then it is harder to see areas where you really shine. What do you do well? For me, it’s planning. To the extent that I have sufficient time to plan, those are typically areas that I can manage, well. Moms, you are an asset even at your most exhausted. Start there.
- It is okay to center your own needs within your family. For example, when we travel, I make sure we do things that interest me, too. It’s a small example, but what Mom likes matters, too. Maybe you need help around the house, for instance. Maybe you need to create some dedicated “me time”, and use a sitter, family or friends to watch your kids for a few hours. Women, generally carry heavy emotional demands from partners, children, family and other obligations. We need to put ourselves back in the equation.
As you make changes, be prepared for a little bit of judgement to come your way. Pushing back against cultural norms can be confusing for people around you. I get that all the time. I press forward anyway, because I know what works best for me and for my family.
This is the first blog in a series of posts on making motherhood work and unpacking what that really means.
If you like this post, share it with other parents you know!