Black Mother: femme, parenting, and stress in America 

Being a Black mother during these times feels like working a week of double overtime on 30 minutes of sleep

When you are a Black woman in America the earliest memories of representation you see in media are “the strong independent Black woman” and the” angry and bitter Black women.” Both are portrayed to have to carry the world on her shoulders. On the contrary, princesses and damsels in distress I saw were always fair skinned, rosy cheeked, and had straight hair; something my dark skin and afro textured hair would never achieve. It seemed like white women were the only women allowed to be soft and capable of feeling an array of emotions. As an empathic Black woman this made growing up confusing to me. I’d wonder why couldn’t I cry without being told to “suck it up and be strong.”

As a result I adapted the best I could. I tried to bottle up my emotions and with decades worth of terrible coping skills that are passed down through generations in Black families. I am now a 25 year old mother. I’ve learned the narrow stereotypical emotional role I’m expected to keep up has become too much to handle. The truth is I refuse to play this stoic emotional role. I refuse to pass it on to my children.

Before 2016I didn’t think my life could get any better. I was happily married with two beautiful children, a new job, and living in a new city. I had finally become the strong independent woman I had seen all my life and I was flourishing. That was until major life events knocked my family and I down within a few months.

Personal and Political Worlds Were Changing

In March I found out that my sick mother would no longer be able to leave the hospital. In April I had to medically end my 3rd pregnancy.

I was going to countless doctors visits to try to get my body healthy enough to carry a child again. The summer was buzzing with the Presidential election. And the stress of being Black in America seemed an all time high.

In November my and my husband’s hearts were filled with so many different emotions. From coping with my mother’s death, to Trump being elected President, and finding out that finally I had another small child (our last) growing peacefully inside of me.

The Stress of It All Became Too Much

Then 2017 I was not doing my best according to society’s standards. I wasn’t able to seamlessly juggle the pregnancy, the kids, and work without looking exhausted all the time. The closer and closer I came to my due date the worse I was feeling. I needed help but I didn’t know if that was allowed of strong Black women. Could I ask for help without being looked down on and told to simply do better?

I struggled daily going back and forth with whether or not to seek help until one day I scrolled through Facebook and saw post was about how it takes a village to raise a child with a picture with a white woman smiling and surrounded by her group of mom friends. Even in motherhood white women were allowed to struggle and ask for help freely, something denied to Black mothers. It took the help of my husband for me to seek therapy. I to understand that it is okay for me to create my own village. I’ve learned how to develop beneficial coping mechanisms, practice self care, and overcome the fear of asking people close to me for help.

Still, after countess extrajudicial murders of Black children and Black cities across America in crisis I am exhausted.

Black Mothers Are Over Stressed

Black people as a collective are exhausted but especially Black mothers. Keeping a tiny human alive and safe with the onslaught of murders of Black people is jarring and exhausting. We are fighting the fight to be human and show emotions without being deemed an angry or “weak” Black woman. We are fighting not only for our humanity but for our Black and brown children who we want to be able to experience the gift of a safe and holistic childhood their white peers are awarded from birth. Black mamas are unlearning the decades worth of stress we were taught to carry by older generations just to live to the next day with our families in tact.

It is impossible to call out from motherhood for a day of self care and recuperation so it is 100 percent necessary for you to check on your Black parent friends, especially Black mamas. If you have anything you can offer from helping around the house, to babysitting, or being a shoulder for us to cry on when we feel like the world makes us invisible, offer it.

You Can Support Your Black Mothers in Your Community

Advice isn’t needed just love.

Uplift your Black friends with children and tell them their struggles are valid because not only is being a mother hard but having to unlearn toxic coping mechanisms, fighting for our own rights, and raising children to who can experience Black joy long before they are forced to be strong is work, work that is often invisible but the burden and stress isn’t

Ashleigh Bell  is a minimalist mom of three. Adapting from country to city she navigates life finding low cost/ free activities to keep the family busy.  She can be found on Instagram @Minimallyus