Motherhood: IT took me one hour to birth a healthy daughter — and another four years to conceive a healthy version of motherhood. A version that didn’t require the death of my dreams or my former self.
One that allowed space for the woman who once spent three months exploring Spain solo. It’s a version of motherhood that is the exact opposite of what I saw in my community and family.
The Black mothers in my life have killed their dreams in the name of love. Because once you have children, the woman you were and the mom you currently are cannot coexist. Or so the lie has been told. Like any devastating lie, once it’s lived long enough, identifying the origin becomes tricky.
I was a “good” mom who was slowly slipping into depression and self-medicating with wine.
I was seven months pregnant the first time I heard the lie. I was visiting an older “auntie” who was about to be a grandmother. I listened as she shared her hopes for this new life stage. She hoped to create a version of a grandmother where she would be more patient than she was as a mother, where she encouraged more and yelled less.
For the first time in my life I started to consider what this experience would look like for me. I glanced across the room and saw a picture of myself hanging on her wall. I was smiling on a beach in Barcelona.
“You know that travelling has to stop when you become a mom, don’t you enjoy the Motherhood?”
Auntie’s words pierced my thoughts before they were fully formed. “What do you mean?” I asked as I turned away from my picture and was introduced to the figurative picture she was presenting. “As a mom, there’s no more solo travelling until your child is grown. Every vacation, if you take one, has to be centred around your child. So pretty much Disney parks and stuff.” “Why?” I asked defensively. “I still intend to have solo vacations.” To which she responded, “Well, good moms centre their children. Not themselves. I used to dream too. Then life woke me up. I thought I was going to be a teacher. I had no time to finish school once I started having kids. You won’t have time for dreams either now that you have responsibilities.”
I thought about the images I’ve seen of Black women providing unreciprocated services, support, and love, and her words seemed natural. It made perfect sense that such a critical relationship would require me to deprioritize myself.
For almost three years I attempted to kill pieces of myself. I tried to smother my dreams of becoming a writer under the weight of my responsibilities. I worked long days and operated on fumes. I left work well beyond the time school ended. Thankfully, my community pitched in. They picked her up from school, cooked dinner, and cared for her until I would arrive around 7:45 p.m. Personal time off was reserved for school functions. Weekends and vacations were for child outings. I was a “good” mom who was slowly slipping into depression and self-medicating with wine Motherhood.
I designed a life based on the blueprint I was given and when it was fully constructed, I didn’t want to live in it.
My smile told lies that my actions worked hard to protect. I mastered how to appear happy. At work, I laughed when it was appropriate and attended just enough professional functions to seem committed. I was one of the first parents at every function taking pictures. Motherhood Yet beneath the surface, everything except sleep felt like a horrendous chore. I started to dread doing anything. I designed a life based on the blueprint I was given and when it was fully constructed I didn’t want to live in it. I had a daughter I loved, a career I adored, and guilt that choked me because neither was enough. I felt empty.
Fortunately, I never made it to becoming a “great” mom. The problem with burning the candle at both ends is that it eventually burns out. Which is exactly what I did. Burning out caused me to drop the ball in every area of my life. The image shattered. The missing homework assignments caused my daughter’s teacher to regularly question if I was okay. The missing work assignments caused my then supervisor to wonder the same. My actions couldn’t protect my lies anymore, so I started telling the truth. No, I wasn’t okay, but I was fully committed to discovering what I needed to become okay in Motherhood.
It took me a year to recover. My community loved me back to life. I had prayer circles, supportive words, and offers for places to crash when I decided to relocate out of New York. But most importantly I had the power of introspection and honesty, which were the tools I needed to reshape a version of motherhood that nourished my dreams, health, and my daughter.
Research indicates that prioritizing yourself is a vital component of motherhood. Yet, beyond research, everything I needed to redesign my version of motherhood was already given to me by my community. I just needed to reject what didn’t fit and build on what sustained us for generations. This is the type of love that now shapes my version of motherhood. But in my version, this love is vast enough to include myself, my dreams, and my daughter in my Motherhood.
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