Mommy Wars in Black and White

I don’t know what’s going on with me but lately my patience has been pretty non-existant. To be blunt I find people annoying me more and more and that lack of patience has played my role in my decision to actively reduce my time online. Don’t get me wrong, I’m here but I am no longer posting daily at this point the goal is 2-3 posts a week, I still am on Facebook and Twitter but no longer do I find myself spending hours surfing blogs and connecting via social media. Let’s just say the changes have been good not only for me but  for the entire family. I am also redefining my work time so that when work is over, its over…my new joke is unless the joint is burning up, don’t call me.

So what is it that had me in such a tizzy that I have to just unplug? To be honest its Mommy Wars. I used to think that Mommy Wars was an invention of the media to make Moms feel even worse but ladies frankly I think we bring it on ourselves. As a Black woman I find rarely does the issue of parenting and parenting philosophies come up when I am talking or spending time with my Black or minority buddies. To be honest, yes we may talk about how the kids are doing but rarely are hours spent on wondering why Johnny does XYZ…I read a book some years ago that really touched upon the fact that Black Motherhood is approached through a different lens and I do think there is a lot of truth in that.

When I talk to a sista friend never do I feel judged in any way because I choose to work, instead it is what it is. Frankly I enjoy working, truth is I am not SAHM material. I need a lot of space and being at home all the time with the apple dumpling would be bad for both of us. I am very thankful my job is flexible, right now that flexibility is a huge deal, enough that I put up with the fact I am woefully underpaid. I never look at another sista and judge the choices that she makes be it a SAHM or WOHM…I figure people will do what’s best for them and their families. To be honest I rarely judge anyone else’s parenting unless it borders on abusive.

In the past 15 months of working with low-income at risk families I see a lot of shit that has helped readjust how I view parenting.  I see a lot of shit, that well if you saw it you’d realize there are so many things that are just not worth getting one’s panties in a bunch about.

That said I am a Black woman in a really white state and most of my day-to-day buddies are white and its these relationships that sometimes stress me the fuck out. There are days when I am out with friends and I feel like my name is Jeff Spiccoli and I am a slacker parent. Maybe its the fact that despite starting out pretty fucked up I seem to have successfully raised one kid to adulthood and he is a good kid who despite the fact he is a biracial kid of divorce who has bounced back and forth between his me and his father  is basically a well-adjusted happy kid. Even now as we eagerly await what we hope will be acceptance letters from schools, he is already coming up with his back up plans should he not get into the schools he really wants to get into and I must say that I am in awe of him. Seriously this kid is far more mature than I was 18 and I am not kidding. I should add that when he was born I never went on a website to look up information, of course there were none and I read very few parenting books. Instead I trusted my gut even when I made the painful decision to not keep legally fighting about custody knowing a day would come that my baby would leave me and live with his dad. I trusted that it would all work out, I knew what didn’t work for me a kid and have always treated my son with respect. Granted he knew especially when he was young that I was the boss and I make no apologies for that but he also knew and knows that I am always here, my ear is always available and generally I will listen and think before I speak.

On the other side with the girl child as soon as her presence was confirmed I immediately started the research, joining websites, getting book recommendations, etc…over the past 5 years I have eaten, slept and dreamt parenting issues. Honestly all this focus on parenting and raising her at one point threatened my marriage as there was a 2.5 year period where the Spousal Unit didn’t have a voice since as the chief researcher of all things parent related I felt my voice carried greater weight. You may laugh but on parenting websites too many times a mom will have a post how to get the partner to see her point of view and generally the consensus is if said partner does not do their research they don’t get a voice. Yikes! Who the fuck wants to raise a kid with such a controlling asshole?

By the same token thanks to the never-ending stream of information we women are able to constantly keep raising the bar on our fellow mothers and sadly its my white sisters who really thrive at this. It used to be that if one breastfed their kid a good 6 months or a year well it was a good thing…but now its like oh you weaned at 18 months? You can see the judgement on the poor Mama who did not let little Jenny self wean at 3 or 4. Full disclosure I nursed girl child till she was 3.5 I did not let her wean herself, I just got tired of nursing and felt she was more than old enough to not need to nurse and instead found other ways to connect. So before the lactivist come to string me up lets just say I have solid breastfeeding credentials especially for a woman of color, statistically Black women have lower rates of breastfeeding than white women and to date I have probably only known at best including myself 5 Black women who nursed past 18 months.

But judgement continues in all areas, use disposable diapers and folks look down on you, and work? Why goodness gracious , how can one work and raise kids? Sadly the poor Mama it seems is considered to be less loving, less dedicated if she works. Never mind that not every woman has a partner who earns enough to support the family on one check, hell not every woman even has a partner and last time I checked public assistance is hard to live off of. Unless one lives in a Section 8 apartment and gets every program known to man even then she may still be hitting up food banks at the end of the month. Not a very pretty existence and I’m sorry but as someone who grew up pretty poor at times, poverty sucks. Yet its only my white friends who agonized over these choices, I have only had 1 Black friend who chose to be a SAHM despite no financial resources or partner and she eventually had to take a job.

Even the issue of school is an area where it seems one must tread lightly. Back with my eldest it was automatically assumed that when a kid hit 5-6 they went to school but that is not the way things are anymore. Send your kids to school and you have to make excuses for why you choose that route. Hell, even the school you choose is cause for anxiety, public or private? Of course those who home school also have to deal with issues as well, do you follow a program, do you unschool? Shit the ways in which Mamas beat ourselves up is crazy. I say educate your kid in a manner that works for your family. I admit I love the idea of homeschooling, even unschooling but to be honest I know my limitations and seeing as how I am not SAHM material I doubt homeschooling would work for us. I also have a kid who thrives with structure and I don’t do structure so again I know myself and I accept this.

Please, please do not think I am slamming white mothers, I’m not instead I ask myself why do you guys make what is already a hard job even harder? Parenting a child is one of the most rewarding and joyous experiences you may ever have yet when we add judgement and snark, we make it harder on ourselves. I also wonder though why do my Black sisters not get as stressed about parenting? In some ways I think it’s because on  a whole we have so much shit we deal with it that maybe its self-preservation to not stress over every detail. I can’t help but sadly think its these differences though that at times keep us from connecting as women and mothers. I wonder how many of my readers have true friendships with women across racial and cultural lines? I think its hard because even when we share commonalities even in parenting we rarely are able to see outside our own zone.

I would welcome your thoughts on parenting across racial and cultural lines..what do you see.

Blame it on the darkies

It’s Saturday night at the local mall, like all malls there is a pseudo swank jewelry store selling diamonds, gold and other treats. It’s no Tiffany’s but for the area it fits the bill. So you are working at this shop which is located in a fairly homogenous area where there aren’t a great deal of people of color. What walks in? Three Black people!

Let’s see the first fella is 6’7 and about 220lbs and he has bad teeth. His male companion is a nondescript cat who is about 5’10 and the female companion has yellow-orange hair that is up in a ponytail and oh she has large mole on the side of her face. Damn, this motley trio sounds rather unattractive and I know you are thinking damn BGIM, where are you going with this. Just sit tight readers.

So the motley three walks in and apparently the staff at this establishment  did not wish to appear racist despite the fact these three were rather curious looking individuals. So instead of doing their fucking jobs and keeping an eye on the joint, the staff allowed two of the crew to distract them while a third popped open the jewel cases, all the while the staff was oblivious that they were being robbed. It was only after the trio left that they realized they had been robbed, but darn it the store has no cameras so we have no photos just the amazing memories of the folks who work there. Who lets face it, they stood there and allowed the joint to get robbed.

Shit sounds like a bad skit but its true, here’s the link to the local story. I nearly fell out my seat when I read this story since I am Black and I have been jewelry shopping and lets just say even as middle class college educated Black person there are certain stores where it seems the staff is trained to keep all eyes on you. Look, these folks if they exist and let me say that again if they exist, walked in a jewelry store looking like  bad stereotypes and looted the place but no one saw a damn thing. Yeah right, tell that to someone who was born last night.

No, my money is on the fact that  this is an inside job after all do the clerks at these places really make a lot of money? Last I heard the jewelry industry is not what it used to be with times tough and maybe someone needed some extra cash. So somebody planned the heist knowing there are no cameras to capture the event and hey when in doubt and you need a villain, pin it on the Black folks. Hell go for the gold, not just one darkie, get three and as a nod to the fact they are not all violent we will make them gentler robbers. No mere brutes, they use their charm to distract the staff and get the goods.

Nope, not buying it and until you show me 3 Black folks matching those descriptions and either there is iron clad evidence or they confess. I say this is a case of blame the darkie. We all recall how in the last two decades we have seen a rise in crimes where upstanding white folks blame shit on the Black bogeyman. He stole my kids, he killed my wife, etc.

Look on behalf of my Black brothas and sistas who are upstanding citizens I say please stop blaming invisible Black folks for come no one ever blames a Chinese fella or the guy from Eastern Europe?.

Black Folks and Black History

It’s Black History Month as we all know, generally I take a pass on talking much about it in this space since in my daily life it comes up quite a bit especially living in Maine. A few years ago I was involved with planning activities for Black History Month with a friend who put together events for her local town. It was then that it started to dawn on me that there was an issue that very few Black folks ever discuss that I feel needs to be discussed because if we did it would make a huge difference in how we approach the issue of Black History.

In my last post, I talked about NBC’s approach to Black History which took the form of serving a meal that for some bordered on offensive and for others inspired a lot of what’s the big deal. Well after further research it seems the woman behind this is one chef by the name of Leslie Calhoun who happens to be Black. It seems that Ms. Calhoun had asked to do this for some time and had gotten approval and thought it was a nice way to celebrate the month. For Ms Calhoun she had no idea that her “Black” meal would create such a stir and the interview I saw with her she appeared down right bothered that her seemingly nice act was received in such a negative light.

In my last post, several folks brought up the fact and I agree that why is the approach to celebrating diversity always done in such a surface manner- generally rolling out foods and costumes to celebrate a culture. Of course within the context of Black History in America it gets even more complicated since not everyone who is considered a Black American shares a similar background. After all one can be Black and American yet not have any direct ancestry based in the South thus foods like greens and chicken would not be historically a part of that person’s culture. After all fried chicken, greens, etc are not a Black meal, they are a regional meal…plenty of white folks in the South eat this food. It’s just that some how it got a reputation for being Black/soul food.

However there is another issue that rarely gets addressed and that is the issue of class and race. Part of it is that Americans like to see themselves as classless with the idea that anyone can move up the ladder, after all America offers great opportunity to all. That may be true but there is still a class system in place and it’s in place for Black Americans as well. It’s something very few Black folks ever like to discuss but just like any other group we are very much shaped by our class of origin as well as the class that we may move into. I suspect class played a large part in the reactions to the fried chicken incident. I don’t know Chef Calhoun but having seen the video of her interview, I am going to make an assumption (yeah, I know what they say about assumptions) but Calhoun appears to be a member of the working class and this is not meant to disrespect her in any way since as a child of the working class I still strongly identify with the working class. For Calhoun she was not looking at the larger issues, she simply wanted to do something nice, in her mind the meal she chose to serve represents the scope of her experiences and they are valid. The larger issue became that the chicken meal cannot and does not represent the whole of Black America. After all there are many Black Americans with a wide array of experiences and we don’t all eat the same foods no more than any other group.

Yet because class issues are rarely discussed as it relates to Black folks it seems we are constantly setting ourselves us for these types of misunderstandings. I know because once upon a time I used to think that all Black folks shared a similar background, one generally rooted in ties to the south. It was not until I moved to the east coast and became acquainted with Black folks who had no ties to the south either personally or secondhand that I had to stop making assumptions and I have been a lot happier since then. Since I no longer walk around assuming we have a shared background.

So if anything, for Black History Month I think we should all take a step back to see the wide range of diversity that exists within the Black experience and be respectful of them all. There is no one way to be Black, in fact we do ourselves a disservice when we look for us all to be the same especially within the Black community. Some of us our guilty of the same myopia that affects other races when they look at Blacks and it must stop. Anyway that’s my thoughts on Black History this month.