As Black Moms, Are We Uncomfortable Taking Time for Ourselves?
At the salon, we’re not just hairstylists. We’re therapists too. We love interacting with our clients, hearing their stories and providing a relaxing environment for them to unwind and take some much-needed time for themselves. Over the years, we’ve noticed that many of us are feeling guilty for taking this important time to recharge our batteries. As a result, we’re doing it less... but it’s a vicious cycle, and we want to help end motherhood burnout in its tracks.
Like we’ve all been told from the minute we become mothers- neglecting to take care of ourselves has a cumulative effect, that not only reduces our ability to enjoy our lives as an individual, but it also spills over into our capability to give what we need to as a mother. We’ve heard it a thousand times… Self care is paramount. Which is all well and good, but if we don’t have time to dedicate any time to ourselves, how could we possibly make these necessary changes even if we wanted to? So how do we break the cycle?
First of all, we can understand there are some key differences we face not only as mothers, but as women of color raising children in this modern age. Then we can use this wisdom to help educate those around us in little ways with some innovative ideas. We can also use it for the most important lesson of all- being kind to ourselves and choosing not to put additional pressures on ourselves from the outside world.
You Deserve a Break, Mama!
Take a look at a Day in the Life of Every Mom. It starts with the school drop-off, the parent-teacher meetings, the homework, the baby’s sleep schedule, the dirty dishes piling up in the sink, the dentist appointments, the things on your neverending To-Do List… And that’s just the basics of keeping the family fed and watered, and making sure our teenagers aren’t burning the house down while trying to toast a bagel. All that, before we’ve even considered the additional real-world stuff we juggle on top of everything.
Heaven knows how we also manage to climb the ladder in the professional world, whilst maintaining a healthy romantic relationship with our partners, and keeping up with just a shred of a social life. If this is sounding all-too familiar, you’re not alone. You’re also not alone in your thinking that as moms of black families, we face a different kind of pressure. Aside from the enormous expectations we place upon ourselves, we can’t help shaking the feeling that we’re under extra scrutiny from society. And it’s not all in our imaginations.
So what’s this feeling all about? We know we’re living in modern times where racial inequality is mainly a thing of the past. Our kids go to school with classmates whose heritage spans every corner of the globe, and they form friendships based on the merits of each other’s characters. Gone are the days where kids decided who they’d be friends with based on the color of their skin. No longer do they make sweeping assessments on each other’s qualities by merely tying their identity to where their descendents were from, or what language they speak around the dinner table at home.
Our kids have got the message… So why is it that we adults are slow to come to the party? We still have this nagging feeling- the inescapable reality that as a black mom, the whole world is watching to see what you do next. There’s just more pressure for us, honestly. So what can we do about it?
Remember: You Don’t Have to Prove Anything to Anyone.
Outdated stereotypes and the fact that occasionally black families and children are still portrayed in a negative light, makes us feel like we sometimes need to validate ourselves and our children to others. It might be as innocent as a hangover society is suffering from and trying to shake, and it could be self-imposed… but the feeling that we need to prove society wrong about those outdated stereotypes about how black kids should behave or how we should parent them adds extra pressure to all the normal stresses we have of being a mom, and seems like an impossible standard to try and meet.
The fact is, a lot of us have parenting ideals that are very different from the generations before us, or from what is portrayed in the media. We’re not all the same as the black families we’ve watched on TV growing up, where kids would get the wooden spoon across their behinds for back-talking their mothers, or if they were a bit animated and noisy would be told that they should be seen and not heard. These parenting stereotypes weren’t established because the parents didn’t want the kids to be kids- but rather because they knew how confident, outspoken and animated black children were often perceived by society. But those days are behind us, and we need to change our thinking in these modern times too.
Nowadays, we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by communities of black mothers if we just know where to look, and we’re all here to support each other and help navigate the challenges of motherhood.
We’re officially giving you permission to prioritize your own mental well-being, even if that just means arranging a play date or a babysitter so you can escape to the spa for a few hours. Don’t be afraid to ask for help so you can take some time for yourself, because those close to you want you to succeed, and looking after yourself is the foundation of this.
It Takes A Village
The old adage sticks true to this day… And while it may sound a little cliche, there’s a reason why this one still holds great meaning. It really does take a village to raise a child.
Not so long ago, women’s main role was staying home being the caregiver for the family, and the man’s job was predominantly bringing home the bacon. Grandparents, aunts and uncles were able to step in and pick up the slack when we needed a break or a hand with the school pickups, and also the dad could look after the kids when he got home from work. Even then with all that extra help, being a stay-at-home mom in itself was a mammoth task.
But depending on our individual circumstances, these modern times have found that our village and support network are dramatically decreasing. In recent years, we’re not only trying to maintain our own identity and pursue ambitions of successful careers, but there’s also the increasing number of single-parent households to factor in. Sometimes we don’t have a husband or a partner around at the end of the day to hold the baby, so we can have ten minutes to eat dinner while it’s still hot.
The rising age of retirement has forced many grandparents to continue working full-time into their twilight years, when they may have previously been available to help with the grandchildren more. Additionally, we’re taking steps and becoming more empowered to surround ourselves with people who are good for us and our children, and we’re taking the necessary means to limit exposure to potentially toxic influences.
Unfortunately, sometimes those toxic people also happen to be our family. So, people who made up our village a generation or two ago are suddenly not there, yet we still have the same responsibilities of raising children to keep up with... as well as being the main breadwinner for the family on top of that if we’re single parents.
But all hope is not lost. Look around, and you’ll see that you’re one of many moms all facing the same issues. With a little creative thinking outside the box and putting yourself out there, you can create a village. And the good news is, it doesn’t have to be your spouse or your sister anymore.
- Try offering to drop off the neighbor’s kids at soccer practice tomorrow night when you were going to be dropping your kids off anyways, and then when she offers to return the favor next week… Take her up on it.
- Join a Mother’s Group in your area if you’ve got little ones. You might be able to offer some advice to brand new moms who’ve never done this before, and also meet some seasoned mothers who’ve seen every trick in the book and can share some wisdom with you. Invite them out for coffee and brainstorm some ways to support each other, even if it’s just a quick phone call for a boost of encouragement when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Check out local gyms and fitness studios who offer programs for kids. You’ll feel energized to be looking after yourself, and your kids will make some new friends while you’re working out. Introduce yourself to their parents when you pick them up and organize a playdate. Invite their kids over for pizza and a movie on Friday night so the parents can have a break, and switch it up the following week with your kids going to their place, so you can catch up on some much-needed time out.
While your schedule might already be overflowing, there are some little things you can do to incorporate some self-care into your everyday routine. Taking a week off for a solo vacation might not be on your horizon or within your budget right now, but you can take some little moments for yourself amid the chaos every day, to help restore some calm and happiness.
- Try combining activities you do with your kids along with things you love to do too. Invite a friend to meet up for a walk in the park. Unleash the kids on the play equipment and do some laps around the park with your girlfriend. You’ll be getting outdoors for some mood-boosting exercise, catching up on some welcome adult conversation and laughs… Plus tiring the kids out!
- Next time you have a day off, really give yourself some time OFF. Leave the dirty dishes in the sink and spend the time while the kids are at school or dance class to do something that is 100% completely for you. Your house doesn’t need to look like it’s ready for a magazine photo shoot, so just let it go for a day.
- Don’t forget that when you know you look great, you feel amazing. Sometimes the first thing we let go by the wayside when we’re super busy are things that boost our self image. It’s really worth arranging some time to make yourself feel beautiful. That might mean getting a massage, giving yourself a mini pedicure at home, organizing your wardrobe, getting some exercise, or taking a trip to the salon for a new hairstyle. You’ll feel instantly renewed and have more to give others as a result, so no need to feel guilty one bit.
We’re all doing an incredibly important job in raising happy, confident, successful children. While being a mother is the most gratifying job one could possibly imagine, sometimes we can lose ourselves in the title and feel burned out.
Know you are not alone in feeling like this, and also not alone in the guilt that can bubble up in us when we truly focus on ourselves.
It’s ok to put your needs first once in a while, without feeling like you need to make excuses to anyone. You deserve it. And you’ll be an even better mama because of it.