*Note, these are my thoughts and opinions and they do nor reflect the thoughts of the Black Community as a whole. That is why this is titled the way it is. My history and current situation.
Right now, as it is, I am a stay at home/ unemployed/underemployed work from home mom…when people want to actually pay me to sew clothes. That’s what I do. I sew. I have my BA in fashion design and fashion merchandising with a minor in accounting. I am also taking Meisner Method acting classes and have been doing so for the past five months along with improvisation classes and audition classes. Yet (?), I am an independent contractor to sew garments from the patterns or fabric given.
Overall, I am a stay at home mom and wife and my son is four years old. I used to work outside the home having a couple part time jobs and then switched to full-time after my husband lost his job in March of 2014. He then found employment in June 2014 and I lost my job in July 2014 with National Safety Apparel. I really loved my job and I thought it was one of the largest stepping stones to what I really wanted to do. Which was become either technical design, product development, or be apart of the design team for that company or for another company. Recovering from that loss has been one hell of a struggle. It was a hit to our bank account, a hit to my career, and a hit to my self-esteem and, to be honest, my pride. I was back to being being a jobless college graduate.
My struggle isn’t so much my lack of results in finding employment. Even though that is really problematic. My struggle is the feeling of not being as good of a woman as my mother and other black women. I also struggle with the echoing thoughts and opinions about me being a black stay-at-home mom in comparison to other black mothers who work out of the home. Now, I write this post specifically as a black mother and for black mothers and other women of color who grew up in a home or in a community where the notion of a woman or mother not working was thought to be her being lazy and not trying to take care of her home. Especially, knowing that most black men or other men of color either didn’t make as much as their white coworkers to support their family. Or there would be no male present to take care of the family he helped her create. Therefore, she is forced(?) to take pride in something she is forced to do.
The notion of a black women not working would be met with side-eye, raised eyebrows, a smirk, and possible gossip or condescending comments to follow. Especially, from those who were raised by single mothers, aunts, or grandmothers. I don’t meant to compare myself to others in an effort to feel hopeless or less of a black woman, but it has become a habit to compare myself to women who I grew up thinking were the strongest of the bunch, including my own mother.
I feel like, if her, my cousins, aunts, and my friend’s mothers can hold down a job, a home, a car, etc while single. Then, so could I and I am married. Right?! It should be easier to do all that I want and need to do while married, but it hasn’t been the case 100% in all my five years of marriage. I am blessed to be able to stay at home with my child and focus on, not only my job search, but bettering myself while I wait on what God has in store for me. I am blessed that even when we struggle as a family, my husband is still supportive of me and he’s not making me feel anything less than great.
However, I’ve often been compared to other moms by other moms or non-moms (mostly non-moms) with comments like, “My mom was a single mom and busted her butt everyday…”, or “We may not have gotten to see our mom everyday, but at least she worked…”, or even “It must be nice to just sit at home (and do nothing)…” and other comments alike. My husband has even been met with opinions like, “Don’t let her use you…”, “Well, you’re working and what is she doing?”, “I know she cleans, cooks, and takes care of the baby, but she could work. Couldn’t she?” Just thinking about it has my stank face at 100%.
Whether the thoughts and comments are right or wrong, they do not help me and they aren’t the things I should not repeat and meditate on. In fact, they upset me and drive me to a place of feeling worthless and wondering if I am lazy. When those comments come to my mind they exasperate the feeling of hopelessness. Those comments are like salt in my eye when I am trying to cry no more tears. It adds insult to injury. Especially, when those who don’t have children don’t know that childcare, without a daycare voucher (a form government assistance), can cost just as much as a monthly rent/ mortgage payment out of pocket, if not more. And it WILL cost more if more than one child is attending or in need of care.
The Comparison by Me.
Shamefully, it’s been hard to shake my own thoughts as well. Thoughts that have been formed in my years of being a child to a young unmarried adult to a young married adult. These thoughts have been formed in admiration of black women and the thought is that black women work. Period. That’s what we do. Right? We work or we struggle or both.
The respect for a black woman mostly comes from her status of employment and what she does so that she can do with what she earns for herself and her child(ren). Especially, if she manages to avoid any type of government assistance. If she is a single woman or a single parent (there’s a difference if co-parenting is available), then she has more respect because no man is around.
Questioning the Perspective of the Respect.
A working black woman + child(ren) – man/father to help = the highest respectable black woman? Therefore more pride and admiration is owed to her because she is handling it all? Even if you don’t include using family/ daycare/ sitter/ nanny?
A stay at home black mom + child(ren) + man/father to help = No/ very little hustle and no/very little respect? Therefore, she doesn’t have much to pride herself on because she has help and therefore “nothing to worry about”? And if she uses family/daycare/ sitter/ nanny, the father better be working or sick because he’s lazy if she can’t depend on him.
Even though we are the help-meet (help-mate) to our spouses. I put question marks at the end of these to show that I have and am constantly challenging old thoughts. Thoughts that hinder my motherhood and wifehood.
Yes, I know that taking care of a child/minor and being an involved parent alone IS WORK. Period. It is a responsibility. It is the reason why most people go to work and hire sitters or pay a daycare because the younger they are, the less they can do for themselves and be responsible about it. Also, being a married black woman is also respectable and a hustle considering there is a constant denial of self which lessens the amount of pride of one’s self when both hustle and use teamwork to make the team work. Which explains why my husband and I constantly high-five each other.
*Again, these were my thoughts. Even though they are hard to shake, it does not mean that is it the truth of how the entire black community thinks. Nor does it reflect how I view other black stay-at-home moms or am I saying this is how they think.
Yet, when I brainstorm on what my next move should be I wonder if I am doing enough to climb out of the trough or what I view, at times, as a trough. I wonder, as a black woman, am I as good as my mother and other women like her? Am I still a good asset to the black community as an stay-at-home/ unemployed/underemployed black woman? I know the answer is “Yes!” Does it make sense for me to think or feel like this as a married woman who grew up as a child to unwed /non co-parenting parents?
Am I the only one who has ever felt like this? Have any of you heard this before?
Do working black moms get more respect than those who stay at home?
Let me know in the comments what you think or at least if I am making sense.
Thanks for reading!