I never set out to be a stay at-home mother. I had many assumptions as to what my marriage, career, and mothering would be like. I assumed that I would be married, but in time the love would fade and we would fall into a rut. I also assumed that I would stay in the military until I retired and care for my children like my mother cared for me. All of my assumptions were wrong. Fortunately, I married a man that I love deeply and doubt that a rut would ever last for very long. I’ll write about this man later, but the love and friendship that I have built with my husband has surpassed any dream I ever had for myself. Obviously, I am no longer in the military because I’m a stay at-home mother and I definitely don’t parent the way my mother did because…I’m a stay at-home mother. This lifestyle chose me and there are times I struggle with this choice.
My struggle doesn’t involve money, although it would be nice to have more of it. I have an internal struggle of not feeling as if I am doing or accomplishing anything in my life by being a stay at-home mother. I have a friend, let’s call her “Brooke”, who I share these deep internal struggles with and I found that she and I feel about the same. We both struggle with the idea or fact that being a mother is enough. Now, let me give you some background on my friend “Brooke”. She is also a Black stay at-home mother. She has a loving husband and 3 children. She, like myself, lives in a predominately White neighborhood and has adventures of her own out in the suburbs of the South. We talk quite often (everyday) and we cheer each other on, laugh, cry, and get angry together. I cling to our friendship because this life that I lead is foreign to me and every woman in my family, so I cannot talk to my mother about certain struggles that I have because no matter what I say, my mother feels that my life is perfect and I have nothing to complain about.
The truth is, I don’t have much to complain about, but I do feel inadequate at times. “Brooke” and I share these feelings and it led me to wonder if this is the plight of Black stay at-home mothers. Of course, “mommy wars” are not exclusive to Black mothers, but the idea that being a mother is not enough may be something that is exclusive to women like myself.
Truthfully, I chose to stay at-home with my daughter because I lost a child a year before she was born and somewhere in the mix of all the feelings of loss and gratitude, I couldn’t bear sending her to daycare and missing a moment of her life. Her life was just that precious to me that I didn’t want to miss one day or one milestone. I felt and still feel like she is a gift that I should treasure for as long as I can. I desperately wanted to be her first teacher, but when I accepted the role, I had a very hard time enjoying it.
I constantly thought that I had let my family down. I thought that I was squandering all that had been put into me. I would say to myself sometimes, “why on Earth did your parents send you to private schools if you were just going to be a housewife?” or “your husband’s military career is taking off and now you’ll never be able to catch up”. Somewhere inside of me, I thought that my job as being a mom was not important. I also struggled with my husband being the only person bringing in an income. I almost felt like I was taking advantage of him and I had been raised and outright told that a woman must have her own money because one never knew when a man would leave. The lessons of these strong women that had come before me were ingrained into me and I had and sometimes still do have an internal struggle of telling myself that being a mother is the most important job in the world. You see, when your mother catches 3 buses to make sure you get to your private school on time, then catches 2 to make it to her job on time and doesn’t make it home until 11 p.m. just to do it all over again, you grow up thinking that the overall responsibility of wearing many hats is something that you are required to do and anything else is just being lazy.
So…what is a Black stay at-home mom to do? I’ve been at home with my children for almost 6 years now and in that time, I have never completely given my children my undivided attention. I have always had “something” to do. In the beginning, when it was just my daughter and I while my husband was deployed, I finished my degree. Next, I became the running and workout queen. Now, it’s I want to get another degree and become a therapist. It’s always…something. I wonder when am I going to just sit down at night and embrace that this is my dream come true and this life and where I am right now is enough.