In an effort to write more, I am going to attempt to start a series on my blog called “Motherhood Mondays”. It is my wish to have open and honest conversations with different types of mothers and write about that dialogue on this forum.
My first guest for “Motherhood Mondays” is my grandmother. My grandmother’s name is Rose. She was born in 1927 in New Orleans, LA. A number of the views that will be discussed in this blog reflect the times in which she was born and raised. If you follow this blog, then you know how dear my grandmother is to me. When I was about 13 years old, I went to go live with her. She saved me by letting me live in her home and keeping the person I was getting away from out of my life. Too many families turn a blind eye to abuse, but she did not and for that, I am a better person. I thought who better to start off this whole Motherhood Mondays with than my very own grandmother…here are her words:
What is the best part about being a mother?
The best part about being a mother is watching your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren achieve the things they want. I like to see children going to school and learning new things. I like to see them go after their goals. There has always been this strain of giftedness in our family, but we have a problem with execution. Learning has never been a problem for the majority of our family, so I get happy when I see that giftedness manifest from generation to generation.
What was your mother like?
My mother was the kind of person who did not think anyone was bad. Because she was so nice, people took advantage of her. She was friendly. She would do anything she could for you and she was mugged numerous times because of her personality. She didn’t have a good relationship with my daddy. He was a minister and had a mean streak. I had to watch out for her. She was protective of us, so we, my sisters and I, were protective of her. She was a strong women. She beat cancer, but she was too nice.
Growing up, did you want to be like your mother?
I am my mother in my later years. I realize, now, that people are not who they think they are. I am her.
What was your proudest moment?
I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade because I was the oldest and had to work to help my family. I went to work in a cafeteria and thought that was the end of that. When your grandfather and I moved to California, we opened up the little store and then the grocery store, which should have been my proudest moment, but it wasn’t. I went back to school at 55 and finished high school and then got my degree in nursing. School was always easy. I just needed the chance to finish and I did. I also appreciate my longevity of life and that I am of sound mind and body. I’m still independent.
Did you have to deal with racism growing up or as an adult?
Of course! (laughs) It wasn’t like the stories you hear about being attacked. I was never chased or beat up. In those times, you knew what you could do or should do and that is what you did. I use to hear my father saying, ‘yes sir’ to those men while they called him by his first name, or nothing at all, and I would be so mad that my father was like that. I didn’t realize until he was dead and gone that he was playing them while they thought he was being subservient to them. He was protecting us. He had to do that in order to work or for our family to have things.
The thing about racism in the south is that you got to know these people and you got to doing what they thought you should do. When you act that way, you leave a legacy for your children. We went thru a lot. My parents and my grandparents took a lot, but they left the perception of respect and then the white people would leave you the hell alone. In a sense racism is whatever you make it. We always had a house. Racism instilled in you the things you wanted to achieve.
Wait, what grandma?
Yes, racism made you want to do better, at least in the south. When I moved to California, I could not believe what black people put up with compared to us in New Orleans. I grew up seeing black professionals, educators, and business owners. In the south, you knew that those people worked hard because it was twice as hard to get anything; however the black people in California had this false perception of freedom. When I would go to the hospital, all the service workers were black and the professionals were white. The neighborhoods that black people lived in were horrible. The schools were not much better either. Black people did not have to sit on the back of the bus, but they were being held back in ways that they we were not held back in the south. Racism made us work harder and look out for one another. I never much cared for going around people who did not want me around. These people fought to have everything integrated, even schools. Why would people fight for integration in schools? Our schools had teachers who cared, genuinely. Just because you send your children to school with white children does not mean their education will be better. In fact, their education may be worse because they are dealing with teachers who dislike them and want to see them fail. Back then, you knew who did not like you and now you do not have a clue.
What do you think the biggest misconception about Black women is?
The biggest misconception about Black women is that they do not take time with their children because they do not care. The truth is that they are too tired. I watched a young lady one morning on the bus stop with her child and the sun was not even up. This girl has to get up and take her children to the daycare on the bus, get back on the bus and go to work, get back on the bus to pick up her child, and then go home and do it all over again. By the time, she gets home she is too tired, worse if she is uneducated because she has been working on her feet. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they do not have any help. These women can only do the basic.
So, is that just a single mom issue?
Oh no…your generation is one that is starting to have active fathers, but all of the house and children duties typically fall on the women, even if she is married. I worked close to home and took less pay to make sure I could be a mother. I wanted to be there to drop off my children and pick them up. I wanted to teach them. I could not have done that if I had made different choices. Everyone cannot take less pay. I was married, but I was still tired and took on most of the responsibility when it came to the home and children. Your grandfather helped me, but most of it rested on my shoulders.
That’s the thing about dealing with black men, especially during my time. You have to deal with this black man being a man…anything untraditional to a male role, he feels slighted. Things go from one extreme to another. He gets it so hard from the outside world that you have to let him or give him the perception that he is in the lead. You have to learn how to balance. I had to learn to swallow my pain in order for him to be the man. I did not hear until 30 minutes before he took his last breath that he appreciated me. I had done everything I could for my family.
Last question. If you could offer one piece of relationship advice, what would it be?
You have to be a team. Each person has to have a defined role. You have to be able to have a certain amount of respect for your husband as a man. You have to feel like a woman and not like a babysitter. Men need to be comfortable being the leader and know exactly what that entails for his family. Women need to let men learn and not try to take care of everything. Even when things get bad, don’t jump in and try to figure it out for the family or him. He will figure it out and be a better man for it. If men aren’t allowed to figure it out, then there will always be resentment and when that creeps in, everything goes wrong. Every family is different, so traditional roles may not work, but roles need to be defined. Everyone needs to play a part.
I always tell you that you’re blessed because you’re the first woman in our family who has had the chance to be a mother. You have been able to raise your children without outside influence. You know your children. It is a sacrifice, but your husband is better for it and so is your family. He does things your grandfather would have never done and you have to honor that.
Any last words?
My life was no bed of roses. Life is what you make it. If you don’t like the way it is going, change it.
Love and light y’all.