Mother’s Day is a big deal in the black community, well, in most of our diverse communities. Houses of worship will be filled with visitors in support and praise of the mother who is a member. Restaurants and home dining rooms will bustle with activity and flourish with people celebrating the matriarch of many clans. It is a big spending holiday: spa and salon gift cards, greeting cards, perfume, and jewelry. Siblings will be vying to prove they love mother more than the other. The pressure on partners of mothers to give a great gift will be almost insurmountable.
What if…? What if you’re like me: motherless and childless? I don’t have a relationship with my biological mother and I am without children. To be even more frank, I don’t want a relationship with my biological mother and children are out of the question unless I adopt or become a step-parent.
I have mommy issues. So how does someone with mommy issues observe Mother’s Day and generally survive in a culture that places motherhood on a super high pedestal?
For years I have been treated like a three-headed monster; the weird chick that had a few ideas about motherhood that were contrary to what should be normal. At this very moment, I would not have to be wondering how to pay this one bill if I had a dollar for all of the times someone said to me, “That’s your mother, how could you feel that way?” I probably could take a nice African vacation if I had a dollar for every time someone insulted me for being childless. “You shouldn’t be so selfish.”
I’ve spent precious money and time on the couch working out my mommy issues, and I have learned quite a bit. Allow me to share:
• My mother is not your mother. If you get all warm and fuzzy thinking about your mom, and I do not, it’s because I didn’t have the same mommy experience as you. And it’s okay.
• Motherhood is big responsibility. Everyone will not take that responsibility seriously. If you had the mother who worked 25 jobs to feed and house you as a kid, and mine let me starve, then it is safe to assume that every mother is not responsible.
• Childlessness is by choice or chance. No one has ever asked me if I am barren or if I had an ideal circumstance for giving birth. People assume that a childless woman is childless because of some quirk in her character as in selfishness.
• I am not alone. There are many black women who don’t have relationships with their biological mothers. There are many who don’t believe a biological tie is equal to an emotional tie. There are many of us who are childless. Some of us, sadly, want children but cannot carry babies. Some of us want to be married to have children. Some of us don’t feel like less of a woman without children. We feel just fine.
• All women who give birth are not fit to be mommies. This should go without explanation. Just because a woman has a baby does not qualify her to be a loving and responsible steward over a child’s life.
However, there are other realities the naysayers can deal with more readily. They can deal with the woman who is an orphan. They can deal with the woman who has miscarried or delivered a stillbirth. It is the tragedy that makes being childless and/or motherless more acceptable. And that is unfortunate.
It is unfortunate, because it means they hold a superior view of motherhood (and womanhood) that is inconvenient to most of our realities.
For years I envied my friends with loving relationships with their mothers until the day I realized that I had a loving grandmother, a village of extended family, including a godmother and spiritual mother who more than loved me. In all honesty, my mother loved me as best as she could.
I can rejoice that my friends, some who had volatile or nonexistent relationships with their mothers, have become wonderful mothers to their children, especially their daughters. I am a godmother several times over. I am motherly when the occasion calls for me to be. I have been daughterly to relatives and other childless women. I’ve missed nothing good in the giving and the receiving.
So, hello my name is Robin, and I have mommy issues. I will be observing Mother’s Day like I always do; celebrating those of you who are mothers, commiserating with friends without their moms, and missing those women who mothered me. And, I will be playing my favorite Mother’s Day song of all time: A Real Mother For Ya by Johnny Guitar Watson.
Robin Caldwell is a veteran public relations counselor, concierge and practitioner. She has been self-employed from side hustle to business since 1998. She is the owner of The J Standard Media Group, LLC, and the creator of the PR concierge services Your PR Assistant and She Boom! Project. Robin has been interviewed by The Grindstone, BBC radio, Sirius XM, various public radio stations, USA Today’s NowU.com, and was one of the tech experts (the only African American) invited to launch the Huffington Post’s tech section. BlackEnterprise.com, Black Twitterati and Fast Company magazine’s Influencer Project cited her as a top social media influencer. Currently, she is an advisory panelist for AARP’s Life Reimagined project.
Written by Robin Caldwell