I’ve been married for seven years, a mother for almost 6 of those years, and yes, being a wife and a mother is incredibly difficult. I often find myself looking fondly back on my days in New York City. Back then I shared a huge pre-war apartment in the North Bronx (not a hip area, but I loved it), with my boyfriend, and I was only required to think about myself. I could sleep ’til noon, and visit my favorite restaurants with ease. Drinks with friends was a regular occurrence, too. Marriage and motherhood changed all that, of course. I don’t regret my decision to become a wife and a mother, but the get-up-and-go-ness of life is dead and gone, and I miss it (a lot). Sill, I always knew that period of my life would be relatively short, so I enjoyed it for as long as I could and moved on when I was ready.
I have, however, from day one, refused to compromise my joy, despite being a wife and a mother. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe in the long-suffering, struggle/sacrifice image of black motherhood some folks take on as a badge of honor. Last week, for example, I listened in horror as women on my timeline fiercely defended Ayesha Curry’s admission that the amount of attention her husband receives from women often makes her feel badly about herself, forcing her to wonder if she still has it, too. It seemed that women from all walks of life were excited to chime in and declare that Ayesha’s feelings are akin to how most married mothers feel. They admitted that they, like Ayesha, gain some sort of gratification from being the object of the male gaze. Every woman wants to feel admired and desired, they affirmed. And I agree, we do like to feel desired and admired, however, having that need fulfilled by men is where I draw the line. In my early 20s, I learned that attracting the male gaze, while flattering (I suppose) does not, in the long run, yield any benefit to me. Interestingly enough, it was my now-husband who put it to me plainly: Attracting the male gaze serves to objectify women. It’s not about you, it’s about how you make them feel. And once I understood what male attention was really about, how they view me became inconsequential to my sense of self. I found it surprising that so many black women felt and feel that it plays any significant role in their own lives. I can certainly appreciate that Ayesha’s unique life circumstance makes this sort of thing more intense for her, but to hear regular degular women chime in about “normal” it is to feel this way, was interesting, to say the least.
I guess this makes me an anomaly, and if so, I think it’s important to discuss the ways in which I have refused to fall victim to these circumstances.
- I treat myself. I enjoy looking my best, staying fit, and doing whatever makes me feel like a queen. I do no forgo these things because the world says “this is what motherhood is about.” I define motherhood for myself and for my family.
- How I feel about myself is important. It does not take a backseat to my husband or my child. So if I am struggling with feeling as though I am less than who I am, I seek out assistance to work through that struggle.
- I ask for help. I am not a single mother and I have a strong village. Yes, our son is our responsibility, but if we need an extra set of hands to hop on board, I’m not afraid to ask for it.
- I am a mother. I am not a mother and a father. We share the responsibility of rearing our child together. Yes, inevitably, some things just click for me with more ease than it does my husband (namely because I was raised in a two-parent household and he was not), but when it comes to splitting tasks, we make it happen.
Adulthood isn’t one big ole party. Would I love to be 26ish again? Sure, but I’m not. Instead, I make conscious decisions to ensure that I continue to live out my days with as much joy as possible. Responsibility can and will cramp our style, but we do not have to accept struggle, sacrifice, and grief as being what this life is about.