When asked about motherhood on a recent episode of The Breakfast Club, Viola Davis shared a moment that took place in which she told her daughter “no one will love you like mama loves you, not even the love of your life”. I can’t help but agree, to me – Moms are unconditional love personified. Our refuge, our source of advice, laughter, and therapy. Even when their physical presence is no longer with us, the essence of who they are stays with us, forever.
My mom died when I was 4 years old. Now almost 30, the absence of her presence is always felt. Important milestones, the beginning (and end) of relationships, and other existential moments are when I need her the most. Mother’s Day has always been a slippery slope for me, but these past few years, I found grace and joy by celebrating the moms around me. Specifically Black moms, as their courage and beauty are what I only imagine my mother must’ve emulated. When I celebrate the women around me, in a sense, not only am I celebrating myself, by honoring their qualities and that they are a reflection of my own, but I honor my mother, and my mothers mother, and so on.
This Mother’s Day, we honored 3 women to celebrate the beauty and strength that resides within us all. Meet Zaiane, age 23 and her 4-year-old daughter Naiilah, Celestina, age 26 and her 1-year-old son Nori, and mom to be Sophia, age 29. We had a compassionate, vulnerable, beautiful conversation about the journey of motherhood. I learned, I laughed, and I’m so grateful to share it with you all:
Grown: Describe your experience as a mom in one word
Grown: Describe your pregnancy in one word
Sophia: (laughs) Fluctuation.
Grown: What was something you liked about the way you were raised that you would like to do for your child?
Celestina: My parents being discreet when it came to disagreements.
Zaiane: I come from unconditional love and support, truly. I want my child to feel that comfort and that safety with me and from our family as well. That’s really important for me, for her to know that no matter what she does, when she does it, or how she does it, her family is going to love and support her, no matter what.
Sophia: I love this question. I was extremely fortunate enough, due to my fathers job, to live overseas. I pretty much moved every 2-3 years, different countries, different continents, different states. That shaped me into the person I am today; I’m beyond worldly, [and] I have such respect, appreciation and understanding for people that are different from me. I can really adapt to any environment, right away. I think it’s very important to take your kids out of their comfort zones and have them exposed to various places, sites, and traditions. Because they grow up to be people that are very appreciative of what they have, and are able to also find some type of connection or bond from people that are completely different from them. So, although I don’t think I’ll be able to allow my child to live in these countries, I will most definitely be taking them around everywhere with me, starting young.
Grown: What is/was your biggest fear about having children?
Celestina: I don’t think I have any fears, anymore. The maternal death rate is high, so that was my fear [in the beginning].
Zaiane: I didn’t really have much fear going into it. I think that as I’ve been in it, my biggest fear is that I’m not doing it right, you know. But on the other hand, there is no manual or rulebook to this, and when I speak to other moms I definitely feel comfort in knowing that we’re all trying to figure out this motherhood……situation. I think my biggest fear is just making sure that I’m able to translate to her what I’m trying to translate to her, in a way that she’ll understand and not in a way that will close her off, or make her feel not heard or not seen.
Sophia: Biggest fear is their safety. I think we’re constantly shown some of the worst things ever on tv or on the internet, from school shootings, to horrible things happening when they’re playing outside, or even like sleepovers at friends houses…..its finding that fine line between not sheltering your kids, and letting them enjoy themselves and explore life, and also making sure that they’re always in good hands and you’re protecting them from the world around them. The world is a scary place and people are crazy out here.
Grown: What’s the best advice on motherhood that you’ve received?
Celestina: That I don’t have to take anyone’s advice. I was also told that they would never know whether I took their advice or not.
Zaiane: Enjoy it.
Sophia: Allow your kid to be free. Don’t try to control them, don’t try to force them into something…like if you’re an athlete don’t force them to like, play something with a ball. Let them gravitate to the things that they naturally enjoy, and let them form their own personality. Guide them, but allow them to really make their own choices.
Grown: What’s it like being a black woman raising a black child in the world we are currently living in?
Celestina: It’s a bit of a challenge. Especially being that I have to deal with the stigma of being a single mother, which I’m not. I have an amazing support system.
Zaiane: I want to say it’s scary, but honestly, it’s almost like, I don’t know. It’s almost like, bragging rights. I have a little black girl, a little black princess, we’re surrounded by so much love, so much community, and so much support that actually I have to remember that we live in the world that we live in. Our everyday reality is pretty amazing. And so when I think about her stepping out into college, and going out into the world, you know of course I’m scared for her, but as long as she’s with me, she’s gonna be good.
Grown: What challenges (if any) do you anticipate, being a black mom, preparing to raise a black child, in the world we are currently living in?
Sophia: Well I’m having a son, and we know how black men are targeted every single day. But beyond me having a son that is black, I’m also having a son that is biracial. So for me I think the biggest thing is….. we know that there’s so much fetishization that goes around mixed children. My partner and I have both heard [people say] “Oh my god you guys are having a mixed kid it’s gonna be so cute!”, and that terrifies me. So one thing I’m going to instill into my child and my future children as well is the fact that just because you might be light skin, does not make you any better than anybody, you are not smarter, you are not more beautiful, you are still a human being. And while you may have a “privilege”, you should not act on it, unless it is to stand for other black people, no matter their skin tone, no matter what, you need to protect and serve your black brothers and sisters, and that’s it.
With love, we wish you all a beautiful Mothers Day. Happy heavenly Mothers Day to my mom, Doris Ann Pugh. Thank you, for your strength and beauty that undoubtedly lives in me. And happy Mothers Day to all the moms, soon to be moms, women grieving the void of missing their moms, bereaving moms, those healing a relationship with their mom, and anyone who uses this day to celebrate and honor a significant maternal figure in their life. We love, we see you, and we honor you.