there isn’t enough time
to give her what she deserves
do you think
if i begged the sky hard enough
my mother’s soul would
return to me as my daughter
so i can give her
the comfort she gave me
my whole life”
– Rupi Kaur
This Mother’s Day, I want to talk about a particular relationship that has impacted my life and the lives of many of my sisterfriends – the Mother-Daughter relationship. Mother and daughter relationships, especially within women of color families, happen while in a pressure pot of family trauma, individual trauma, classism, racism, sexism and for black women, with the inclusion of misogynoir. Mothers and daughters bring all those experiences that shape them individually into their relationship even if those experiences aren’t communicated directly. The way we share and relate those experiences can positively or negatively impact our ability to have healthy and fruitful relationships with one another.
As Daughters, we often understand our mothers as Mama, but don’t always have the information on what makes our Mamas their own women. At the same time, we may feel like our Mamas see us as their child, but have difficulty fully recognizing all the parts that make up who we are as women in our own right. This is kind of ironic given that daughters of color often experience a fast-forwarded version of girlhood due to the intersections of race, gender and class. We’re taught from an early age to be a good child, be less grown, but also be more adult in how we carry our emotional weight. We’ve always been little women but rarely given the space to make mistakes of youth. That’s heavy, right? All of that coupled with individual family expectations can make it difficult for daughters to communicate and be heard throughout various stages of our lives. I know that’s the case for me in talking about the deeper stuff (like feelings, ugh) with the Mamas in my life.
On the other hand, I don’t have children yet. However, I have to imagine it can be equally difficult in balancing the Mother-Daughter relationship from a mother’s perspective. There are so many situations and experiences that shape mothers even before they become mothers, including their own experiences as daughters. Factor in societal pressures about being a good mother with the extra scrutiny given to women of color, and motherhood becomes even more complex! In addition, we live in a world that often emphasizes and glorifies the idea of motherhood without tangibly supporting mothers in real life. Our communities have to reevaluate whether we are really supporting mothers in emotionally and financially sufficient ways. (One supportive initiative is the Black Mama’s Bail Out which bails out black mamas for Mother’s Day!) Recently, I had a huge reevaluation about my understanding of my own Black Mama and how I was relating to her that made me understand being emotionally supportive a bit better.
I have found myself in spaces with other millennial women, especially online, where therapy and communication are regularly encouraged as part of a healthy lifestyle. We are learning to let go of the Strong Black Woman archetype and others like it that ask us to be everything to everyone but ourselves. We are teaching ourselves to take rest, practice self-care, and pay more attention to our own emotional and spiritual needs. I had to realize that this included Mamas especially, and my own Black Mama too! Because I first knew the Mamas in my life as Strong Black Women, I often expected them to be Strong Black Woman indefinitely. I had to ask myself – am I applying the same rigid expectations of Motherhood onto my mother that society does? -Expectations that caused me to view her as a one-dimensional person, when there was so much more to her than just my experience of her? I needed to take a step back to view my Mama as her own woman with a lifetime of experiences of which I have barely scratched the surface. It is definitely an on-going process to let go of those expectations – so much of them are impacted by society’s notions of what makes a mother a good mother and how my mother’s intersections of being a Black Woman are impacted by those expectations.
It has felt really difficult to have these conversations with the Mamas in my life about opening up. Almost impossible. The gag is though that these difficult conversations are the ones we need to have in order to pass on generational healing and to resolve generational trauma. As women of color and especially black women are speaking out against injustices that we face at the intersections of our identities, we are also speaking to the relationships that have been influenced by those intersections and experiences. The Mother-Daughter relationship is included in that in a very unique way.
My hope is that we begin to have more conversations like Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talks onMothering. Part of Jada’s amazing work is her willingness to bring healing vulnerability to the forefront of her family and then bring that hard emotional work to her audiences. It is exciting and empowering that dialogues like this are being shown. That’s the good thing about recognizing these archetypes: opportunities are made available to deal with the feelings of Motherhood and Mothering and to understand more of where they come from. And this isn’t just work done here on this plane, but also to heal the relationships between our ancestral Mothers as well. We have a chance to allow ourselves to be women that are mothers and daughters, and are not only mothers and daughters. With honest communication and listening, we allow the full scope of our experiences to be witnessed. I can only hope we encourage each other to be full and complete women as we work to heal the relationships between us and those we love.
Happy Mother’s Day!
For another awesome Mama’s Day video, check out Jhene Aiko singing to her daughter, Namiko, while Granmama watches in the audience: Watch Video on Youtube
To find out more about Bailing Out Black Mama’s, visit National Bail Out’s Page.
Written by: Javetta Laster