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Making Motherhood Work for Me

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MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The other day, I was working hard to meet an important deadline, because — like many divorced moms — I sometimes juggle 10 jobs. I didn’t cook breakfast, lunch or dinner. My daughter was what I like to call “good sick.” No fever. No pain. Just listless enough to keep her needs to a minimum. My son had a lot of screen time and four bowls of cereal. Around 10 p.m., we both enjoyed some Ben & Jerry’s. I commented, “This has not been the healthiest day of your life, huh?” He said: “Don’t worry, Mom. We’ll do better tomorrow.”

My kids got through a day without a single teachable moment and nary a leafy vegetable. But it was still a good day. Motherhood is not “work” to me, because I make motherhood work for me.

This is not an acceptable view in modern mom culture. Everywhere I look, from Twitter posts to Hollywood, I see people acting as though the blessing of caring for whole, living creatures, watching them grow and discover new things, is unbearable, unjust even.

The mom movies and TV shows are the worst: “Bad Moms,” “Mother’s Day,” “Odd Mom Out.” They center on “the struggles” of white, well-off women who — with healthy children, nice homes and financially supportive partners — feel they got a raw deal with motherhood. This is evidenced by the monotony of child-rearing chores, demoralizing social cliques and career pressures they must endure. Basically it’s a bunch of privileged women shouting: “Look! I’m doing a whole lot here. See me suffering?”

I think being a black woman — historically unseen, unheralded — has given me an unfair advantage by preparing me for motherhood. While pop culture was busy playing up the fragility of white women, black women were doing the work that needed to be done. (Lest folks forget, motherhood has never been the same for us. During the slave trade our babies were snatched and sold from our very bosoms. Later, field, house and factory work kept us away from our families for most of the day.) So don’t expect us to be blindsided by the “thanklessness” of motherhood now.

This week, in a theater packed full of women, I saw the new movie “Tully,” advertised as groundbreaking for its “raw” and “honest look at motherhood.” Sure, the lead character, played by Charlize Theron, does nurse a baby around the clock since,


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