I am an immigrant.
My parents were refugees, fleeing a civil war in which my father fought. I was born along the way, on the journey from there to here. From the motherland, the land of origins. A warm country, noble, enduring, steady. To here. An unpredictable place, a cold country built on stolen land by a nation of people who still struggle to acknowledge their place in history as oppressors. Colonizers.
Immigrant. A person living in a foreign land.
Foreign. Not your own.
That is what we are. Never belonging, always searching for a place that fits just right. Looking for a space that is ours.
My children are the first generation born on this soil. What does it mean? For me, as a mother. For them, as black children. Immigration amplifies the generation gap. Will it affect my ability to understand my children? To prepare them sufficiently for what they will face, to overcome life’s challenges. Will they find a place to settle?
Or will they roam, like we do, searching for a place that fits just right. Looking for a space that is ours.
Seeking a home of our own.
I have been a mother for just over two years now, and a mother of two for almost two months. When my eldest child was born I considered starting a parenting blog, but didn’t because a) I was too overwhelmed with keeping my baby alive! and b) I thought there were many other moms out there writing about the same things that I would. I was on maternity leave for the first 9 months of my child’s life and during this time I read, watched and talked about nothing other than parenting. I have always been an avid reader but I found myself gravitating towards parenting books and blogs and agonized over things such as breastfeeding, infant sleeping habits, birth and post-partum health and something called “attachment parenting”. I joined parenting forums, facebook groups, and support groups. I surrounded myself with other parents (mainly mothers) and spent almost every waking minute with my child.
Then, suddenly, my leave was over and I found myself back in the company of adults again. I was a full-time graduate student, juggling an infant with no full-time child care arrangement. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, I found myself settling quickly into a routine which included doing my academic readings while nursing my baby to sleep. I began to read journal articles and text books, and occasionally found time for pleasure reading as well. When I found out I was pregnant with my second I vowed not to get sucked back into the world of parenting blogs and online groups, and to stay connected with “the outside world”. Instead, a few hours after giving birth to my second child, I found myself turning to my parenting groups for advice and commiseration as we were forced to leave the baby in the NICU. Soon, I was sucked back into the endless conversations about diapers, nursing and parenting and I forgot all about my plans to keep up with my academic readings while on maternity leave. But something was different this time.
Whereas the first time around I had found the parenting forums to be full of knowledge and wisdom, this time I found myself applying the same critical lens that I had grown accustomed to in my academic work. In addition, as a second-time mother I found myself just as likely to be giving advice as to be asking for it. As a result, I soon began to notice that the parenting forums which I had considered to be safe spaces for all parents to ask questions and discuss the challenges of raising children…were not created for all. I began to notice racist, gendered, homophobic and ableist language being used. I started to name these things and to engage in dialogues with others about the problematic assumptions being made. And I soon found that this type of critical discussion was neither welcome nor wanted.
After a number of threads got out of hand with name-calling and personal attacks against myself and other racialized or queer parents I realized that these so-called parenting groups, were in truth meant for white, cis female mothers. I was welcome to participate as long as I stayed in my place, and my attempts to bring awareness to the oppression occuring within the groups resulted only in my being labelled an angry, black woman (literally, repeatedly). I began to have anxiety when I logged into facebook and saw notifications from certain parenting groups, and my inbox was filled with private messages from racialized and queer parents who themselves felt excluded and oppressed. For a while, I simply retreated. I erased my conversations and comments and decided to hide notifications from some groups. There was only one group where I felt safe (eventually two because I found a feminist parenting group). I decided to stay in one of the local groups solely for the fact that it was a great resource for certain things, but I stopped engaging in conversations that had any potential to become problematic. I stopped naming oppressive language or posts. I began to search for blogs by parents whose experiences more closely resembled mine and I realized that parenting blogs are also more likely to be written by and for white mothers. And as this realization sunk in, I began to think about how much I had depended on these avenues for support with my first child and it saddened me to feel so alone and isolated this time around. It didn’t feel fair, and I wondered if other parents felt the same. So I decided that perhaps it was time to create this blog after all.
Perhaps somewhere out there is a mom (or dad) who is looking for a safe space to discuss their thoughts and challenges with parenting and although I don’t have all the answers, maybe I could help to create a space for them to do so. I hope that this blog will help someone out there, or will help me connect with other parents and feel less alone. And so I have begun this journey, and look forward to seeing where it takes me. Because all parents deserve to find a place to go to share, ask questions or simply complain about the stresses and challenges of raising children. I hope that this space will serve to be that place for some, but at the very least I have found a place to share my own struggles and victories.
After many years of toying with the idea of starting a blog I have finally decided to just put myself out there and see how things go. As someone who tends to over think things I have found many reasons and excuses to delay this, but the time has finally come to start writing and sharing. I don’t know whether anyone will ever read this, but I know that I have something(s) to say. That is why I am starting this blog.
I struggled with naming the blog, mainly because I struggle to identify myself. Who am I? What do I want to say? I am still working on answering these questions, and will likely continue to do so as this blog moves forward. In the meantime here is an attempt to give you a brief overview of what those answers currently look like.
Who I am is something that constantly changes and evolves but where I stand in life now is at the intersection of motherhood and my other identities. I am, have always been and will always be, black. Similarly, I have always sought to change the wrongs around me and to leave the world a better place then it was when I entered. Thus, black and activist are identities which I believe have played a central role in my life. I am also a woman, and more recently, a mother. I navigate the world through these identities, and the world helps shape how I identify myself.
What I have to say is grounded in my everyday experiences as this black woman/mother, and the social spaces that I occupy. I live in city a which prides itself on being the most multicultural in the world. I see things happening around me daily which impact my heart, my being and my soul, and I wish to share my personal thoughts on these experiences. I hope that someone will find something I have to say helpful, or inspiring, or thought-provoking. But more importantly, I hope to chronicle my own thoughts in an effort to create a space to work through some of the most challenging aspects of parenting, living and being which I encounter daily. I also strive to create an inclusive and safe space for others who like me, find themselves navigating a complex world which looks to place us in certain boxes and judge us accordingly.
I thank you for reading this and welcome you to blacktivist mommy. I look forward to seeing where this goes.