For Black Moms, Opting Out Is Not an Option

While other mothers who left the workforce are trying to get back in, we never left in the first place.

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Nicole Blades -- a novelist, wife and mother -- left her 9-to-5 job in magazine publishing to work from home when her son was born. Emphasis on work.

"Many moms I know, me included, feel it's very important for their children to see Mama working, see Mom handling a career, see the different parts of the person who makes up Mommy," explained Blades, who added that as a "creative" she never simply stops being a writer.

Family history also played a huge role in how many of the black mothers with whom I spoke viewed their own legacies in the work place and at home.

"Part of valuing that education is putting it to use," said Bari. "My great-grandparents were college-educated, as were my husband's, and so the idea of taking that for granted and not utilizing that education seems wasteful to me."

Aliah also sees her career, which she enjoys, as a return on the investment she made in her education and as following in the footsteps of most of the women in her family who, by necessity, have always worked in some way.

"It's partially about feeling like it's an integral part of who I am," said Aliah, "and partially this feeling that I should be able to do it all."

Blades said the example of her working mother was the model she followed, even when she realized she couldn't do everything herself. "When I was working [outside the home] and finally decided to hire a cleaning person, it took me forever to admit that I did to my mother," said Blades. "I thought, She did all of it. Worked, cleaned -- without help, mind -- and took care of an entire household. How do I look hiring someone to clean up after two working adults living in a two-bedroom in Brooklyn?'"

When she finally "got over it" and admitted to her mother that she'd hired someone to help, Blades remembered her mom laughed and said, "Good move."

Of course, the consequences of leaving the workforce, even for well-educated women with high-paying careers, reverberate beyond their monthly bank statements.

Aliah made sure to point to the difference between having money and accumulating wealth. "My financial decisions aren't just about me or even just my nuclear family. I'm thinking about helping my mother in her retirement and the rest of my family. Until we have true wealth and not just money, I feel opting out is shortsighted," she said.