Over the weekend, our social media timelines were flooded with images of families celebrating all of the moms, aunties and grandmas in their lives for Mother’s Day. As a mom of two, I look forward to the second Sunday in May all year as a chance for a little break from the daily grind and some of my husband’s homemade French toast.
This year, however, something struck me. Most of the Black moms I knew (myself included) were asking for rest instead of roses. But alas, before the sun went down on Mother’s Day 2023, those moms (myself included) had already been forced to come down from the high of all the flowers and pampering to return to the reality of laundry and homework.
Don’t get me wrong. I know all moms experience burnout in some form. But according to a recent article from WhattoExpect.com, Black moms experience it unlike any other group, and we have structural racism to thank for it. But what’s worse is that because most of the things that cause our burnout are out are just a part of being Black in America, the stress can be difficult to manage and can eventually lead to wear and tear on our bodies.
For starters, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. That fact leaves many of them working more for less, particularly if they are the primary breadwinner. That income disparity also makes them less likely to have disposable income for anything that might make their life any easier like childcare or household help.
Add that to the fact that Black women are also more likely to be subjected to microagressions and racial stereotypes at work, and you can understand why 78 percent of Black women say they sometimes, rarely, or never have the ability to go home at the end of the workday with any energy left, according to Every Level Leadership.
“Every moment Black mothers are thinking about this stuff, and other mothers don’t have to think about it. It’s stressful,” Dr. Gabrielle Jones, a mother and licensed psychologist told What to Expect.
But I didn’t have to take Dr. Jones’ word for it. I had a perfect focus group at my fingertips, and I couldn’t wait to talk to them about it. Like my friend Dee, a 37-year-old single mother of one from Brooklyn who told me that she is beyond burned out. For Dee, juggling the responsibilities of her career and raising her son often leave her feeling like she’s not winning anywhere.
“I think it’s hard to feel like I’m excelling. I guess people looking from the outside might think I’m doing an excellent job raising my son. But I know there are times I’m ordering takeout more than I should for dinner because I’m working until 10:00,” she said. “I wish I were doing better as a mom and in my career. But it’s difficult to do that when you have so many balls in the air.”
Dee adds that raising a Black son in New York City adds another layer of stress she knows many of her white mom friends don’t experience. And it’s not lost on her that most of those moms don’t spend nearly as much time worrying about their sons as she does about hers.
“Now that he’s looking more and more like a teenager, it’s even more stressful. He’s 11, but he’s my height. And we know that there’s a fine line between when a little Black boy is seen as being cute and sweet to being perceived as scary or aggressive,” she said. “A lot of his white classmates can just move about the city on their own. And I just don’t feel comfortable with him doing that. I need to have eyes on him so I can protect him.”
Dee knows a lot of her stressors are outside of her control. But she admits that she could learn a lot from her white mom friends who are more comfortable admitting when they’ve reached their limit and asking for a lifeline when they need one.
“[Black moms] are so used to doing it all, even though we don’t always have to. We’re just used to figuring it out,” she said.