I have been waiting with great anticipation for Candice Brathwaite’s memoir, I Am Not Your Baby Mother, since she started talking about writing it on her Instagram some time ago. I have long been a fan of her forthright look at motherhood and her desire to uplift diverse mothering experiences beyond the straight, white, cis, middle class default. The fact that it was released almost exactly in time with the recent surge in interest the Black Lives Matter movement has made reading it that much more timely.
In her book Brathwaite looks at black motherhood from a number of different angles including the fear of being trapped by becoming a mother, choosing a name for her child without “ghetto” connotations, being gaslight over her own physical and mental health during pregnancy and childbirth, the fear of her child being racially profiled by the police and just feeling completely excluded from the British mothering space. Much of this is centred around her experiences as a blogger and in the “mummy” social media space.
Reading this as a white “British” mother (as an immigrant citizen I am never sure whether to call myself British or not) this was an eye opener to a whole arena of things I never had to consider as part of becoming a mother. I have never had to think about Little O being the only child who looked like him in his class or how people might interpret his name or the likelihood of him being stabbed or killed by the police or racially abused by other children in his class. As a white, able bodied little boy, the world is nothing but open doors for him.
Sitting with Brathwaite’s experience is a gift in terms of the process of acknowledging and starting to dismantle the privilege that comes with white British motherhood. I am grateful to her for this no-nonsense, honest, vulnerable and often amusing account. While I will never be able to understand what it is like to be a black mother, the areas where she talks about mental health there were elements that really resonated with me.
Ultimately this is a story of success when the whole system is pitted against you while also being a sobering reminder that it is our duty to ourselves and our children to use the privilege we have to change that system. Parts of it are heartbreaking and rightfully so. We cannot shy away from the society we have created and benefit from. The first step to change is education and awareness and this is a unabashed, raw and beautiful way to engage in that education.