By Carlene McNair for Boston Compass (#125)
July 29, 2020
We’re in This Together
Motherhood is an amazing journey; it is filled with many beautiful events and moments. It is worth more than just a date on a calendar, it merits a lifetime of celebration. It is filled with lessons books alone cannot teach, a love for our child(ren) which cannot be explained, and many picture albums filled with dear memories. Although this journey is one to cherish, it can be difficult when we are faced with situations we are not equipped for. These circumstances can significantly impact our mental health. I often wonder, what are some factors that influence our perception of good mental health?
My mind goes back to November of 2019, when I coordinated and hosted an event specifically for mothers. My goal was to create a safe space for mothers to join together, receive resources, discuss mental health, and feel supported. Each mother had their own life story to tell. The group of women consisted of clinicians, doulas, speakers, ministry leaders, and entrepreneurs; regardless of our titles there we were, united as one, talking about mental health and motherhood. These women were indeed resilient, indeed phenomenal, indeed queens.
What Does Culture Have to do with it?
As we engaged in an open discussion, the importance of culture and its impact on our life became evident. Through discussion we were able to understand the role culture can play in our understanding of mental illness and therapy. More times than not we underestimate the power of culture and how it influences our beliefs, perceptions, and lifestyle. Its impact on how we cope and deal with challenges can be paramount in seeking out support. Culture is a beautiful thing; it makes us unique in many ways. Although it has its benefits it can affect our decision to recognize a mental illness. This can make it difficult for some of us to seek support and treatment when needed. Having a safe space to discuss these challenges and navigate our emotions is necessary in order to increase the likelihood of mental wellness. As we have honest conversations about maternal mental health for women of color in the community, it is also important to have providers who are culturally competent in order to provide adequate services, resources, and support.
We Are Strong Black Mothers
Black women face race and gender discrimination. There is constant pressure to appear mentally and emotionally stable so we don’t play into the stereotypical black woman role. Black mothers and our expectation of endless strength can have its psychological and emotional setbacks. We are strong black women; we can be super moms but remember even super moms need to rest. We fail to pay attention to what our bodies and minds tell us. The strong part of us is pushing us to strap up our boots and continue marching, the black part of us is telling us to stand up in the face of oppression and prove what we can do, and the women part of us is telling us that we can fix just about everything. How would it look, a strong black mother needing support? There is strength in vulnerability, there is beauty found in allowing ourselves to feel, allowing ourselves to simply be authentically who we are. From a strong black mother to another, it is ok to not always feel strong. That does not make us less than. It is ok to seek help.