Black Aunties Required: Why Moms Need Non-Mom Friends
Words: Ashley Simpo
Bold statement: It is near impossible to raise children without the significant support of non-mothers.
I was at an event when I had one of those moments that are the sole reason I ever truly leave my house to be around people — I met someone who gets it.
She was another Black women about to embark on her motherhood journey, and I listened to her express the range of emotions she was feeling. She was cheerful, she was scared, she was overwhelmed, she was vigorously motivated. In short, she was ready.
Our conversation soon turned to the lack of structured support for women in her position and for that matter, in mine (six years into the mom game). Especially in a city like New York where, despite living on top of each other, so many of us exist in our own cosmos, with our own gravitational pulls and citizenships.
We may exchange our life’s highlights over brunch or coffee, but we don’t actually delve into the thick of it. We don’t, for example, tell each other about those moments when we cry. Crying is a silent reality of parenthood. We cry when we see our children grow, when they let go or hold onto our hands; we cry at night when we feel overwhelmed and unsure of what the next day will bring.
The crying is something I’ve come to know and love and even look forward to, but I certainly don’t talk about it. And when it comes to feeling overwhelmed, that’s an emotion we have gotten way too used to.
Motherhood is not some lost art, so why aren’t we talking about it more?
Motherhood of any sort is a community event, but one we only seem to come together for in celebration of milestones.
Our friends will show up to a birthday party or baby shower, but will they show up at 3 p.m. to pick our child up because we can’t leave work? Will they grab groceries for us and drop them off when we’re home with sick kids? Will they offer to take them off our hands for an afternoon just to allow us a respite?
I don’t want to shade my network of friends, but in the six years that I’ve been a mother, not a single non-mother has ever offered to do this for me in any way that felt genuine. Not ever.
As mothers, the tendency to unite comes naturally. If you look close enough, we’re actually clinging to each other for support whenever we can. The pull of conversation that happens when two women in the same space discover they are both mothers is absolutely magnetic.
But mothers can only help other mothers out so much. After all, how much of our time can we truly give when we are already over budget ourselves? I have to ask this bold question: Do mothers need non-moms? The answer is just as bold:
The Blackest thing you can do is to be supportive to the Black families in your community, in your family, and in your circle of friends.
Being supportive does not mean liking photos of our children, telling us how smart or hilarious our child’s banter is, joking about “babysitting anytime.” These acts are way too circumstantial to actually mean much to any of us. It’s actually a way of expressing admiration or fetishizing motherhood by calling it “goals.”
With respect to our own individual choices and priorities — motherhood (and of course, fatherhood) is just like any other Black initiative in that it absolutely requires the participation of everyone. Every one.
In full transparency, I’ll admit that I’m the last woman on Earth to ask for this kind of help. Part of that is because I feel a certain amount of privilege having a very active and supportive co-parent. Mostly, however, this is just a symptom of the “worry-about-number-one” culture we’ve become accustomed to. I think sometimes we forget that mentality is not ours.
It was given to us by white people.
Our ancestors, our history, our truest nature is that of a tribe.
We thrive when we work as a collective, but that effort tends to stop at the doorstep of Black parents. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The effort doesn’t have to be massive.
Grab some groceries for a busy mom stuck at home with a sick child. Take that kid you think is so adorable to the park for a few hours so their parent can take some time for self-care. Offer to come by and cook a meal or ask if you can lend a hand around her home—wash dishes, tidy a room. These are acts of kindness that most people might feel encouraged to do when there is a new baby in the house. But for some reason, not when there is a 7-year old in the house. The truth of it is that every mother, every day, is a new mother. Support is always needed.
I think sometimes it’s easy to separate women into lifestyle choices. I’ve heard (and overheard) women talk about mothers as if they’ve contracted some kind of infectious disease and are no longer a part of society. Motherhood is revered as quickly and as freely as it is ignored.
Let’s not forget that Black history (past and present) is full of women we praise to high heavens, but often forget were mothers: Taraji P., Solange, Maya Angelou, Josephine Baker — all women who at some point during their rise were single mothers. Imagine who might not be on our list of legends if they were not properly supported on their way to making history.
Black mothers are not “superheroes”—we have no cape and our heavy bags hold no magic. The job is done through pure grit, motivation, and an abundance of love for our children. But we are you. There is no secret dusting of extra strength we receive upon having these beautiful babies. I want to challenge this misconception because it’s created separatism among us in a way that no only isolates mothers, but under-prepares women who will one day be mothers. I’ll say it again for emphasis,
We are you.
Whether you will be one some day, or have one to thank — you are a needed part of the mothership.
So, I’ll do my part: I’ll ask for help more often.
But I promise you, with the way our community is set up , asking is a lot harder than offering.
Ashley Simpo is a digital content, social media strategist, freelance writer, and mother of one based in Brooklyn, New York. She’s also the founder of The Mothership, a weekly newsletter that opens up the discussion on topics we don’t normally build conversations around.