The NYT on Black Mothers
posted by Amy
I came to this article through a link on Broadsheet, and it made me think the New York Times might be trying to look at other perspectives on the Opt-Out Revolution. In Work vs. Family, Complicated by Race, Lynette Clemetson gives us a glimpse of of some of the factors some black mothers take into account when balancing work and family:
Tension between working and stay-at-home black mothers — friction that seems less prevalent and intense than among their white peers, many women said — is often driven by a pressure for persistent racial striving. Smiling at the circle of friends gathered in her Mitchellville living room, Frances Luckett, the principal at a private, predominantly black elementary school, welcomed her guests with an exhortation. "Your journey is not just about you," Ms. Luckett said to the two dozen women, aged 19 to 85. "It's about adding to the journey of those who came before you and paving a way for the journeys after yours."
There were knowing groans as Ms. O'Neal Parker read aloud from "I'm Every Woman" about "bone memory" and the specter of a weary but resolute slave woman, who "sticks a knee in my back and squares up my shoulders" when life feels unfair.
There was empathetic laughter when she lovingly discussed the "kink coefficient," a term she coined to describe the extra hours black mothers build into their packed schedules to groom daughters whose kinky hair "grows out instead of down."
The personal motherhood struggles that black women face are often complicated variations on more broadly voiced themes. Some professional women have mixed emotions about hiring nannies when they can recall women in their own families who cared for other women's children and cleaned their homes.
Some of those who consider leaving jobs to raise children worry that it will be more difficult for them to resume their careers than for white peers. "As black women who still have a hard time moving up, there is a fear that opting out will be one more strike against you," said Linda Burke, the owner of an executive search firm and a founder of a Washington group called Sistermoms that invited Ms. O'Neal Parker for a book reading last month.
Linda McGhee, a lawyer and member of Sistermoms, got her son into a private elementary school in Northwest Washington but decided against sending him, in part because she wanted to help her parents, who raised 12 children on meager resources, with health care.
These sound like concerns many of us have. Hooray for the New York Times, for once.