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FunTimes Magazine

Modern Motherhood: Balancing Work, Family, and Self-Care in Black Homes⁠

May 13, 2024 11:00AM ● By Gift Joe

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Lizzy looks helplessly at the mess her one-year-old daughter has made while her husband sits idly pressing his phone absent-mindedly. She still has a mountain of chores waiting to be done and other deadlines to meet at work. Lizzy loves being a mother and also loves her job. But lately, juggling both has been getting harder. She wishes she could get some help from “the man of the house”, after all the child belonged to both of them. She also wishes to get some me-time to take care of herself as she was beginning to feel overwhelmed. Lizzy is tired and does not know how much more she can take before she breaks down.

There are several professional Black women out there who can relate to Lizzy's situation. They have to deal with balancing work, pursuing a career, and taking care of the home. The realities of being a mother in the 21st century are complex compared to the times of our mothers and grandmothers. This is not to say that our mothers did not also face challenges. They did, but today, things are different. I remember growing up in the 90s and having every mother in the neighborhood keeping an eye on all the children. A new mother in those days had so much help from relatives and neighbors who were always willing to assist with errands and chores. She had neighbors taking turns to make her meals and help with the baby, giving her enough time to rest. Today, moms give birth, come back from the hospital, and are jumping right into action the next day. Everyone is consumed with their own lives and barely has time to spare to help someone else out.

Another thing that has changed over the years is the concept of the nuclear family, as more women are embracing non-traditional family structures, such as single parenthood. In today’s ever-changing world, modern motherhood in Black households is becoming increasingly inclusive and diverse, dismantling outdated expectations and paving the way for a more accepting world.

The Demands of Modern Motherhood

As beautiful as motherhood can be for many women, it is no secret that it can be so demanding. Modern moms have to grapple with striking a balance between parenting responsibilities, work responsibilities, and meeting societal expectations. Believe me, it is not an easy task, especially for Black women, who are always at the crossroads of gender and racial biases. No wonder burnout is so prevalent. 

In modern society, Black mothers face a myriad of challenges, including:

Parenting in a hostile environment: Black motherhood is a constant act of defiance, raising children in a society characterized by systemic racism, social injustice, and racial violence. It is a constant struggle to protect their children from harm while fostering resilience, pride, and cultural identity.

Balancing work and family obligations: The economic realities have forced many Black women to step into the role of breadwinner or co-provider, while at the same time keeping the home clean, running errands, and making sure the family is well-fed and taken care of. This makes it difficult to find a healthy work-life balance. It is not easy to combine climbing up the corporate ladder and handling family responsibilities. It’s like she has no time for herself. 

Even in households where both parents work full time, the day-to-day parenting responsibilities often fall to mothers. She is the last to go to bed, she’s the first to wake up. The modern mother sometimes feels like she is neglecting her children and missing out because she spends so much time at work, and she tries to overcompensate.

Limited access to resources: Single mothers or those who have children with special needs face even greater challenges, as these kids drain enormous amounts of time, energy, and money. Also, finding affordable and quality childcare, especially for non-traditional work schedules, can be a hassle.

All these challenges can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout, as Black mothers struggle with finding time for self-care and maintaining emotional well-being.

Self-care and Maintaining Well-being

Self-care is simply doing the things that reduce your stress levels and contribute to your overall health, happiness, and well-being. Prioritizing self-care is crucial to avoid burnout, but this requires a conscious effort. If you are wondering what self-care looks like, here you go:

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Exercising

  • Going for a walk

  • Pampering yourself

  • Saying no to things you don’t have energy for

  • Reading a book

  • Allowing yourself to rest, relax, and enjoy downtime.

It does not have to be anything elaborate, just do what makes you feel good, relaxed, and recharged.

Read also:

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Why is self-care for mothers so important?

Just so you know, prioritizing self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. You may have noticed that when you neglect self-care, you experience feelings of resentment, exhaustion, and burnout. This is why it is very important never to ignore self-care. Mothers must incorporate it into daily routines as it helps recharge their batteries and maintain their emotional well-being. A well-rested and happy mom is better equipped to take care of the family without feeling overwhelmed and exhausted all the time. She can contribute more at home, at work, and the world at large. 

What stops mothers from practicing self-care in Black homes?

The Black woman has always been seen as the glue that holds the community together. She is expected to endure difficult times without protest, push through, carry it all, and take care of it all with little or no time left for herself. The "strong Black woman" stereotype creates this expectation that they have to be self-sacrificing for the sake of family. Some feel guilty that things may fall apart without their constant presence and involvement.  This often discourages them from taking some time to care for themselves once in a while. Mothers forget that they are not machines, but humans who need nourishment and rest like every other person.

Another barrier standing in the way of Black moms practicing self-care is “time poverty”.  She never has time to spend on the things she loves due to the mountain of obligations before her. Black women are more likely to work multiple jobs in addition to the hours of unpaid labor at home. While trying to find time for everybody else, self-care often gets pushed to the back burner.

Strategies for Black Mothers to Cope

Balancing work, family, and self-care as a mom in a Black home can feel like an impossible but it is achievable. You can thrive both at work and home on your terms. Here are some strategies for achieving balance:

Embrace self-care: You need to break from the shackles of the "Strong Black Woman" stereotype. Prioritize your needs without feeling guilty. If you need time to rest, take some time off, the world will not crumble while you’re at it. Create time for activities you enjoy - exercise, hobbies, spending time with friends, or simply relaxing. These are good for both physical and mental health. You need to do whatever fills your cup so you can pour it into others without running dry.

Set boundaries: It's easier said than done, but it is important to set clear boundaries between work, family, and personal time. Keeping these worlds separate will help prevent each from encroaching on the other.

Build strong support systems: Having a strong support system can make a big difference. Family, friends, and community networks are important. Don't be afraid to ask for help with childcare, errands, or emotional support when you need it. Black churches and social organizations can also provide invaluable support. While we’re amazing at multitasking, we can’t do it all alone.

Learn to say no: As a mom, you get countless requests daily, but you cannot keep pleasing everybody to the detriment of your mental health. It's okay to decline requests that drain your energy or time. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person or that you’re neglecting your responsibilities.

Modern motherhood can be exhausting. Moms need to be kind to themselves. They need to understand that they can only do what they can, and that is more than good enough. Balancing work, family, and self-care in Black homes is an ongoing process. When moms learn to find a balance, they'll stop feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. Finding a balance allows moms to be more present and engaged, eliminating the scattered feeling.

Read also:

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