Happy Mother’s Day to CF’s Asha, Sheri, Rachel, Whitney & Chanel! Happy Mother’s Day to all Mamas!
As a graduate student, with a penchant for procrastination, I watch a lot of reality TV. In particular, I watch a lot of shows on Bravo that point out the hardships of being rich, white, and woman in a world made for their husbands rich white men. Some of these women are mothers and in light of yesterday’s really awesome holiday turned commercialized grossness, I thought I’d muse on motherhood as represented in these shows.
I’m particularly fond of Bethenny Getting Married now Bethenny Ever After, a show featuring Bethenny Hoppy, a new mother of one. In one episode she and her recently wed husband discussed childrearing over dinner and her eight month pregnant stomach. They admitted that neither of them had baby sat before nor ever really been around an infant for any length of time. They laughed it off and continued to enjoy their Honeymoon in St. Bart’s.
Fast forward to the baby’s impending arrival; they have a friend introduce them to a baby nurse, a black woman from a different island frequented by American tourists. Gina (who doesn’t even have a cast bio on the show’s website btw) teaches them everything, from how to put in a car seat to changing dirty diapers. And even with all the help Gina provides, she’s portrayed as trying to get over on them by slacking on the job. Yes, their live-in black nanny who taught them to parent, isn’t a morning person and likes to sleep in. In Bethany’s tongue and cheek words, “[they] work for her.” A similar joke appeared on NBC’s 30 Rock in which character Jack Donaghy felt he had been out negotiated by his nanny (also a black Caribbean woman)and duped into allowing her to keep her salary. I watch way too much TV.
On the new Bravo show Pregnant in Heels, rich, pregnant, mostly white women consult with self proclaimed baby expert Rosie Pope about all their pregnancy and post partum questions. Many of the women have little to no parenting experience. One mother with a baby due in weeks had never held an infant. Without hired help (and something tells me Rosie is pulling in more than immigrant women of color nannies), these mothers would be unable to complete basic parenting tasks. Yet there’s no stigma attached to their lack of knowledge. The Department of Family and Child Services is not knocking on their doors demanding their children be removed from the home. Young, poor, women of color get their children taking away and are demonized for parenting which is negotiated with far fewer resources. These shows expose the reality of parenting with privilege.
There’s an irony here that has afflicted black and brown women since this country’s illegal founding. Black and brown women are continually disparaged for not being good mothers yet are constantly roped in to taking care of white women’s children, often as a means to try and financially support their own families. Even as they are paid chump change in relation to their employer’s incomes, they are still regarded as con artists scamming altruistic white folks.
These shows illustrate the need for support networks beyond a nuclear family. Even in two parent households, the amount of labor childrearing requires often exceeds what a mom and dad can hold. That support should be standard and not only accessible to those with financial means and traditional family structures. Take note #NWNW. Wouldn’t it make sense to have more people trained and prepared to take on these care taking tasks before there’s an actual pregnancy? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we actually supported parents in child rearing as opposed to expecting them to do it all themselves? With news of the amazing sociological project by high school student Gaby Rodriguez and the lovely video circulating giving love to young mamas, the conventional script of women of color mothering is being interrupted but we still have so far to go.