My Mother’s Intention Word Changed My Career.
Before writing MOM AF, I had so much on my plate and mind, and I’d always felt very uncomfortable confiding in my mother. I figured it best to isolate myself. Privately carrying my shame and guilt from not being the perfect wife and mother. My narrative arc was not much different from that of Marvel superheroes- I pushed my sorrow to the side to become a symbol of hope and resilience to others.
I made it my mission to help other Black women, to make them feel that they aren’t alone. The world counts on us Black moms to be leaders in organizations (whether we have formal titles or not), be impeccably groomed (because we allegedly care more about beauty than other women), and raise intelligent, well-rounded children (despite them growing up in a country full of prejudice and brutality). In reality, we, too, experience pain and disappointment. We are sometimes weak, and that’s alright, have health problems, financial problems, and relationship problems. We are women too.
I became their voice, their one-woman “sister circle.” To let them know, “I hear you, I get you, and you are safe here.” I was praised for being a “working mom who’s changing the world,” a working mom “making a positive impact in the world,” “the mom of mom influencers,” and an “inspiring black mom to follow on Instagram.”
“Every single person you meet is either repeating a cycle of generational trauma or carrying the burden of breaking cycles.” – Author Unknown
Everything I needed to hear from my mother.
To say she and I had a rocky relationship is an understatement. There are three sides to every story, but from my perspective, we were more foes than friends. I feared her rage, I inherited her anxiety, and I loathed her passive-aggression. I never thought we’d get along.
That was until I wrote a book about her two years ago.
Well… not just about her (though she has her chapter). MOM AF is about my experiences as a successful Black working mom. It wasn’t until I changed my perspective- when I “stepped outside my body”- and saw the parallels between difficult decisions we were both forced to make as 30-year-old working mothers. The experience was cathartic for me; I was forced to face the generational trauma I grew up with.
I thought the candid conversations that followed from me publishing the book made our relationship as good as it could get. She no longer saw me as a child but as a fellow Black woman, battling systemic racism and impostor syndrome at work and infidelity and addiction at home. I know I’d never be her peer. But the twelve-year-old in me was finally satisfied with being her friend.
But two years later, my mom has taken the healing of our relationship one step further. She’s decided for 2021, her intention word will be fresh. My mother plans to reframe negative thoughts. Be they perceived negatively in her mind or by others. She’s learning to recognize when a negative thought is taking over, She is now choosing to think in a different, or fresh, way.
Case in point:
we recently had a conversation about her reaction to an accomplishment of mine. I’d told her of recent success, and she simply replied to a text with, “Great.” I was disappointed. When she responded differently than I expected, I found myself regressing to the codependent 12-year-old version of me longing for her acceptance.
But I should mention that I have my own intention word for this year, which is boundaries. So in this situation, illustrating my boundaries meant speaking my truth and knowing I have a right to my feelings. I called my mother and told her how her one-word reply made me feel. She sighed, paused before responding, and said, “Christine, I am so proud of you all the time. I tell others how proud I am of you, and you continue to impress me every day.”
I exhaled. Hearing those sentences released a weight from my chest. I was proud of her, and I was proud of myself. I’d never been so bold as to confront my mother about how she made me feel. I never thought she’d brag about me to friends without it being sarcastic or passive-aggressive. My cup was full, and my work felt validated. She’d pulled me from isolation and made me feel as if she accepted my imperfections.
For a brief moment, I felt confused.
What happens when a superhero has her vengeance? What lies ahead for them, what becomes their new mission? My mother and I had healed our relationship, and her personal growth meant those things which once made our relationship so rocky- the rage, the passive-aggression- may come to an end.
I realize my mom gave me a gift this year. Unbeknownst to her, my mother gave me a new mission for working Black mothers. Her personal growth has healed generational trauma and somehow absolved me from burdens, allowing me to live. For the first time, I care what I think of myself. I feel free to live in the present and grow into an older, more confident version of myself. I’ll never stop advocating for other Black moms, but my hope for them has transcended. I wish for them the same peace: that they change their behaviors in ways that help them find joy in self-acceptance.
This article was penned by Christine Michel Carter in honor of Black Maternal Health Week. Black Maternal Health Week takes place every year from April 11 –17. In the United States the month of April is recognized as National Minority Health Month. It is a month-long initiative to advance health equity across the country on behalf of all racial and ethnic minorities.
Click here to read more from Christine Michel Carter.