Sometimes I wonder — in the springtime as May approaches — if I will receive Mother’s Day cards from all the men I have finished raising. Though I have never grown a life inside of me, nor have my hips brought forward progeny, I wonder — why my Thanksgiving table is never filled with sons who are grateful for me. I am not a mother, so why have I been made into one time and time again?
Last week, Pastor John Gray was welcomed as a guest on Sister Circle and in his discussion of his marriage, he said this of his wife:
“I married a woman two sizes too big. I have to grow into [her]. She’s a coat. I still can’t fit her. She’s bigger than me and she’s had to cover me while I grow up. I gotta grow into her. She’s a covering, not a lid. Because if a man marries a lid she’ll stop your dream. But if you marrying a covering, she’ll push you to your destiny. Let me tell you something, my wife has endured more pain birthing me than both of our children. She has sacrificed these last eight years, uncovering the painful areas of my manhood and covering the areas that could have exposed me.”
Why are we expected to “endure”? To bend our reflections? To be soft and docile, denying ourselves and suppressing our power? To always give and to never get? To feed society from our own bosoms, remaining un-thanked and unnoticed? To slowly, but surely become nothing and no one as we magnify those around us, all to be “worthy” or “deserving” of the love that black men say they have for us?
On the Carter’s Everything Is Love album, Jay-Z raps:
“To all the good girls that love hustlers
To the mothers that put up with us
To all the babies that suffered ’cause us
We only know love because of ya …
Black queen, you rescued us, you rescued us, rescued us”
But who rescues us? Too often, Black women are expected to endure unspeakable amounts of suffering, emotional labor, and pain in the name of our partners. Too often we are expected to meet trauma, infidelity, immaturity, and aimlessness with unwavering love, unconditional support, and unquestioning loyalty. And too often, this devotion is unreciprocated.
Maya Pope described this type of unbalanced relationship best in Scandal’s season 6 finale:
“I tell you … being a Black woman. “Be strong,” they say. Support your men. Raise a man. Think like a man. Well, damn. I gotta do all that? Who’s out here working for me? Carrying my burden? Building me up when I get down? Nobody. Black women out here trying to save everybody. We still try. Try to help all y’all, even when we get nothing.”
I am tired of our assigned lot — to birth. To birth grown men, to birth movements, to birth nations. To raise other folks’ children, at our own breasts. To nurse and bathe grown men. To serve as an incubator for those who just need to cook a little longer while they — in the words of John Gray — “grow into [us].” Even now, as America soils its diapers, it expects us to run and change it.
Well, I will not. I envision better for myself, and I envision better for Black women. I envision partnerships, not motherhoods in our marriages. I envision receiving as much as we give. I envision being honored and celebrated for who we are, not for what we have sacrificed. I envision loving and being loved with a love that is more than love. And I imagine our first births being those of our children, not our husbands. As Josie Pickens iterates: we do not have to set ourselves on fire to keep the men that we love warm.
Black women are not a second womb. Black women are not incubators for your purpose. Black women aren’t shoulders to stand on, nor a ladder to climb. Black women are not your rescuers, nor your saviors. We are not a coat, a covering, a lid, or a rib. And we certainly are not your mothers.