Candice Brathwaite is a presenter, writer and the founder of Make Motherhood Diverse – a platform that's challenging the stereotypical narrative of motherhood. Her book, I Am Not Your Baby Mother, is out this week and it's an urgent read for everyone, from black British mothers who may feel unseen and overlooked to those who need to challenge their ideas about what the term 'mother' means to them. Ahead, in an extract from the book, Candice explains why she needed to write it.
"I am not your baby mother, I am the mother of your child!" I remember hearing a faceless woman spit at an equally faceless man one day.
And now the term ‘baby mother’ isn’t just a succession of piercing words solely cast upon single black mothers, it’s become a label which is used primarily to dismantle and disable the legitimacy of black women’s version of motherhood in general. It’s used in a way to demean and perhaps unintentionally put a red mark through any ideas along the lines of assimilating black motherhood with positivity and success.
And for that reason alone, the fear of becoming a baby mother, I perhaps resisted the idea of having my own children.
There are far more layers to my nonchalance towards becoming a mother, which we will unravel within the pages of [my] book, but as with most appropriated things, it seems that only the ones who feel strangulated by the negative stereotype at hand seem to want to do away with the respective term altogether.
I personally don’t want to reclaim the term baby mother.
It can stay on the shelf, thanks. I want black women, black women who happen to be mothers, to be given space to share their multifaceted motherhood journeys – irrespective of their family make-up, current financial situation or number of past lovers – with pride. I want black women to know that their version of motherhood is as righteous and as sacred as any other and deserves to be as protected as any other woman’s. I want black mothers to be able to share their worries about pregnancy, their birth stories (be they traumatic, tragic or testimonial) and beyond, because that’s what their white female counterparts have been doing for decades and, I must add, getting paid very well for.
When we think about black British women being depicted as mothers in the media, what’s the first thing that comes to mind, if anything at all? Is it a well-to-do-looking woman, sitting cross-legged in a vegan cafe breastfeeding her baby whilst reading a book about transcendental meditation? Or is it a loud-mouthed caricature who doesn’t seem to be enjoying motherhood at all?
I’ve desperately craved a space where I can discuss my motherhood journey, openly and honestly, all whilst capturing the original moments which make being a black British mother so unique. I want the space to talk about the fact that black women in the UK are five times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts. I desire the space to talk about how when I thought about naming my children I was purposeful in my decision to be mindful of names which could perhaps be defined as ‘ghetto’. I deserve the space to speak about how the minute I found out I was pregnant with my son, that my partner and I felt that this was our sign to get out of London, for fear of having to prematurely bury him due to the spike in knife crime which primarily sees black boys at both ends of the blade.
[My] book will be part memoir and part manifesto, a tell-all and self-help book combined. Quite frankly, it’s the book I wish I was gifted when I found out I was pregnant.
Primarily, I hope [my] book helps black British mothers feel validated and encouraged to take up space. For all others reading it, I hope I’m able to help accurately describe the many hurdles black British mothers are up against. And I want to add that even if you aren’t a black mother, that doesn’t mean that [my] book isn’t for you. In more ways than one, it will perhaps be better for you than anyone else, because dismantling this unfair and incorrect negative stereotype is going to take group effort.
And finally I want all to know that:
I may have a baby.
I may be a mother.
But I am not your baby mother.