No Common Threads | Elizabeth Hornsby

Very often in my academic work, I am asked to look at some objects or events and try to find a common thread that can be generalized. Scientific methods use objectivity and generalizability to deem work as valid and truthful. And while this type of work does serve a purpose, it can overlook or discard the nuance of individual experience. As I continue this exploration of othered mothers, it can be easy to listen to stories with the sole purpose of finding a common thread. But what gets lost is the beauty of difference and what those differences can illuminate about the many facets of mothering. I recently asked several mothers of color four questions about their mothering experiences. Their responses are here in their most pure form, not trying to make a connection, but to display their uniqueness.

Endia, mother of one

How would you describe your experience of becoming a mother?

I became a mother a very young age. I got pregnant my tenth grade year in high school. Although everything was new to me, I think I handled motherhood very well. Each day was a learning experience. It taught me to be responsible, for sure.

How did that experience shape your understanding of motherhood?

The experience shaped me into knowing that motherhood is something that isn’t taught. We learn as we go and hope for the best outcome.

How does being a woman of color shape your understanding of motherhood?

Being a Black mother has taught me strength like none other. I’ve been a single parent since my daughter was born. Her father was killed in a car wreck when I was three or four months pregnant.

If you could share anything about your motherhood journey that you think would be useful to other mothers, what would it be?

My advice would be to keep your head up and know that you aren’t alone. Although some days will be tougher than others, keep the faith. With God and prayer all things are possible. There aren’t any rules or handbooks on how to be a great parent. We take what we have learned from our parents and try our best to be better than they were. As long as you love your children and are doing the best you can by them, my dear, you are doing enough.

Cheryl, mother of one

How would you describe your experience of becoming a mother?

Shocking, scary, worrisome
How did that experience shape your understanding of motherhood?

In a way, it helped me become more mature. Up to that point, I was only thinking and looking out for me and now I had to keep a tiny human alive. I have to. Me! Especially since I’m a single mother. That means I have to love, raise, and protect this child on my own. I quickly understood the meaning of sacrifice! It’s letting go of your agenda to better someone else’s.
How does being a woman of color shape your understanding of motherhood? Because Remi’s skin is lighter than mine. People do stare when we go out. I feel like they’re trying to figure out if I’m the nanny or Mommy, and that kind of gets annoying. I feel like as a black mom with a mixed child I have to prove more that I am Remi’s mother. You don’t see white moms with their white children getting questioned about whether they are the nanny or mother, but because I’m black and Remi is mixed, [but] I have to. That’s been my biggest challenge right now, to not let it bother me.
If you could share anything about your motherhood journey that you think would be useful to other mothers, what would it be?

Make time for yourself! I am still learning this because Remi is still with me all the time [lol], but when she’s not and I’m by myself, I get to recharge. When I get back home to see her, I genuinely want her around me and enjoy her company and love rather than feeling like it’s my obligation as her mother. Also, always have wine on hand!

Lea, mother of three

How would you describe your experience of becoming a mother?

I became the guardian of my younger sister at 18, when my parents passed away. One year later I was assaulted and became pregnant. I did not confirm the pregnancy until after the window to terminate was available. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. I did not expect to become a mother either time that it happened.

How did that experience shape your understanding of motherhood?

I have much respect for women who choose motherhood. I wonder what it is like to feel agency in the mothering process, because that was not my experience. I have a lot of conflict and turmoil in my emotions about motherhood. I just try to not let that show when I am interacting with my sister and my child.

How does being a woman of color shape your understanding of motherhood?

When I was trying to make sense of taking care of my younger sister and then raising my own child, I had a lot of resentment. Everyone I talked to expected me to have this innate sense of mothering. One, because I am a woman, and two, because I am a woman of color. If anything, my experiences as a woman of color made me not want to be a mother, as I say the women in my family struggle with raising their children. For me to have the choice of becoming a mother being violently taken from me, I feel connection to the mothers of color before me who endured the same, but also a disconnect from the act of caring for children.

If you could share anything about your motherhood journey that you think would be useful to other mothers, what would it be?

Sometimes you don’t have all the answers. Sometimes you don’t know what to do. Sometimes you know what needs to be done, but you just don’t want to do it. That’s okay. It’s okay.

Amaya, mother of four

How would you describe your experience of becoming a mother?

I married later in life and my partner and I wanted to start a family immediately. After several failed in vitro cycles, I finally was able to get pregnant with twins. The process to get pregnant was exhausting, and a twin pregnancy, especially being older and higher risk, was even harder. When the twins were born I experienced severe post-partum depression, which left most of the care of the twins to my partner and family.

How did that experience shape your understanding of motherhood?

I was hesitant to have more children. It took almost a year for me to really bond with the twins. When we did decide to add to our family, I was able to get pregnant via in vitro much quicker. Also the postpartum depression wasn’t as severe. Honestly, I still feel less connected with my first set of twins and that brings a lot of guilt to me.

How does being a woman of color shape your understanding of motherhood?

My children do not look like me at all. Which, where I live, is not a problem per se, but I find myself engaging in the emotional and intellectual labor of justifying my position as the mom. It is as much an internal pressure as it is an external one. I think the stories of my ancestors and their ability to survive even in the direst of circumstances shapes my understanding of motherhood. I am a survivor.

If you could share anything about your motherhood journey that you think would be useful to other mothers, what would it be?

Don’t let anyone else tell your story.


Elizabeth Robertson Hornsby is currently an Instructor in the Department of Languages and Communication at Southeastern Louisiana University. Elizabeth is currently working on a book chapter regarding race, sensemaking and fandom, as well as a book chapter in the forthcoming edited collection Star Power: The Media Effects of America’s Celebrity Culture, discussing the effects of celebrity on visibility and performance of pregnancy. Elizabeth is a native of Nashville, TN, but currently resides in Louisiana with her husband and seven children.

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