America’s Backbone: Why Black Moms Deserve The Best


Affectionate mother and daughter sitting on a sofa

If you’re reading this, stop and give your mom a hug.

There is no doubt that black mothers are the backbone of black America, and it has never been more evident than during the pandemic. Changes in work, school and life, in general, forced black mothers to adapt quickly, as they had to bear the brunt of household adjustments. Daily life has become normal, but sometimes I wonder at what cost.

I have two biological siblings and three foster siblings, but I never felt like I had a sixth of my mom’s attention. The sacrifices she made to make us whole have never been beyond me. My fondest memories growing up crept out of my bedroom to hear conversations between my mom and her friends. They were discussing work, life at home and the different stressors in their lives.

Learn more: Guide to Black Owned Mother’s Day Gifts for Every Type of Woman in Your Life

It was not uncommon for my mom to share about how she had to skip meals, miss workouts, and lose sleep to meet our needs. She never complained, factually claiming her sacrifices as if they were part of the job description, while my de facto aunts nodded. I knew I just couldn’t repay her, and she never asked me to, but as our relationship evolved I’d like to believe that I now have a better understanding of black motherhood.

Black mothers are our next generation professionals, teachers, caregivers and counselors. Filling any of these roles is stressful, but black moms are asked to be the four in one. Raising black children is particularly stressful because black lives are extremely short.

Black Americans have the lowest life expectancy, according to the American Journal of Public Health, with police deaths one of the fastest growing culprits. A recent study by the National Academy of Science found that black men are more than twice as likely to be killed by police as white men; and estimates show that one in 1,000 black men in the United States will be killed by a police officer if that rate continues.

Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Art Knight speaks with people gathered near a crime scene June 16, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen / Getty Images)

Worse yet, there is the possibility of falling victim to drug addiction, hate crimes and gang violence. My mom’s ominous look as she followed my steps from the porch to the bus stop or the scoldings I received for not responding to her call after my football practice arrived late were painful reminders of the vulnerability of our lives when we were outside of it. view.

This chronic state of hyper-consciousness not only deteriorates your mental health, but it can also lead to unhealthy habits like late night eating, drug addiction, and sleep deprivation. Rising rates of depression have become a problem, especially for single mothers who play the roles of mother and father.

Increased social isolation, weight gain, memory problems, and mood swings can be signs of mental and emotional wear and tear after years of playing the role of standard-bearer and provider. Awareness of the signs and symptoms of depression and early intervention can limit the damage, but the key to preventing deterioration in mom’s mental and emotional health is to create a stress-free life for mom as soon as possible.

Read more: Workers worry about safety, stress as states relax mask rules

Public health officials have encouraged mothers to take care of their minds and bodies, but placing the burden of self-care on those who are in pain makes no sense and does not lead to a long-term solution. Increasing paid leave, maternity leave and having more than a shallow day of gratitude for mothers is just the start. We must tackle the deterioration of maternal health as we do any other health problem, first unpacking the root causes and then implementing new social strategies that prevent or mitigate its impact. We can all contribute to this change by creating healthier environments for our mothers.

Black mother and daughter embracing.
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Replace sweet gifts with physical activities the family can bond with. Lighten the burden on your mother by taking care of some household chores, giving her a night on the town or sending her on vacation; and when you’re done, commit to making it a normal part of your routine to move forward. Research has shown that the keys to establishing healthy behaviors are consistency, ease, and repetition. The more fun mom has, the better her health will be. Think of your mom as living with a chronic mental and emotional health deficit and your help as a way to make up for lost time.

There’s no better way to show your love than to look after mom’s long-term health. While no one can control another person’s physical or mental health, we have an increased responsibility to look after our mother’s needs as she ages, if only to pay off our debt of gratitude. Pouring love into a child comes at a cost, so let Mother’s Day be a reminder to go back to the women who sacrificed themselves so that we can become ourselves.

The pandemic has led health professionals to ask the question “who takes care of the guardian?” The answers are complex and often inconclusive. Let this not be the case on this Mother’s Day. The answer is simple, you.

Dr. Shamard charles is Assistant Professor of Public Health and Health Promotion at St. Francis College and sits on the Dot Dash / VeryWell Health Anti-Bias Review Board. He is also the host of the health podcast, Heart Over Hype. He received his MD from Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University and his Masters of Public Health from TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard. Previously, he spent three years as a senior health reporter for NBC News and was a Global Press Fellow for the United Nations Foundation. You can follow him on Instagram @askdrcharles or Twitter @DrCharles_NBC.

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