What image comes to mind when you think of a superhero?
The image of a strong black woman or “superhero schema” is one that has been around for centuries and has been used to empower and inspire women of color. It can be a symbol of strength, resilience, and perseverance in the face of adversity. While inspiring, the unrealistic expectations that we consciously and unconsciously place on black women and mothers is damaging and wildly detrimental to black women’s mental, physical, and emotional health. In addition to the many chronic health diseases that plague the black community, black mothers are dying at alarming rates due to preventable pregnancy and childbirth related complications.
Although there are societal barriers and family responsibilities that contribute to how we function, here are 5 general tips to consider as you how to prioritize your wellness:
Acknowledge the invisible load
Motherhood is often seen as a source of joy and fulfillment, but it also comes with an invisible load that can be overwhelming for any woman. This load is made up of the emotional, physical, and mental labor required to care for children, family, while ensuring their safety and wellbeing. Additionally, black mothers carry the burden of generational trauma, and structural and institutional racism that they and their families experience. It is important to recognize that this invisible load exists in order to create empowering and supportive environments for yourself.
Hyper-independence: finding safe and authentic relationships
Who do you allow to nurture you? It can be empowering to rely on your own strength for your success, but how often does this lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation, or resentment? When possible, it is important to strike a balance between independence and embracing support from others. Work on identifying your tribe or person that offers support and holds space for you to unravel and experience softness and vulnerability. Establishing safe and healthy relationships with family or friends is essential for your mental wellbeing and gives you the support system you need in times of difficulty.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and present in the moment. You can practice this by checking in with your body to understand what its needs are. Some examples include taking time for a deep breath or meditation, eating food, a break from the kids, or spending quality time with a friend. To prevent burn out, learn the warning signs that indicate you are struggling and heading towards a wall.
Releasing guilt; you’re more than a caregiver
How deeply has the superhero role (caretaker, nurturer, handler, etc…) become a part of your identity and how you define yourself? You might be satisfied being in this role or you may desire to strengthen and embrace other qualities of your identity. Consider these questions; What purpose does this role serve in my life? Is it rooted in survival or emotions such as fear? Begin to identify your values, and needs, and prioritize them in order. Then identify on a scale of 1 to 10 how you have or have not been living according to these values. Consider, what else provides balance to my life?
At times, mothers find themselves entangled in the lives of others due to self-imposed and/or societal guilt. Take time to recognize if your pattern of care-giving is rooted in guilt and identify where that may be coming from. Practice releasing guilt for not being able to be everything for everyone. You are human, and your worth is not tied your ability to care for others, or how much pain you can endure.
Accountability: You’re not Alone
It takes a village to support a mother, and receiving support to maintain accountability is key. By having someone else hold us accountable, we can start to recognize our own needs, and check in with us if we fall into unhealthy patterns. An accountability partner can be a friend, family member, mom support group, or a therapist that can support you in unpacking emotions, thoughts, and generational patterns.
[Ife is a Pasadena Native, currently working as a mental health therapist providing therapy to individuals, ages 17-elder adults. She works from a holistic perspective and is passionate about supporting people with their health through food, nutrition, and sound healing.]