The stigma of being a mother, a POC, and having more than two children is alive and well. Growing up this stigma was seared into my brain by way of watching my mother struggle to raise her four children. Also, by comparing my extended family, like aunts with 5 or more children, to those of my non-Mexican peers at school. Then, by the government and the media where they automatically assumed that a POC family with multiple children is likely on welfare. If I wasn’t drawing comparisons in real life, then I was busy analyzing them from the TV shows on Nickelodeon. Those where the white families of the main characters never had more than two or three brothers and sisters.
Eventually, I learned it would be in my best interest to not have more than two or three children – any more and I would risk looking like a poor, dirty, can’t keep her legs closed Mexican woman. The same as (I admit) I thought of other family members because they were POC, like me. Maybe not that they were dirty or poor, but definitely that they didn’t know how to plan for a family. I thought, “who on earth would want to have more than three children?” “They’re uncontrollable, they constantly cry, and the moms are always mad. I won’t be like that.”
Oh, how naive I was.
Ironically, I have now found myself with one more child than what I considered “ideal.” (Funny how life throws you curve balls.) Here I was, perfectly planning to have my third child, and suddenly I was presented with not one but two.
Now let’s flash forward to today. I have been avoiding going to any store with all my kids for fear of being labeled. How crazy is that? None of the things I once thought of people who fit into that monstrous stigma are real, and yet they are keeping me from going about the regular chores that come with being a mom. The stigma is then aggravated further when I read stories from other moms dealing with strangers’ snide comments about how they “need to learn how to control their children,” or “if you can’t keep them quiet then why did you have them?” Plus other nasty things people say.
So, why is it then that this stigma haunts me? Raising my children has taught me what reality truly is. You cannot plan anything. It was not my fault that I had twins instead of one child for my last pregnancy. My beliefs have evolved. I would have thought I knew how wrong it is to assume anything about any race – that striving to be white isn’t the end all be all. However, I am living in the environment that I idolized on those Nickelodeon TV shows when I was young, where the white family has a beautiful home, nice cars, a SAHM, and nearly the perfect amount of children.
It would seem this stigma has turned into much more.
Luckily, I DO presume my beliefs have evolved. Labels are meant for our food, not people. There should never be a basis of self-worth stemming from the number of children you have and what your skin color is. There is no such number. Your race is not better than mine.
I want to highlight this stigma because I am well aware of how prevalent it is throughout the POC community. Sadly, even my family has been critical of my brood, and it is unacceptable – even if said in a joking manner.
So, my job as a mother, a POC, is to overcome it and learn – so that I can teach my daughter that she can be a full woman regardless of how many children she has. Irrespective of her skin color and most of all her choice to “keep her legs closed” because what she chooses to do with her body is none of our business.
One of my coping mechanisms is always to put on my brave face and separate the self that cannot with the self that can. So, in keeping with my personal growth goals for this year, I am ready to put my big girl pants on and take ALL my children to the mall by myself. I am opening up to feeling exposed but not being vulnerable.
Finally, if you find yourself in the midst of someone’s unruly children, don’t be an ass. Instead, offer assistance, a gentle smile, or “I’ve been there” knowledge. After all, raising children is hard work and never ends. Let’s not pile criticisms on top of that already tremendous job.