How do our mother’s stories shape our stories? How does the way we are mothered contribute to who we become?
These are the questions Our Mothers’ Gardens seeks to explore. Twice a month I will interview a Black woman about what she thinks it means to be a mother, the lessons she learned from her mother (directly, as well as through observation), the challenges she faced by the way she was mothered, and how that mothering affects the way she shows up in the world.
We don’t leave a lot of room for mothers to also be people with their own pasts, desires, and challenges.
“Mother” is a loaded word in American culture. With it come all kinds of assumptions. We don’t leave a lot of room for mothers to also be people with their own pasts, desires, and challenges. We don’t consider how everything a person is besides a mother, and all the history they carry, impacts the way mothers relate to their children. We also have expectations that maternal instinct is something every mother has and that it will provide all that a mother needs to fulfill her role. This completely dismisses how hard mothering is, the real labor involved and the mental acrobatics a person must perform. It also creates the sense that you become a mother through biology alone.
When it comes to Black mothers, there are additional stereotypes based on deeply ingrained systemic racism and bias to deconstruct. Black mothers are seen as domineering matriarchs. There is the “mammy” archetype suggesting that Black mothers are constantly carrying for everyone’s children but their own, and the saying that Black mothers “raise their daughters and love their sons.” Where in the midst of all of that is the truth? The way Black women experience their mothers goes beyond what can be captured within a stereotype or a cultural expectation, and these are the experiences I want to share.
I am a woman with many mothers, and I am a mother. I do not have a relationship with my biological mother and growing up, my relationship with her was one that caused me a great deal of pain. For a long time that lack of a relationship felt like an emptiness I would always carry with me, but then I learned to look beyond biology and traditional definitions of what a mother is. I have been mothered by aunts, grandmothers, friends, strangers, and even by myself.
Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book that you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” The story I will tell with Our Mother’s Gardens is one I have wanted to listen to, but up until now, have not heard. I am going to use this podcast to give Black women a platform to share stories that will spark conversations within our community about the impact of our maternal ancestry.
I want listening to Our Mothers’ Gardens to feel cathartic—like a collective exhale. I want my listeners curled up in a chair, behind the wheel of their car, standing at a sink full of dishes, nodding their heads and pausing to soak in what they have heard. I want them to hear their own experience reflected in the words of each guest.
The podcast premiered on Sunday, March 1 with three episodes featuring herbalist and writer Farai Herrald, artist A’Driane Nieves, and playwright Charley Evon Simpson. New episodes will air every first and third Sunday. I hope you’ll join me in the garden.