I’m Not The Nanny: One Story of a Black Mama Raising White Kids

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, but to my kids – it was just another day of learning and growing in their skin.  It’s almost always unpleasant – but I’m still grateful and consider myself blessed to be one of their moms.

Growing up, my mother was my one constant and the best friend I could ever have.  Despite less-than-ideal situations throughout my youth, she was the reason and the inspiration for my someday wanting to be a mom.  I wanted to be that person for someone else and, as often is the case with the fallacy of youth, I just assumed that someday – I would be.

Along the way, there were unexpected…hurdles – some more benign than others.

Hurdle number 1.

I had grown up witnessing this narrow version of life and love: boy meets girl, boy loves girl, girl loves boy, they get married and start a family.  But what happens when girl meets another girl?  When those girls fall in love and think about what life would be like together?

I was terrified.  I have often described my mother as old school: she was born in 1931, before civil rights were somewhat of a given, and squarely during a time where the norm definitely didn’t involve anything queer or rainbow-colored.

I was 19 years old, still had all of the same dreams, but they just looked a little different than they had before.  Could I be brave, honest and take the risk that I might lose the best person I had ever known?

I hid behind the label of bisexuality for a few years, thinking that if I could convince myself that a future with a guy was an option, I could keep the other half of me hidden.  No one needed to know the truth, right?

Turns out that I needed to know.  I’ve never been a good liar anyway.  When I was 21, I confessed that truth to my mom.  Quick note: she wasn’t surprised.  Moms can be observant like that.  She told me that what she wanted for her children was happiness – and she knew that being honest with myself would lead me there.

Fast forward 17 years, and my story had me with one failed marriage under my belt and a determination to rebuild my life.  I met this gorgeous woman who was everything that I had hoped for and lucky me – she thought I was pretty great too.  We decided to take the plunge and start on the path to becoming parents.

Hurdle number 2.

We started out by enlisting the help of doctors at our local hospital.  Unfortunately, after eight attempts at me getting pregnant and two devastating miscarriages – we realized that we might not be able to have children quasi-naturally.  We had always known that we also wanted to provide foster care, but the losses we had experienced pushed up our timeline.

We became licensed providers in the summer of 2016 and received our first placement that fall.  The following year, we were contacted to see if we could help reunite two sisters.  With our initial placement moving out, we knew we could parent them.  What we didn’t expect was that they had a little brother, and the hope was to eventually reunite all three.  Because we are passionate about keeping families together, we agreed – and soon we were a family of 5.

The subsequent three years were tumultuous.  The children went back and forth to their biological family several times in attempts at reunification.  In addition, another child was added into the mix.  Our hearts were torn.  We wanted success/recovery, but we were sad at losing the little souls who had changed our world.

In 2020, it was decided to terminate the legal rights of the biological parents, as none had made a significant positive change that would support raising four children.  The courts asked if we were willing to adopt them, and we agreed without hesitation or question.  Our family was confirmed when we adopted them at the end of that year.

Happy ending, right?

Well…in a way.  A lot of the challenges are for another day, another post.  The one that I am focusing on now is this: I’m a black mama with white kids.  Hurdle number 3.

For the people that know us in our community, it’s not that big of a deal.  But for those that don’t know us, we are something to be figured out, I guess.  And with the world still the way it is, we would do a great disservice to our children by not being open and honest with them.

I have lost count of the number of times that my wife (who is also white) is assumed to be the only parent, or the times people have asked me if I was the babysitter.  Is it any of their business?  No.  Do I know how to keep my mouth shut?  Also no.  Every time the topic comes up, I try to lean into eradicating ignorance instead of acting ignorant.

But even greater is making sure that my children are raised with an awareness that their peers may not experience firsthand.  For example, my youngest daughter is a bit hotheaded.  There have been times when, in public, she has gotten angry with me for any number of things.  She can be very vocal about her displeasure, and the main thing I realized is that I needed to teach her about perception.  That there are times that people who don’t know us might witness our exchange and wonder if there is a need to be concerned with who I am and what I’m doing.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to just be seen as the mom dealing with a run of the mill tantrum.

But I know that if I don’t commit myself to the work, I can’t expect the world to change.  And agreeing to that commitment is a small ask.  I would do just about anything for My Four.

And that is something that all of us mamas can agree on.



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