It's about time we made motherhood more diverse -
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
Author Candice Braithwaite first started blogging about motherhood in 2016 after making the simple but powerful observation that the way motherhood is portrayed in the British media is wholly unrepresentative of our society. Her debut book I Am Not Your Baby Mother is a thought-provoking, urgent and inspirational guide to life as a black mother, exposing what it's like to deal with the usual range of pregnancy and younger childcare issues, while facing hurdles such as white privilege, racial micro-aggression and unconscious bias at every point.
Here you can read an exclusive extract.
‘Children from Black and minority ethnic groups
are more likely to be in poverty: 45 per cent
are now in poverty, compared with 26 per cent
of children in White British families.’
(Child Poverty Action Group, 2019)
The idea of a nursery made me happy even if the thought of buying the necessary things like, you know, a cot and nappies, filled me with dread. But the plan was that I would breastfeed exclusively, which would save money. When people smiled and said, ‘Yes, that’s wonderful. So much better for the baby,’ I just grinned and nodded. Truth be told, I could think of few things worse than having a mini-me permanently attached to my tit, but formula was a tenner a tin and I was worried that if the baby’s appetite was anything like its father’s, we would quickly be in the red. Food is a necessity, of course, but if there was a way to keep the overheads of a human being low, we were going to try and utilise it.
Despite the need to budget carefully and wisely, there was one item that I absolutely didn’t want to be seen without. It was the mark du jour that supposedly represents the kind of mother you are before you’ve even introduced yourself; the item that acts as a megaphone, announcing what tribe of motherhood you belonged to.
Now I’m not talking about any pushchair; this particular brand was like the Lamborghini of baby vehicles. Its reputation was renowned, and its finish was spectacular.
The pushchair in question?
A Bugaboo, of course.
Before I had fallen pregnant, the only Bugaboo I knew was the hit song by Destiny’s Child. Of course, I knew that babies required some kind of construction to be carted around in. I’d helped a few struggling mothers when they were stranded at one of the many train stations not equipped with lifts. But I’d never had any good reason to research pushchairs in depth.
Once again, the Internet wasted no time in reminding me that I was ill-equipped for the task of motherhood. Pages and pages of online forums remarked that the Bugaboo was not only the most stylish pushchair, but also the safest.
‘I know they’re expensive,’ one online commentator began, ‘but I couldn’t imagine going for one of these knockoffs. Imagine if something were to happen to the baby? I would never forgive myself.’
Upon reflection, I now see how crazy this all was, but I’m also aware of how deeply rooted my anxiety to get it right was. When black people arrived in the Britain they were told was Great, all they had was the willingness to work and the clothes on their backs, clothes which were always well pressed and well cared for. And looking presentable had been drummed into me from an early age. ‘If you don’t have a pound in your pocket, your attire shouldn’t show it!’ my grandad would recite each morning whilst fussing with the particulars of my school uniform. And of course my nan was slicker than butter on heat. Even though I had long outgrown wanting to wear matching dresses with her, she took her sartorial choices very seriously.
We were taught to be proud about how we looked, because the way we presented ourselves impacted on how we were treated by society. We didn’t – and in many ways, still don’t – have the luxury of not thinking about our outfits, because we instinctively know that we have to go the extra mile. So, when young black people are chastised for seeking designer garments before saving their money, I often want to stand up for them, as those who judge these choices don’t seek to understand that there is more to it than wanting to be seen as ‘cool’ or ‘on trend’. Being well dressed and in possession of the latest items was quite literally how black people were able to gain access to spaces that were usually closed off to them, not only for being black but also poor. And appearing to be financially solvent was quicker and cheaper than actually being so.
So, I admit that that is exactly what I was doing when trying to get my hands on a Bugaboo. I was trying to present myself to the world as having it all together. I was trying to say that no matter what people thought of me, I wasn’t that. Look, look at my cute baby and thousand-pound pram. I don’t care what you think about any other young black woman with a baby. If you took one look at me, your stereotypes would be shot to shit.
It wouldn’t matter that we were renting our home.
Or that we often skipped lunch or dinner to keep foodcosts down.
Or that we piled on jumpers in the winter because the gas meter took every extra penny.
Or that date nights were spending fifteen pounds in Ikea.
Or that we purchased our mattress from a man with a van for seventy pounds.
None of that would matter as that’s not what the world would see.
I knew that the ‘mother’ version of me would be judged before I even had the chance to introduce myself, so if being able to give myself and my baby a head-start meant getting my hands on a pushchair that made people believe that not only did I know what I was doing, but I also had the wherewithal to get it done.
Candice Brathwaite is the hugely popular influencer and founder of Make Motherhood Diverse - an online initiative that aims to encourage a more accurately representative and diverse depiction of motherhood in the media. She has worked with brands such as Pampers, Ella's Kitchen and Specsavers, and has appeared on countless panels to discuss modern motherhood. Her writing has appeared in Stylist, the Metro and the Huffington Post. I Am Not Your Baby Mother is her first book.