“In the healing from that breaking apart and the healing from that trauma, we can choose to either become harsher, angrier, more bitter, closed off, and controlling of other people—or we can take that moment to see that, even while we are breaking apart, we haven’t been broken.” —Mai’a Williams in Parenting for Liberation: A Guide to Raising Black Children
The day California, my home state, issued its shelter in place order, I sent an email through Parenting for Liberation, an organization I founded in 2016, rooted in an Afro-futuristic vision of a world where black parents are in community with each other to raise black children without fear and instead parent for liberation. The email called for a Black parents check in, using the Erykah Badu meme, “Y’all alright?” to create space to connect about how we were feeling. It’s not too often that Black parents are asked about how they are doing; as a Black mama I have struggled to push against the Black Superwoman phenom where I’m supposed to do it all and not need anyone. What I’ve grown to learn from the COVID Community Check in and also over the course of developing Parenting for Liberation is that a true “superwoman” is only as strong as her village, and the inherent power was in the collective.
Fifteen Black parents joined a virtual session a week later, connecting over our fears, worries, frustrations. It was a space where Black parents could take the cape off and be vulnerable with one another. It’s in the sharing of the difficulties and challenges that true healing can be possible. One participant reflected “There’s so much heaviness these days, which is also important to process and reflect on, but it has far outweighed everything else in both my personal life and my relationships. So thank you for the reminder and for pulling us up and out of the heaviness.”
This concept of healing collectively was shared with me in a conversation with fellow Black mama Mai’a Williams for Parenting for Liberation’s first podcast, which was then used in my upcoming book, Parenting for Liberation: A Guide to Raising Black Children. The guide couples Black parent stories with tangible strategies and practices for readers to implement in their own parenting. This leads me to an adaption of Mai’a Williams’s story and a practice from the book, which I hope will be useful to parents everywhere who are struggling during this global pandemic:
“While being a mother—whether it’s during the pregnancy, the birth, or in taking care of the baby; or even when your kid enters elementary school years, becomes a teenager, just somewhere along that path of being a mother—you will be broken apart. For me, that’s me on the floor crying—I mean like there’s nothing left. I’ve got nothing left to give. Every mother, sooner or later, gets to that stage where it just breaks you. To me, whenever that happens, it’s a bursting process. It is a moment of being traumatized. That is actually a moment in which we can make some choices. In the healing from that breaking apart and the healing from that trauma, we can choose to either become harsher, angrier, more bitter, closed off, and controlling of other people—or we can take that moment to see that, even while we are breaking apart, we haven’t been broken. This is actually an opportunity for me to be able to reach out and become more open, more community-oriented. It can be a pathway for us to be able to relate to our children and to other mothers, and be able to create community even more because we’ve had this incredibly human moment.”
Often, we try to present ourselves as though we “have it together” and when we experience “breaking apart,” we retreat and withdraw, feeling alone and isolated. As Mai’a shared, our moments of breaking apart are opportunities to be more expansive. But how? Using that past experience of breaking apart to prepare for your next breakthrough, create a break-apart to breakthrough plan. I recommend that you write it out. Next time you find yourself “breaking apart,” consider it a moment to open up and invite your community/village into your trauma.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to create a breakthrough plan:
- When I am breaking apart it, looks, feels, sounds like:
- When I am breaking apart, I will not judge myself, I will give myself grace and understanding by:
- A mantra I can say to myself is:
- A care practice I can engage in is:
- A few people I can connect with are:
It is my greatest hope that as we break apart during COVID, that we begin to seed the world we want, beginning with how we parent and care for our children.
Trina Greene Brown is the creator of Parenting for Liberation, a virtual platform launched in 2016 featuring blogs and podcasts that aim to connect, inspire, and uplift Black parents. An activist and mother of two, she is also a member of the Resonance Network and the Move to End Violence. With an ethos rooted in community and collaboration, she cultivates cross-organizational partnerships aimed at building an inclusive gender and racial justice movement. She was recently named the 2017 Black Feminist Rising by Black Women’s Blueprint and an Inspirational Parent in 2018 by CADRE. Brown has contributed to “On Parenting” for the Washington Post, as well as two anthologies on the intersection of motherhood and activism.