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The real mommy wars

The phrase "Mommy Wars" often brings to mind disputes over the mundane minutiae of parenting. Cloth vs. disposable, breast vs. bottle, working vs. stay-at-home parenting, and side vs. back sleeping. We focus on motherhood as the province of privileged women with no greater struggles than whether or not it is possible to have it all.

Meanwhile, mothers who do not fit into this narrative feel excluded. Motherhood is supposed to be a choice, but what kind of choices are mothers making? Concerns over access to food, healthcare, education, even safety somehow don't make the main stage of these discussions. At its base, motherhood encompasses all of that, and mothers who don't have many choices (or, in some cases, any choices) need support that they are not getting.

Over the course of my career as a mother, I have gone from being a pregnant military wife living in Germany to a divorced single mother living in a Central Illinois housing project to the primary breadwinner of a middle-class nuclear family in Chicago. My first marriage was incredibly unhealthy, and when I ended it, I expected things to change for the better. The transition from a married black mother to a single black mother was rough. Even while married I had encountered my fair share of people who projected their racist assumptions onto me. Perfect strangers felt entitled to ask how old I was, whether I planned more children, and -- on one memorable occasion -- whether it was right for my white ex-husband and me to bring a mixed-race child into the world.  

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