Review of “The Mamas: What I Learned About Babies, Class, and Race from Mothers Who Don’t Like Me” by Helena Andrews Dyer


New mother like a Noisy water fountain. She provides a stream of life-giving sustenance for her newborn and, possibly, for other children, partner and relatives. not left yet Universe, She, too, must constantly be fed from a source of water, and this source is other mothers. This comparison belongs to Helena Andrews Dyer, the Washington Post’s chief popular culture correspondent, whose emotionally resilient confrontation with motherhood is the basis of her latest book, “The Mamas: What I Learned About Kids, Class, and Race From Moms Not Like Me.”

In The Mamas, we follow Andrews Dyer, a black mother who lives in an upscale neighborhood in Washington and seeks the support available through new moms groups that meet in person and online. But since she began her parenting journey in said neighborhood, the mothers Andrews Dyer can reach are primarily white. Thus she finds herself navigating the bewildering and stressful phase of life, the new motherhood, among people with whom she has little in common and with whom she feels a mutual sense of not belonging.

“Eventually, I just got stuck on things… faithfully showing up to our tree in the garden with my eight-week-old firstborn and having a short, hour-long conversation with the women who had previously passed me on the street without taking a second look.” The women talk about everything. “The breasts were outward and loose. Tongues more so. The question of the vagina was discussed. Surgical anatomy. The extreme exhaustion went unconvincing.” But Andrews Dyer is always on high alert. “Revealing my ignorance to a woman whom I had learned by my own experiences—and those deep in my blood—and to which she should not under any circumstance be prone to was a dangerous matter.”

Andrew Dyer fan, also author of “Bitch Is the New Black” And Taking Back Her Time: The Power of Maxine Waters expects candid reviews and clear opinions, and “The Mamas” doesn’t disappoint. In prose full of jokes and quips, the reader rides his gun as Andrew Dyer turns toward her and makes her run from mothers who need and sometimes despise them. Why do you keep coming back to mom’s groups if it’s such a big deal? She explained that they provide a “reliable outlet for the ups and downs of women on the verge of a nervous breakdown.” Everyone wants to avoid a nervous breakdown.

Often the only black mother in the group, Andrews Dyer performs unseen work—a term coined by sociologist Don Marie Dow in “Mothering While Black” It acknowledges the additional burden black mothers face in trying to prepare and protect their children from a society that favors whiteness. In seeking these mothers’ advice about pediatricians, strollers, and kindergartens to best serve her baby, Andrews-Dyer knows she’s serving herself, too. “What I really wanted, in the depths of the sunken place, was for a parent to like me [a White mom]. All the love except for the devastating legacy of institutionalized socio-economic oppression and the hidden fear of your child being killed while playing in the park.” She continues, “I wasn’t perfecting, I was working overtime, if only temporarily, as a worry-free mother.”

However, Andrew Dyer’s subtle work, despite the challenges, made her even stronger. So, when thinking about the ease she feels momentarily among these mothers, she seems to ask herself: If I let the unseen work go, would I still be? Who am I if I do not carry this burden? Can Should I stop bearing this burden? am I Wants to me? Does a successful black mother have to protect herself from the burden of blackness?

“The Mamas” is full of jokes and wit, and dozens of pages race like a comedy special on Netflix. But the book finds its legs — and strength — in a few chapters that seem like stand-alone essays. For example, in “Ain’t I Gentrifier?” (a reference to Sojourner Truth), Andrews-Dyer confronts the agonizing fact that she and her black husband chose to live in this “hot” neighborhood as a testament to their economic success, but in moving to the historically defined black part. DC they sparked optimization. “Like floor workers in sacks of carpet, we looked at the dilapidated homes of our older black neighbors as they complained to us about ‘all these white people’ moving into the building. Were we the whites in sheep’s clothing? I mean, no, obviously. But maybe a little?” Andrews Dyer is stuck in the paradox of his creation. A dependable, though untenable dilemma for anyone in the black middle class or upper middle class.

Another great chapter is “Your Mom’s Vagina,” in which she moves into her elderly mother’s nursing homes while raising her young children. Here she reveals her weaknesses: “I played hockey over being the obedient daughter for a long time.” And his feelings:Will I be her daughter today or will I be her mother? “

Arguably the best chapter in the book is “The Invisible Mom,” where we find Andrews-Dyer, her husband, and their young daughter on the playing field. While the daughter is away, Andrews Dyer and her husband discover a young black boy “probably seven, maybe twelve” who appears to be of a lower socioeconomic class. They noticed the boy frequently riding a little white girl’s bicycle, and they scanned the ocean for his parents. Seeing nothing, they then worry about the invisible act of preparing to protect and guide the black child to someone else, while simply trying to enjoy a day outside, while also worrying that the black child might actually be doing what is universally considered wrong, However it concerns the child. “You were probably that boy on the court with a slip-on shoe and a chip on your shoulder. Could we even catch up and override the stereotypes? Was it worth it? Who were we to separate ourselves from that boy?”

The day on the field becomes a dead end when Andrews-Dyer, the designer, is just one assumption away from being the suspect. “There is a strange disguise to being a middle-class black father in a ‘transitional’ neighborhood . . . our bodies make the loud introduction that our bachelor’s degrees and bank accounts just can’t.” The white father of the little girl with the bike mistakenly assumes that Andrews Dyers and her husband are the boy’s parents (despite the class differences between them and the boy, which are apparent, if not obvious, at least to Andrews Dyer). “What do we want them to see when they see us?” She asks. Angry at being stereotyped by this guy, but keeping a lid on her anger, because after all, they’re in a big white field, Andrew Dyer comments to the reader: “But not so The The goal – everyone’s goal – to reach the next degree? Be the black middle class that Huxtables and Obama promised. And if we exist, shouldn’t we demand to be seen? “

The class delivers the biggest punch when the black mother of the little black boy comes to see what all the fuss is all about and puts him in Andrew’s Dyer. “I mean, I expect that from them, you know,” says the mother, “but us?” Andrews Dyer regurgitates. “Again, I’m left thinking who we are. How race, class, money, and makeup separate us in ways that we don’t see and don’t—or maybe we do and we’re too lazy to break a magnifying glass. How ‘we’ are is up to who’s in power, who lets you in and who Behind the gate I was invisible they, But who was invisible? we?

In a further twist to satisfy nuance and honesty, Andrews-Dyer feels a different disappearance when her friends from the white mother group don’t turn to her when Blackness is in the news. “Wasn’t I cast in this play as Black Mom Friend Number 1?” ask herself. “And it was this thought… that made me realize how much my privilege, racial guilt, urban fatigue, financial insecurity, acute impostor syndrome, social pressure – I had to deal with. None of these women put me in a black friend box; they I crawled into myself. I felt comfortable there – I knew the rules and red flags – but I still complained about the lack of space.”

The book struggles as a literal matter. With a large number of mums named but rarely developed as characters, the book can be read like playing a game of soccer game; You won’t know exactly who did what if you don’t already know the list. It becomes wit hasten. Andrews-Dyer does so much about quibbling about her feelings that you have to read deeply between the lines to discern what she herself may not know. “Why on earth would I volunteer to wrap myself up in a group of mothers made up almost entirely of women who I had my eyes on—the white women of Karen’s age? But I did. Didn’t they differ from those hysterical ladies who lived on our phones? At least to me they were. But maybe It wasn’t enough. Or maybe it was.” This inconsistency can frustrate the reader. However, she brings the reader to her burgeoning vision: “Because hiding behind every potential interaction, relationship, or group is some dreaded ‘fake’ that no one can identify, we all run in fear of something that might help us understand ourselves. Right?”

Like most new moms, Andrews Dyer learned that the real endeavor is to learn how to nourish yourself. This is not about getting all the answers but at least trying to think things through and come up with an outcome that you can live with. Do you succeed? In the words of Andrew Dyer: “Everyone tries.”

What I learned about children, class, and race from mothers not like me

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