Teaching my daughters lessons of care, self-love and Black womanhood
'What I wish for the most for myself and my daughters is a strong embodiment of self-love,' says Bee Quammie
Contributed by Bee Quammie
When I think about the kind of Black woman I've always wanted to be — and how I want to raise my Black daughters into their own versions of Black womanhood — I look to the women who came before me.
A variety of blueprints on life and love have been provided to me by women I know intimately and ones whose works and teachings have created unseen heart-to-heart connections between us. Poet and playwright Ntozake Shange once said: "I write for young girls of colour, for girls who don't even exist yet, so that there is something there for them when they arrive," and I feel blessed that through deliberate and accidental means, women have created things for me to stand on.
One of those things is a quote from writer and activist Audre Lorde, which has become a personal mantra: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."
The responsibility of Black motherhood
What I wish for the most for myself and my daughters is a strong embodiment of self-love — a love that flourishes with self-care and a society which grants us the space to be cared for.
Black women are often prided on our "strength" and "fearlessness" without being given equal room to express feeling otherwise. Being direct is often misinterpreted as being angry, and the trepidation to avoid being misunderstood only stifles our very real and righteous rage when it bubbles up within us. Our names are half-hearted chants; afterthoughts when the public rises up against racism and police brutality — and that is if our names are remembered at all.
As a Black woman, I feel anger and despair. As a mother, I feel guilt. I was the vessel that brought these two beautiful beings here, so I accept the responsibility of being part of a societal transformation, ensuring that their existences here are easier than mine.
Easy lives are not often granted to Black girls. Forced to grow up too fast or forced to accept that the beauty and innocence we see within ourselves isn't a perspective shared by the rest of the world... for Black girls ease is a foreign concept. Even now, in these times of protest and change, Black children are in the streets, holding hands with or sitting atop the shoulders of the adults they love the most. In these moments, they bear witness to the work. Instead of being home with skipping ropes and colouring books, they're chanting "No justice, no peace" and watching ease float away.
As girls, we saw the signs that this world wasn't going to be easy for us, and we had to adjust quickly.- Bee Quammie
That's where it starts. As girls, we saw the signs that this world wasn't going to be easy for us, and we had to adjust quickly. Now that we've grown to be Black women, many of us are trying to course-correct and imbue ourselves with love and care while fighting for our lives too.
Self-care is self-preservation
The duty of playing my role, in advocacy and activism, means that it feels like the work is never-ending. I must always stay connected — rest is a luxury I cannot afford. Indeed, it's actually disruptive for a Black woman to prioritize rest as revolutionary, and I remind myself often of that fact when I believe I need to keep pressing on. This is why Lorde's quote is so necessary. Caring for myself is not self-indulgent. It is most definitely self-preservation in a battle that is intent on eroding my very being and wearing me down to a shell of myself. The enemies we fight expect us to continuously throw our bodies into war. What they aren't banking on is that we will take time to retreat — not in defeat, but in efforts to renew again.
Do I love myself? Yes. Do I always care for myself like I do? No, but I'm determined to improve. This is one of the lessons I want to teach my daughters. Loving yourself means caring for yourself, and demanding that the world around you cares, too. Caring for yourself creates room for the things that make you feel good and the things that don't. Treating yourself to the material things that make you smile is a piece of the process, but so is nourishing your body and getting proper sleep. Setting boundaries and saying "no" to preserve your peace is important, and the acknowledgement and release of your anger is necessary self-care as well. Like the gems women before me have left behind, I hope this will be part of the blueprints my daughters follow on their own journeys to Black womanhood.
Love is upheld by care, and cannot exist without it. When Black women rest, renew, and say "This is how I love and care for myself," we set a new standard and simultaneously confuse those who seek to oppose us. Here's to being those women, and raising the ones that will take up the fight after we have done all we could.