The "white" mommy wars?

How race complicates the experience of motherhood.

Published February 9, 2006 10:33PM (EST)

An incisive piece by Lynette Clemetson in today's New York Times looks at how the work versus family debate often does not resonate with African-American mothers, in part because so many of the commentators on the front lines of the "mommy wars" are white.

After speaking with more than two dozen professional and nonprofessional black mothers, Clemetson points out, "It is not that black mothers do not wrestle with some of the same considerations as white mothers  [But] discussions as portrayed in books and the news media often lack the nuances and complexities particular to their experience."

Clemetson explains that "for professional black women, debates about self-fulfillment can seem incomprehensibly narrow against the need to build sustainable wealth and security for their families. The discussions also pale in comparison to worries about shielding sons and daughters from the perils that black children face growing up, and overlook the practical pull of extended families in need of financial support." As one woman deftly puts it: "My family can afford expensive things, but why would I think about spending hundreds on a stroller when I could help a cousin buy textbooks for college? That is not my world."

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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