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"It's very scary mothering a Black boy": Challenges amplify for moms in underrepresented communities

Sheryl Day
Posted at 1:31 PM, May 02, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sheryl Day asks every family she works with a seemingly straightforward question.

"Close your eyes," she says, "and imagine that when you open them, you have everything you want for you and your family. What do you see?"

For moms in underrepresented and under-served communities, the question isn't necessarily complicated. But getting to the answer can be.

Day works as a family resource coordinator at Rutherford Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky. The school is located in one of the most diverse areas of the state.

"We have families that come from Africa," Day said. "We have families that come from Vietnam. They come from all over."

The population is largely low-income. Day sees the challenges the families face as the moms try to negotiate the best lives for their children.

"When I have conversations with moms that are from different countries and cultures, something that is universal is that they all want the best care for their kids. They want to best education. They want the best life for their kids," Day said. "And coming to our country was the best thing that they could do for their family."

Day makes it her responsibility to greet each child "like it's the first day of school every time I come in." She is proactive about reaching out to parents about potential issues involving their children. But she also identifies with their plight, given what she went through years ago while pregnant with her now 11-year-old son, Jason.

"I was six months pregnant," Day recalled, "and I got a call at [around] 4 in the morning, from a friend of Jason's dad, telling me he had been shot."

Jason's dad passed away in the hospital. At that point, Day recalls thinking more about the son still in her belly than her own feelings.

"It's that provider instinct," she said. "Can I protect my child? Yes, I can."

Day is now married, but for several years she raised Jason as a single mom.

"I was in retail, and my shift started at 5:30 a.m.," she recalled, "so I would have to get Jason up at 4 a.m. and get him dressed before I went off to work. We were on food stamps. We had public insurance because there was a time where I wasn't employed."

It is there where she shares a link with the moms she now serves.

"I think society has told us that if you use these services, you are less than, when history shows us that these services were introduced to be a temporary fix for hardships," she said. "I wish we gave more compassion."

That compassion extends to the burden she speaks about in simply raising a Black child. "It's very scary," she said, "mothering a Black boy. You don't want to miss anything. You don't want to miss the cop talk. I don't remember having those types of conversations with my parents, but I'm not a boy."

The challenges and stresses are many. But so are the triumphs and successes.

"If I could have Jason all over again, I would," Day said. "He knows he can cry on my shoulder. I Have a son that is funny, smart, charismatic, and empathetic. I can't ask for a better family."

Watch more Sheryl's story in our special report, Motherhood in America, in the video below.