“I started winning when the whole world was doubting on me! Think imma lose with my baby counting on me?”
Whether you love her or hate her, there is one undeniable fact about the “Bodak Yellow” MC that can’t be ignored–she’s unapologetically herself. This is a freedom many women wish to have but for whatever reason or reasons, don’t have access to.
For many of us it is the endless and ever-changing expectations that come with being a woman—being a Black woman for that matter– being a mother, and having a career that leaves us paralyzed. Our responsibility to navigate through the multiple facets of our identity can become restrictive instead of operating as multiple avenues for us to live our freest selves.
As if Black women did not have enough burden to navigate being both Black and female, motherhood and the cloud of responsibility becomes even heavier. If we are honest, we accept the “respectable” tropes because we somehow associate motherhood with the height of a woman’s purpose for living, and we only root for and are happy for those who have met certain criteria. For instance, as Queen Bey led us in her crescendo to “Love on Top” at the 2011 MTV VMAs, we gasped and cried when she announced to the world she was pregnant. She and Jay Z earned their right to have our support as they stood as a #relationshipgoals archetype. That is until Beyoncé released “Lemonade” and everything we celebrated, we now questioned. Jay Z’s 4:44 helped redeem him, but we will never view the Carters in the same light.
The response to Cardi B’s pregnancy announcement was as divided as the response to her as a hip-hop artist. People are generally excited about babies and those beautiful baby bumps. But as she performed her new single, “Be Careful,” sampled from the Lauryn Hill’s timeless (albeit, painful) hit, “Ex-Factor,” Cardi B made a statement of strength and freedom with which many women are both uncomfortable and unfamiliar. With sentiments that will easily make one lend towards “girl, leave him” she stood in a gorgeous white gown, accenting the growth of new life to a world aware of the infidelities she has faced with the father of her child.
Polarizing conversation surrounding Cardi B’s liberating moment speaks to the complexity of Black motherhood in our communities that we have yet to reconcile. In 1987, Toni Morrison gave us a fictional account in her novel Beloved, based on the story of Margaret Garner, the enslaved mother who decided it best to kill her own children than to allow them to grow up in chains. Alice Walker would add to the conversation of motherhood by choosing her feminism and womanism over motherhood.
The complexities of both relationships and motherhood make Cardi B’s decision to have her child, stay with her man, and continue her career an act of courage, inspiration and ridicule. It undoubtedly stirs our insides as we are almost conditioned to think about her well-being as a woman and the well-being of her child and decide for her what is best. Because she is a public figure, the world will stay tuned into her relationship, pregnancy, delivery, and the baby’s life. We will serve as the judge and jury to her decisions. Even with knowing all of this, she has determined in her mind to thrive at it all, and that is her right. And how internally problematic is it for us as women to focus on her decision to stay more than we focus on his decision to cheat?
Black women around the world are making decisions that requires us to weigh the scales of checks and balances. I remember sharing similar sentiments as Cardi B when I discovered I was pregnant with my second child. With a list of goals to accomplish, and having had experienced pregnancy and the first year of motherhood, I knew what I was now facing was the balance between being a mother, having a career, and still maintaining my own identity. My first go round felt like much more error than success yet just one year after, I was pregnant again. This time, I determined I would not allow the world to blame my children for what it forced upon me—not them. I chose motherhood as much as it chose me, and it would not be a hindrance or a crutch, but a piece of the puzzle that is my life.
“Cardi B recognizes that her life is not only about her anymore, but has not seen that as a death to herself.”
The mixed response to my second pregnancy only served as proof that women are held to expectations that we may never meet. We cannot please everyone and therefore, particularly with motherhood, we must make the best decision for ourselves and those we hold nearest to us. Cardi B recognizes that her life is not only about her anymore, but has not seen that as a death to herself. She has also chosen not to allow a man’s poor decisions force her into not becoming the total woman she desires and was created to be. Whether or not one agrees with her lifestyle, she has chosen her life, her love, her career, and her child. Before we elevate ourselves to judge her, may we provide a safety net for her to strive towards excellence in all areas of her life and if in the case she falls, she has a community of sisters to help her stand on her feet.
Congratulations, Cardi B! We pray you keep living your “Best Life”!
Read more from AC Jacobs at her blog here.