Webster’s Dictionary describes a” Mammy” as:
(formerly in the southern US) A black nursemaid or nanny in charge of white children.
Up until it was time for me to meet them worries consumed my head- Do they know that I’m Black? Will they like me? Will the child take to me ? How will each of their families like me? When that time arrived, I was nervous pulling into their complex. All of the houses were so beautiful. It reminded me of the movie Pleasantville. Each row of houses were lined up so perfectly, the lawns were freshly mowed, the sprinklers were on a set timer , the architecture of each house was aesthetically pleasing and the kids of the neighborhood were running about laughing with not a care in the world. I sent a text to inform them I had arrived. I took a deep breath, said a prayer and walked up to the door.
As the door opened I was greeted with a huge smile and a hand shake. I walked in and I was amazed! Their house looked like something out of a magazine. The decor was modern and chic. I was in love! During our meet-up I found out that the mom worked for a very lucrative company for about ten years. The dad was a property manager who worked from home but traveled occasionally for work(omg really??). They gave me a tour on the rest of the house and I also got to meet their little bundle of joy. By the end, it seemed as if they liked me. I smiled, shook their hands, said goodbye to their son then went on my way.
When I got settled at home I received a text for the mom. She thought I was a great fit for their family and she wanted me to start the following Tuesday.I really didn’t know how It would be working around the child’s parent(s) all day, but I decided to give it a try.
In the three months I was their nanny I had to endure:
- Cleaning up after them
- Helping the mom with prepping food for parties
- Household duties- taking out the trash, washing and folding towels, washing and putting away dishes, vacuum carpets, straighten the babies room and whatever else they had on the list each day.
- My schedule changing whenever they saw fit.
- The mom not arriving home before it was time for me to get off when the dad was out of town.
- Stay later when the mom or dad was out of town. They would ask me the day of not in advance.
- Canceling my scheduled days whenever they wanted because of a last minute trips they wanted to take( I worked through a company so If I didn’t work I didn’t get paid) I spoke to the company about this and from that day forward working with them became a living hell.
- The mom getting smart whenever she couldn’t get her way.
- The father always coming in the space I was in to talk with his child.He was acting like he never saw his child. Every five minutes he was calling his name and sitting and talking with him. Yes I know it’s his child but he was in there more with me then he was in his office working.
- The mother now working from home almost everyday too!!
The first month was cool. The mom and I got to know each other a little bit more. One day while I was helping her prepare a salad she asked me how old I was. I was really taken back by it and didn’t want to tell her. Well when I told her, she said I knew you were around the same age as us( meaning herself and her husband). My mouth dropped. I found out she was a year younger than me. She kept talking, but all I could think about was how our lives were drastically different, but we were the same age. I have a Bachelor’s Degree and they do too, but I am working in their home taking care of their child!!! The mom was hired at her company before she graduated college. When I graduated the only job I could get is one at a child care center I previously worked at. My starting pay at the child care center was 9.50-9.50 with a college degree.I made 9.00 an hours when I previously worked there. I guess the .50 cent came from having a degree. Anywho- I struggled mentally while there, more than I anticipated. I was getting paid 11.25 a hour-which is minimum wage in my opinion. I also felt so oppressed. I quickly felt if I didn’t do whatever they told me I would be out of a job.I felt I had to bow down everyday . Man I tell you everyday was a struggle. Struggle with the thoughts in my head like why I can’t get a decent paying job that has benefits, paid time-off, flexibility, and professional development opportunities. The struggle of comparing my life to a European woman.She has privileges that will NEVER be granted to me because of my skin color- know matter what I accomplish in this life. White privilege is so strong out here and the more I experience life the more it’s all up in my face!! The struggle of being tired of struggling. I was raised in a single parent household. Money was always tight and money still is tight until this day. Now that I have these two degrees everyone is saying a degree wont get you anywhere, but looking at her life it got her a pretty nice life I must say! When I hear people speaking this to me I must say I want to scream!! I feel they’re saying that I don’t have the right to want something more out of life than what I’ve got and desire to get. Who thinks-” Oh I got this degree(s), but if I stay in the same socioeconomic state it’s fine with me?” Especially someone who didn’t have a full ride and has to pay every dime back they got from the government. Rant over lol-Their house was breathtaking, while there the dad purchased a white Benz and of course she had a nice car too. Everything I named has been material, but I don’t want what they have I just want to be able to take care of myself and my family if they did have a need for something. I ALSO WANT EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES !!
I find out while conducting research on the “Mammy” era that black women were forced into a certain type of job after the emancipation took place. There were plenty of jobs like a cashier at dimestores and markets as well as telephone operators, but these jobs were off limits to blacks. They had to work in the household of whites just to survive. And this is how I totally felt. I’ve had so many interviews with great companies. I’ve had everything they wanted on paper. It’s like when they see that I am a brown woman and on top of that natural and professional they pass on me. I feel my presence intimidates them and it doesn’t fit with their stereotypical image of a black/brown woman. All of this has truly tried to break me but GOD!! Being a “Mammy” taught me the value in having a peace of mind over a paycheck.
Stay encouraged, learn from all of the pain you may be feeling right now. Cry if you have to, talk to someone if you have to, but just NEVER give up!