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Will my white children will be better off without a brown mum?

(85 Posts)
minervasmom Thu 28-Mar-13 15:37:55

Sorry for the dramatic headline but I do feel that way today.

Both my babies DD (4) and DS (1.5) are white, my son is even blond. I'm Bengali (and brown) and their Dad's English. DD is attending a very good school and there's a mix of family backgrounds among the kids in her class.

I find I'm constantly being "blanked" or snubbed by some mums both in and out of school. I've been trying to make friends/arrange playdates/have coffee mornings - I find it has helped the kids' friendships to ripen in the past if their parents socialise too. We don't have to like each other but at least make an effort.

I'm a friendly person, pretty extrovert and normally dress fairly nicely (you'll see why I'm saying this in a mo) so I'm starting to wonder if this is a race thing? I've never faced (or maybe never noticed) overt racism before (I used to work in Publishing so perhaps ivory tower etc.) So maybe I'm misreading this? and its not racism. Maybe it's just me? Really? How come I've not faced this sort of unfriendliness before? DD went to another state school briefly and I made loads of friends (of all ethnicities) and I was pretty popular at school/uni/work.

When we've had a babysitter take the kids out and she's white, the response they get is so different. Its as if the moment I appear on the scene, and claim them as mine, it sours everything. People's expressions change, they seem to turn cold. Of course there's the proverbial "are you the childminder" sort of shit I face everyday. I just ignore that.

Soon, DCs will be old enough to notice their mum being treated differently. And how it affects their social lives. And they will hate me and perhaps even avoid having me around because of it.

What other shit am I going to have to face because of this kind of prejudice, I wonder? It's a whole, new, ugly world to me.

motherinferior Thu 28-Mar-13 17:37:10

Because we talk a lot in our culture of enabling mixed race children to be proud of their brown heritage but we also need to let the non-brown ones be part of that heritage and be comfortable in their own skinsgrin

minervasmom Thu 28-Mar-13 17:59:53

@MI I will make a new effort to be honest and open about colour with my children, we need it too, DH's family is a bit on the "ignorant" side

spottyparrot you may have a point there, that would be the something wrong with this whole picture. Over-cheery, overbearing, over-extrovert coloured Mum sails into crowd of shy English mums.... hmm

WishIdbeenatigermum Thu 28-Mar-13 18:27:31

Are you in the countryside? London and some other big cities are very different from the rest of the UK sad

RealityQuake Thu 28-Mar-13 19:43:30

No, they would't be better off, but I hear where you're coming from. I'm Metis, My DH is White going back as far as we can find and our children are very White passing, and it has caused several problems and many other situations where I can't help but think it's a major factor (like when every other parent gets contacted about detail changes to trips except us so DD1 is left out...more than once...). And I'm in a city (and haven't found things all that different in other locations from when we lived in a village, the worst was when we lived in the posh side of the city and it was obvious they expected that I should be living elsewhere).

I don't have much advice for dealing with adults beyond MI's great words on dealing with any who think their curiosity beats our/our DCs' feelings and right to privacy. But beyond that, I haven't figured out much else to do, though I've found that many kids, particularly once they're socializing more without parents, make friends regardless of how much we parents fit in (I still have no mummy friends, my older kids are social butterflies who are also quite outspoken and proud about their background when it comes up).

For our kids, connected to all sides of family identity, creating a family narrative, and talking about it does wonders. My father and sister still call themselves tan because my grandparents (who are White and adopted my father) wouldn't talk about it and allowed others to make comments. My kids are the exact opposite because we talk about it and celebrate it and regularly discuss differences in the positive. Wishing you the best.

Surrealistrhinoceros Thu 28-Mar-13 20:18:24

Hello. I experience this situation from a different angle as I'm white adoptive mum to two children of different mixed ethnicities who both 'look white'.

I can't help feeling that people have incredibly narrow minded ideas of what a child of mixed heritage 'should' look like and how their appearance should relate to the parents'. If I had a quid for every time I've been asked 'are you SURE hes mixed race' about DS I would be very rich! Yes thank you we are smile

My further experience as an adoptive mum is that some people's tiny minds fuse when confronted with stuff outside their preconceptions. Eg one mum at school plainly has huge trouble with me because I am a nice middle class professional parent but nevertheless have this badly behaved delayed child (DS has borderline ASD and special needs). You can almost see the steam rising as she tries to work it out.

I wonder whether whats happening is people seeing something outside their experience and just giving up on trying to understand. In which case you could either give up on them (reasonable) or do a bit of educating by taking the initiative in saying yes genes are very funny things aren't they and etc etc etc. I do similar in explaining about DS at times.

Good luck. I hope I've explained what I mean. My friend who is half Indian has the most gorgeous blond blue eyed daughter, with a white British but dark haired father. Actually the spitting image of her mother as I expect your kids are in many aspects smile

MTSgroupie Thu 28-Mar-13 20:24:22

At DC's private school there is a significant proportion of non white parents. At parent socials everybody mingles and I can honestly say that we are colour blind. So if it is a racism thing it isn't found at all schools that have affluent parents.

While at primary school we employed a (blonde, white Eastern European) nanny to take our kids to school. She found the mums a bit distant as well. And this was at a school where the mums were M&S rather than Gucci.

I mention the above because I think that it is a snobbery thing as opposed to a colour thing. Because of the difference in appearance it is assumed that you are the nanny. Like my blonde, white nanny, you are probably being blanked for that reason. Not that it's much of a consolation.

I think that once you establish yourself as the parent you should find things changing.

Blu Fri 29-Mar-13 08:33:14

Loads of issues here, all playing their part. The school gate clique can be a very powerful thing, with people terrified to be seen to be developing a satellite friendship outside the clique in case the clique see her as less bonded to the centre. Since play dates and party invites and PTA status can all depend on clique membership , it has the gravity pull of a black hole.

And if you are also subject to stupidity and ignorance about your identity and connection to your child, and experiencing a little undermining of confidence due to that, AND new, it adds up to a v alienating experience.

I completely relate to the intrusive questions issue, DS was born with a non-standard leg, and I became ferocious in protection of his self esteem wondering what effect it has on a child when every single new person they encounter in public begins with 'what's WRONG with him? '. People are incredibly frustrating sometimes. I used to prepare a handful of phrases in advance so that I could give a breezy but very assertive riposte.

juneau Fri 29-Mar-13 08:44:49

I'm really shocked by the stories in this thread - and saddened. I thought Britain these days was ethnically mixed enough that race has become a non-issue in a lot of areas. I've lived in London/South-East for so long that I genuinely don't really notice the colour of someone's skin any more. When I first read this thread I had to have a think about the mix in my DS's class at school - and there is a racial mix - just not one I'd really thought about because it's so normal. Clearly other areas of the country are very different in this respect.

saintlyjimjams Fri 29-Mar-13 08:52:48

Could it just be the dynamics of the group. My 2 younger children are at the same school. The elder boys class are all very friendly and inclusive. Nights out are arranged & everyone is invited, including the people who never come. They still get an invitation every time.

The younger class are very different. I only found out the mum's had even been going out when DH was invited out 'as the mums have been getting together a lot it's now out turn' hmm And a number of them have my phone number, and they've managed to send stuff they wanted me to do via the book bag so there's no reason for me to have been missed out. Repeatedly. We do have something that makes us a bit different - but I honestly don't think it's that, I think they're just not very inclusive & happy in their cliques. I don't even think it's me really, I think they're just busy amongst themselves and thoughtless.

Anyway you sound like the sort of person lots of people would want to be friends with, so take confidence it's not you, it's them.

As for society's expectations - that does happen for all sorts of differences & in some ways you have to develop rhino hide and not let the ignorant get to you. You can challenge them if you want to, but you don't have to. It's not your job to educate the ignorant unless you want to. Incidentally my own very-white-burns-in-the-sun - blue eyed father had a father who was of mixed race. This was post war years so you can imagine the disbelief.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 29-Mar-13 09:09:58

There is no way your children would be better off without you so they could fit in with other people. That's just bonkers!

People have sometimes assumed I am not my children's mum because I am not the same colour as them.

I once had a doctor ask me "how long has he (my youngest, it was his appt) been with you?"

I was baffled for a moment and then I realised! grin and I said "since birth. I had him. He's mine." then for clarity, I think I may have added that I gave birth to him. but by this time I was waffling grin

However. I think you are wrong to assume that your colour is making everyone you encounter not want to befriend you. It is very unlikely that it is your colour! Unless your children go to school in 1950s rural britain wink

It is likely to be either that you're a newcomer - it can be harder to 'get in' as a newcomer at the school gate than to carve your name into a boulder with the tickly end of a feather!

Or you're a lot louder than you think you are and are coming across as overbearing. It is important to not rule that out, just because you don't want to believe you could appear that way to others.

Just carry on being friendly, but take it slow. A hi and how are you is better as first contact than leaping into their space and forcing an indepth conversation and constantly trying to get them to have coffee with you. People generally like to go slowly when they meet someone. Hi, how are you, I'm Xs mum, let's have coffee tomorrow and your child should come for a playdate and why don't we... no. just.. nooooooo. People don't normally like that.

motherinferior Fri 29-Mar-13 09:46:57

Oh, people do notice skin colour. Nice 'colour blind' liberals most of all. They just notice it in a different way. Believe me. I have lost count of the number of nice white liberals who don't like to acknowledge that I - apparently another nice white liberal - challenge their stereotype of what 'mixed' looks like.

RealityQuake Fri 29-Mar-13 11:06:30

Thank you MotherInferior. "Colour blindness" or "not seeing race" perpetuates racist stereotypes and is not the answer. We face these problems now, everywhere in the UK, not just in the 1950s or out of cities. It would be better if people stopped ignoring this.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 29-Mar-13 11:07:56

Of course people notice. They'd have to be really stupid to be actually saying that they could not look at someone and tell you what colour they were. grin In the same way that you notice hair colour, height, weight... People just mean that they don't give a shit, not that they actually cannot identify what colour someone is.

That's always been my interpretation of it, anyway. "I don't notice colour" = I don't give a shit what colour someone is, it doesn't factor into anything for me.

Although, really and truly not giving a shit about colour is also normally done by not even thinking to mention it cos it doesn't occur to you. grin

Masai Fri 29-Mar-13 11:19:40

In same boat as OP.

Im pakistani but have a younger dd that looks almost irish with her alabaster skin and black eyes.

It pissed me off beyond belief when people used to ask if she was mine.

juneau Fri 29-Mar-13 11:21:53

I don't notice colour = I don't give a shit what colour someone is, it doesn't factor into anything for me.

I'm sorry, but I fail to see what the problem is with not really caring what colour someone's skin is. My skin is white. So what? It doesn't define me, what I think, what my values are. People are people, whatever the colour of their skin. My husband is a mixture of different nationalities, but they're all white European. Does this mix of different nationalities in his blood define him? No. It's absolutely irrelevant in his day-to-day life.

motherinferior Fri 29-Mar-13 11:25:48

My skin is white and in many ways that does define me, because it becomes the freak-show object of so many people's regard. Including that of many nice white liberals.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 29-Mar-13 11:27:50

did you think I was saying it was a problem, juneau?

motherinferior Fri 29-Mar-13 11:31:12

The day people genuinely stop noticing colour will be the day I stop gritting my teeth and feeling my stomach lurch every time I tell someone new about my ethnic origins (of which I am enormously proud - I am half Asian and hate having that invalidated) and wait for their look of horrified incredulity.

juneau Fri 29-Mar-13 11:44:57

No Hecsy - but several other posts were clearly saying that, so it was just using your rather handy little sentence to illustrate that.

I dunno - I lived in a very racially mixed part of the US for six years and after that I found my ability notice who looked 'different' pretty much switched off, because everyone did and they all looked different to one another too. I was actually unusual because I'm not a racial mix - so I was the oddity for being so plain vanilla - and people remarked on that with surprise. So it works both ways, depending on where you are.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 29-Mar-13 11:47:32

ok, ta. I thought because you quoted me that there was a different interpretation of my words than how I had meant them.

QuintEggSensuality Fri 29-Mar-13 11:56:43

Do you think that they believe you are not their mum, but a step mum? That the children have a mum somewhere, but you have moved in with their dad and "usurped" the family? That you are a wicked evil husband snatcher?

There is a woman like you in our church. She has very dark skin and a very white child, dad is white. You are not the only one!

Do you think it would help to make light of it, next time somebody looks shocked to see you just say something like "Pretty surprising huh, my kids are so blonde people never expect them to have a black mum! It is interesting, I can tell." And just change the topic?

Blu Fri 29-Mar-13 12:15:14

Oh, and of course there may be one or two who are actually, you know, racist. People can say what they like but it's still out there,on different levels. Not necessarily NF thugs, just a level of unconscious prejudice or anxiety.

MTSgroupie Fri 29-Mar-13 12:20:25

I am not naively suggesting that the parents at my school are an enlightened lot.

I accept that some may have negative feelings if their DC brought home a non white BF/GF but as far as casual relationships as concerned I don't think that people really care about colour.

I mean, some of the parents are lefties (don't ask me why they have DCs at a private school). In RL I would avoid such people but this is a bunch of parents that meet up for a few hours a couple of times a year.

It's so easy to reach for the Race excuse everytime but often there are other things in play. In the OP's case it's more of a snobby thing

RealityQuake Fri 29-Mar-13 12:34:42

Really MTS? I think it is far easier for people to ignore race and find any other excuse for why a brown or black person has a problem than deal with the idea that nice people like them might act in racist ways or that society today, even in big cities, is structurally racist and beneficial to white people for no earned reasons. Snobbery has many roots in viewing white people as better and ignoring this is to refuse to improve things.

MTSgroupie Fri 29-Mar-13 23:31:38

IMO it's the other way round ie it's easier for people to blame racism than look for other reasons.

I mean MN is full of threads about school gate politics, cliques and bitchy moms. However, if the mom being blanked is non white then it has to be a racism thing, right?

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