Candice Brathwaite has spent the last four years challenging the mainstream portrayal of motherhood, and it seems it's struck a chord with lots of us.
She's nearing 200k followers on Instagram, her Make Motherhood Diverse page continues to share and celebrate hundreds of authentic experiences of motherhood, and her book, I am Not Your Baby Mother, is a Sunday Times Bestseller with a five star rating on Amazon and Waterstones.
Founded in 2017, Make Motherhood Diverse invites mothers to share their experiences, and champions the underrepresented. Plus size mothers, queer mothers, Black or Asian mothers, disabled mothers, mothers of children with additional needs, working class mothers - there's no limit, just real mothers who don't fit a narrow mould.
That important project is only one string in Candice's bow. Good Housekeeping spoke to the 32-year-old mum of two to talk parenting in lockdown, the return to school for her daughter, presenting on Lorraine, and what she's setting her sights on next.
GH: What was it that inspired you to start Make Motherhood Diverse?
Candice: Motherhood and parenting was sold to me as glossy; you've got to have this haircut, this T-shirt, your buggy needs to cost 3 million pounds. I really struggled to come online and find versions of motherhood that connected with me or showed motherhood in the different facets there are.
Would you say that community became even more important in lockdown?
Being able to link up online was a mental health booster for so many of us. A platform like Make Motherhood Diverse has made people feel like, at this time when you have to physically be alone for your health, you are not alone in terms of raising your children.
Never before in my life have I seen social media be such a positive place of support actually, especially for parents. That whole: “Oh, I'm going to teach my kids French and fencing,” vibe lasted what, three days? Because actually this is really hard, and we're not teachers, and the whole world is upside down right now.
With schools opening up again, how have you prepared your daughter Esme, 6, for that?
We're really open. When lockdown began, we returned from family holiday to deserted streets. Her dad and I were like: "Right, we're not gonna bluff our way through this."
Esme's really switched on, so we just wanted to have an open and honest dialogue about how different life is going to be going forward and I think it's just about leaving that line of communication open. I'm constantly asking her: "How do you feel? Is there anything you're confused about?" I think naturally once she goes back she'll continue talking to me about how she's feeling and I'll keep thinking of ways I can support that.
Lots of parents are really worried about what's ahead but remember this situation is new to all of us and sometimes just being honest with your kids can really help.
Your book is about Black motherhood, what are some of the challenges for the parent of a Black child in the classroom or playground?
"The issues that affect my child going to school are generally a reflection of what's happening in the world. When Esme was four, a girl refused to play with her because she was Black. She was in reception. So for all of those people who tell me: "We don't see race, don't see colour" - when my child goes to school, that's not the reality.
A lot of this year's dialogue around race has happened at home during lockdown. Do you have concerns about children having those difficult conversations among themselves in school?
I do think sometimes a school has to lead. There are households that will struggle to discuss race or prejudice or racial bias, and I think if a school helps guide by providing a reading list or teaching certain lessons, it will start to rub off on the child and they may in turn, take some of that goodness home.
The key to it all is education. I would love to see the conversations about race and differences in people come in a lot earlier. Schools aren't having these conversations until about Key Stage three (age 11-14). Unfortunately, if Esme had to deal with being ostracised because she was Black at four, clearly there's something that needs to be weaved into education from that early. It doesn't need to be hardcore, there are some really great reading materials around that are age appropriate.
What are your concerns practically for the return to school?
The biggest worry for me, obviously is health. Children don't really understand social distancing, they're not going to wash their hands as much as you'd like. But the schools are really on it.
Esme actually went back for three weeks before summer and they're not allowed school dinners, you have to send them with a lunch box. It was such a fail the first week back, I'm not going to lie to you. I'm the mum hotfooting it round the corner an hour later, like: "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry I forgot this." So, with the Haliborange Lunch Box Wins campaign, I'm taking a sigh of relief because at least now there are some great recipes and options that take that stress off me.
We've been loving your fashion advice on Lorraine, what's that been like so far and what else do you have in the works?
It's been so awesome. It's allowed me to tighten up my presenting chops. I think you instinctively know if you would enjoy being on screen but it's very different when you're in a studio and it's two minutes until you go live and you're wearing an earpiece and the producer's telling you you need to look at camera two, camera four. I actually did the screen test last November, so that shows how long these things take to get off the ground.
There are so many plans, I'm definitely going to write a couple more books. I would love to see I am Not Your Baby Mother turned into a TV show. So, you know, outside of world domination, I would just like to build a really great media company; a space where I can create TV shows and books and magazines and have them all sit under a house that really tries to uplift BAME voices.
Candice Brathwaite is working with Haliborange, the UK’s No 1 kids vitamin brand, to help parents take the fuss out of lunchbox prep, making it simple and quick to put together a lunch that’s as tasty as it is nutritionally balanced – just like Haliborange. Recommended by 9 out of 10 parents, Haliborange is available from Boots, supermarkets and pharmacies. For more information on products, visit https://www.haliborange.com/, for recipes go to the Haliborange Instagram @haliborangeuk.
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