That Awkward Moment When You’ve Been Confused for the Nanny

Two mothers caucasian and afroamerican chating

The Question of DOOM!

On a sunny spring day, I take my baby for a stroll.  It’s a really nice day.  Perfect, really.  Blue sky, fluffy clouds, not too cold.  It’s one of the first warm(ish) days of the season.  I’m enjoying the day so much that I go alot further from my house than usual.  After a long walk (which I need, I’m trying to drop this baby weight after all) I decide it’s time for a break.  A bit winded, I find a bench along the sidewalk and have a seat, taking my water bottle from the cup holder on the stroller. An older lady with a kind face takes a seat next to me.  

“Cute baby,”  she smiles.  “Are you the nanny?”

Uh oh.  Here it is.  THE QUESTION.  The one I am supposed to fear like grim death.  According to those who warn black women about the perils of “marrying out”, I am supposed to be traumatized at this moment.  This, my friends, is one of the serious, insurmountable, horrific obstacles to even the mere thought of marrying a white man.

At this harmless inquiry, time is supposed to stop.  The sky is supposed to darken, the wind quicken, and the birds fall silent.  The voice of doom is supposed to echo across the land, “You…. never…. Should have…. Married… that… white man!” *Crack of thunder*

I am supposed to, in this moment, regret having a child that the occasional stranger would ever think did not come from my womb.  I am meant to have visions of cute brown babies that every random I ever come across will know are mine.


When I look at my daughter, I see some of myself in her.  Sure, she’s closer to her dad’s complexion than mine, but those deep brown eyes are shaped like mine.  She has my forehead (don’t laugh!) actually my chin and cheekbones too.  It’s my genes that put the curl in her hair and bit of tan to her skin.  Those thick, dark eyelashes? Mine, thank you very much.  I know who she is and where she came from.  (Trust me, I was there)  Why should I care if someone I never saw before, and will never see again, mistakes me for her nanny?

I don’t.  I didn’t.  It was never even a thought.

I smiled at the nice old lady. “Yes.”

“Oh, she is so sweet!”

That’s true, of course.  People are always saying that.  We talk for a little while longer.  She’s a friendly person who has lived in the area a while.  Good, because I’ve only lived here a few months.  I ask her how to get back to a familiar road.  (I’d taken lots of turns, admiring the tulips here and the daffodils there.  Although I wasn’t terribly far from home, I was a bit lost.  She is happy to tell me and in no time at all, with a right here and a left there, we are back on our way.)

The next year, a friend of mine gives birth to her first baby, and we meet up for lunch.  “Oh, what an adorable baby!” An older woman, this time a black one, exclaims.  “Is she yours?”  

Read the remainder of the article on our sister site, Beyond Black & White Kids.




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