Most mothers expect that life will return to “normal” after the birth of their first child. Most anticipate there will be time to keep up with housework, maintain a cheerful attitude, stay well groomed, and look stunning for a night out on the town.
Mothers who have jobs outside the home expect to resume their careers; this often works to assure them that they remain important in the eyes of others. However the main character in “That Kind of Mother,” whose name is Rebecca, is blindsided by the expectations and demands of motherhood. Through a strange turn of events, Rebecca becomes a mother to an infant born to her nanny/housekeeper shortly after Rebecca's own child is born.
Rebecca regarded her nanny Priscilla, as a savior in the hospital where she worked as a La Leche liaison. After struggling to take care of her child Jacob, and resume her career as a poet, Rebecca persuades Priscilla to work for her full-time. Rebecca and her husband have the funds to pay her well. Priscilla agrees.
A couple of years later, Priscilla who’s in her early 40s, and has a adult daughter, reveals to Rebecca that she is pregnant. The father is not named. Priscilla dies in childbirth, and Rebecca and her husband, who are white, adopt the newborn, who is black, as are his mother and unnamed father. Cheryl, Priscilla’s daughter, cannot raise her sibling because she is due to have her own child.
The story becomes one of a white family raising a black child and his white sibling. Cheryl and her husband remain in the child’s life, and it is Cheryl’s husband who teaches Rebecca and her husband how to look out for the differences in how her black child will be treated compared to her white child.
The novel follows the family into the children’s teen years. Along the way, there are changes in family dynamics, friendships, and careers.
An interesting aspect of this novel is that its author is a black man who, along with his his partner, is raising two sons. His perspective into the mind of a woman is uncanny, as is his understanding of the difficulties of child rearing and having a career, experiences undoubtedly based on his reality.
“This Kind of Mother” will have emotional appeal to those seeking to understand how to balance friendship, parenthood, careers and family in spite of obstacles.