How Cute!
Is He Yours?


How Cute!
Is He Yours?

When Nicole Blades married a white guy, she knew that if they had a kid, that child’s skin color would be lighter than hers.

Nicole & Scott at their wedding

Nicole & Scott at their wedding

Nicole & Scott with their son

Nicole & Scott with their son

What Nicole didn’t count on was people questioning whether their son even belonged to her. In this episode, Nicole talks about what it’s like to repeatedly be mistaken for the nanny. By people of all races.

Plus, find out the perfect quippy comeback that Nicole came up with to battle the “Is he yours?” question—and whether or not it worked.


Read Nicole’s writing on race & motherhood
Nicole has written a lot about what she calls being “nannied” by strangers. Read her articles in the New York Times’s Motherlode blog and xoJane, as well as her own blog Ms. Mary Mack, where she writes about race and motherhood, among a wide range of parenting topics.

What’s YOUR trigger question?
As parents, we all seem to have questions that set off immediate inner rage. What question sets you off, and have you found a comeback that makes you feel better?

Wedding photo: Kathryn Le Soine

53 thoughts on “PODCAST #33: How Cute! Is He Yours?

  1. I have gotten several versions of ‘the question’ but what will really get you boiling is when your child comes to you upset or in tears…because the same obtuse people start asking (or telling!) the child if they are really yours or not, are they foster or adopted.
    This makes me mad on so many levels:
    #1 You are saying ” You don’t look like you belong” That is hurtful to anyone
    #2 You are asking personal questions and of a child !
    #3 What if they are adopted?! You are still saying that they don’t fit in and are not “real” somehow
    What an awful thing to communicate!!
    My son started carrying a discrete but obvious picture of me nursing him as a baby ‚in his pocket as a defense against these surprise attacks..

    1. That is a unique situation for your son to carry a picture of his mum to offset the questions / comments — guessing you might live in a fairly ethnic homogeneous area and you had relations with someone outside your area’s ‘norm’. I understand the BBC has an interesting place in this; with filming under-way in UK for an upcoming series. Best wishes for your family, Dina

  2. The first I heard this, I couldn’t relate myself to her problem (although we are also mix racial couple) because the racial question usually wouldn’t affect me as much. But now when I think Of my trigger question, that is; do you work? When do you start working? I have several reasons to answer that but no time to explain to strangers so I just smile at them. Some people are just ignorant to make a rude comment like; how easy life could be without working. Or else, “oh so you are not working.” Well, As we do not have a nanny or a cleaner, yes, this is my (non paying ) job and gets quite busy. Most of all, I don’t think it is non of their business. But I have no time to waste to explain or make an argument about what they think of “work.” So When a thing happen like this, my response is; yap, I am sooooo lucky to have this job :)))

    On the other hand I was in the shoes of the other side of the story. I met one asian lady with a pale white baby. I didn’t dere to ask her if it is hers but I felt strange because she didn’t look a mixed racial baby at all. It is non my business if she adopted or actually hers, but I put myself distance from her because I felt uncertain. It is sometimes easier to get known each other, when the situation is obvious like how it is. But I understand someone do not want to explain it to everybody.

  3. Hi, my name is Estelle,
    I’m not a mom rather a daughter. My mom is white and my dad is black. The fun fact s that my mother even do she is white she is African from Angola and my that even do he is black he is Canadian. I’m pretty sure both my parents suffer racism for being the color there are and having there nationalities. But that is not the discussion here. When I was little and I was alone with my mom I was often ask if I was adopted and It use to make me very sad when I was little and I never knew how to answer. That never happen when my father was around because they figure I am just like my dad or when my sister is around because she is clearly mixed, I am also somewhere in between there skin color but more like my dad. It used to make me very sad but more importantly my mom, I look a lot like her, I’m like the black version of her, my sister which a love a lot my baby has a lot of my dad features but way lighter skin. But thinking back I was sad because I tough the fact that I was black made impossible for me to be mother child, that doesn’t affect me anymore I used to think what if I was my mother would still love me, even do I don’t it is right to ask a child if he adopted, specially if it’s the case and he doesn’t know yet or he might complexed about. That was a long time back I did not think about it for the longest time yet it not over. My cousin is experiencing the same thing that my mom did, she is also light skin and her daughter is my skin tone and the other day one of her coworkers, who is a black women asked her if she add adopted her daughter, and she called me crying but she looks like me right? My little niece just turned 3 she is so cute she is the spitting image of her mother, they exactly the same little nose I don’t anyone in the planet has that nose. To answer I showed a picture of herself with that age that my mom had and she started laughing. But looking back this summer when I walk with both of them often people thing she is my child even tough I’m 18 years old, it’s easier for them to think that even do we don’t look a like beside our color and our hair type. I just told he love her she is beautiful and the rest doesn’t matter she is beautiful, and if they ask you again answer “What if I did ?”, she smiled and said my daughter is beautiful let’s if your kids will be as beautiful and she showed me her tong. After that it occurred to me that’s what I should have answer “What if I was adopted? My mom loves me and that’s all it is.”

    P.S.: Pardon my English native french and portuguese speaker.

  4. I just finished listening to you on Facebook. Thank you. It was wonderful.

    I was asked, what I think might be an even more offensive question, BY A NURSE! WHILE I WAS STILL IN THE HOSPITAL!

    I, too had an unexpected C-section. Unfortunately, I had complications afterward. This worked to the nurse’s advantage. Otherwise, I would have gone to the head nurse with a complaint. She asked me, “what is your husband?” I am not kidding! Unaware that black babies are often very fair when they are born and for several months after, what she wanted to know was what was my husband’s race. He was very light with green eyes and I am medium light. So, my little newborn daughter looked white and had green eyes. What saved the nurse is that I was in severe pain and under the influence of morphine. She was obviously young and probably new to the OB service. That being said, those things are no excuse for such behavior. I simply told her not to ever ask that question of anyone again and go and ask someone why. Even after all this time, it’s been years, I still get angry when I think about it.

    1. As an OB nurse, I will say — we have to put the child’s race down on the PKU slip. (A mandatory lab test that states require us to do). One of the questions on the form is race, and if we are unsure we have to ask. <3

  5. Nicole, as a black, natural hair mother of a 6 yr old son and almost 2 daughter, I have gotten that question quite a bit. And it ANNOYS me! Especially when my son looks exactly like me, with curly thick black hair . My daughter looks more my husband and has blondish brown hair and that is not as thick much looser curls. But if you see them together, you know that are brother and sister, therefore it’s pretty obvious that I am their mother. I have responded when asked, “Are they yours?” with, “I’m pretty sure they are, nannies don’t work on the weekends.” and the last time I said, “No she’s not mine, I kidnapped her and I’m just wandering around aimlessly on Saturday at the mall with tons of people around to see me and give a good description of me to the cops!” Most of the question comes from black women. I feel like it’s come from black women being told in history in that our beauty is not acceptable, and not “beauty”. I think black women look at me and think, “There is no way she is married to white man, she’s not skinny and her hair is natural, how can that happen? how can a white man fine that attractive ? ” I also feel that white woman share the same sentiment when they ask. But I have to say, your response of “Why do ask?” Is brilliant!!!! And I will definitely be adopting in the past instead of thinking that the question has some kind of ill will behind it. It might open a great discussion or make someone think. Thanks so much for this!! This information is what I call the “Mommie Lottery” moment!

  6. My trigger question has always been, “Where are you from?” Being born and raised in NJ and Brooklyn, it seemed strange that in such a diverse ethnic area that people would be shocked at my “accent” (I had one woman say to me, “You speak English so well!” to which my Chinese-born lab mate said, “Of course she does. She’s from NJ.” Since grade school, I can remember instances of “innocent” comments being made by persons of authority (such as an incident in 6th grade when the school Principal described me as “purebred” when we were discussing my parents’ heritage (both emigrated from China as teens) to which I had no way of responding. Now, as an adult, I recognize the ignorance in these statements, and the desire to label each person and if no such label exists, to find one. I worry for my 2yr old son, who is half Asian, half White (Polish, Irish, French, German… who knows what else). To know the experience I grew up with as one of few Asian kids in a mostly white neighborhood, I wouldn’t subject that on anyone (and I’m sure this applies to many others who grew up in an area that was ethnically dissimilar to their makeup). I will certainly speak up in his defense, when my parents did not (for their own reasons) and have no problem calling anyone out on their racial insensitivities. But unless we can all get on the same page, I am afraid that my son’s childhood will mirror my own. Except he will have a smart-mouthed momma who will teach him to be proud of who he is and reject the ignorance of others.

  7. my trigger question isn’t a question. It’s the assumptive response people give when they hear I have twins — a boy and a girl. That announce “oh, your done”. Not a question in their minds. Well, sorry complete stranger but that isn’t up to you! We may very well be done, it took a lot of help to get the two we have but I wish others wouldn’t proclaim so definitively that my child bearing days are over– because it’s isn’t by choice and is a source of sadness.

  8. Jenna, I am sorry strangers feel the need to dictate your family size to you. of course it is sad when you realize that life has taken choices from you. Hopefully, as your children grow, strangers won’t be so eager to intrude, not that it helps much now. I have found that as my son grows, strangers seem much less anxious to give unwelcome input. Now if the some could be said about extended family and friends’ parents…

  9. I get the “how cute, is he yours” all the time, next time I’m asked I will give the open ended “why do you ask” instead of what I always want to reply with which is “maybe, not sure, I mean he did come out of my…” Which I figure is a bit much for everyone.
    It is a painful question for anyone, but I think 13 full IVF procedures, two surgeries and trying for two years makes it an even more difficult question to face. After all, there is a possibility that something did go wrong at the lab and he’s not mine after all.

  10. I have the exact same experience. I am Native American, black hair, black eyes, tanned skin — and I have a blond blond blond little boy. When I walked around with him I was asked an even more offensive question than “Is he yours?” My question is “are you babysitting him?” or “are you his nanny?” It isnt even as if he could be mine, the assumption, because I look absolutely nothing like him and I am dark, is that I am his nanny.
    Here is where I differ from Nicole.
    I am not offended, nor do I feel bad because I am asked or it is assumed that my son is not mine. I understand it. While I do not dismiss the institutionalized form of racism that is occurring. I get to be part of this change with this question. I get to educate. I have all this opportunity. Rather than getting mad or taking it personally I can turn this into a great experience for myself and those asking me.
    I say something to the effect of — I know its so crazy how genes work in families. He is mine, but you would have never thought it possible that I would have a blond baby with my rally dark genes. Everything thinks dark genes will dominate, but we are walking proof many interesting gene combinations can happen. Life and genes are so interesting. I usually disclose that in my lineage that we have Swedish — so it must be my recessive genes meeting my husband Irish and Scottish genes.
    And then I go on to share how often I am asked (again in a very friendly and open tone) and how interesting it is that I dont even get asked if I adopted him. From a societal standpoint white families adopt brown babies all the time, but brown people dont adopt white babies, hence then trying to figure it out, and asking because they are curious. I prefer to work with that genuine curiosity rather than shut it down. I talk about all of this with them. Most are open and interested in what I have to say. I can see them thinking about it, and then many times people will share a story where they too had some trait somewhere in their family that they dont know where it came from. It becomes a place for me to bond with others and teach them.
    So my approach is very different from Nicole’s. I am not saying it should be anyone else’s. I am just saying that it is mine and it works beautifully for diffusing and educating.

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