Mother Mistaken for the Nanny of Her Mixed-Race Daughter

Filed under: In The News

Nandini D'Souza and her daughter Asha. Credit: Tina Tyrell, Harper's Bazaar

When Indian-American writer Nandini D'Souza found out she was pregnant, she wondered what kind of personality her child would have. She also wondered what her child would look like.

D'Souza, with her dark hair and brown skin, was sure her features would overpower her Irish-German husband Myles' fair skin and hair.

She was wrong.

"The very first thing out of my mouth when my daughter was born was 'Oh, my God, she's beautiful.' The second was 'Oh, my God, she's white'," D'Souza writes in Harper's Bazaar.

While D'Souza didn't have a problem with the way her daughter looked, others weren't as accepting.

When Asha was 2 months old, a stranger came up to D'Souza and asked if the baby was hers. When she said yes, he replied, "No way. She's too white."

The infuriating and humiliating experiences continued. Once, after trying to get her daughter to pay attention in music class, another mother chided her, saying, "Can't you see she's tired? Leave her alone!" The woman's friend whispered, "That's the mother."

"I began to believe that every person who ignored my attempt at conversation must think that I'm the nanny, therefore a snob I don't want my child around," D'Souza writes. "Ironically, the nannies shied away from me too, knowing I was the mom. I started to think that there was something wrong with me and that I was some sort of playground pariah."

Since then, D'Souza has found a group of moms and nannies who don't care what she or her daughter look like.

"More importantly, I've realized this is my baggage, not my daughter's," D'Souza writes. Still, she expects that Asha will get questions about the way she looks.

"For all the Seal-and-Heidi-Klums who are populating the world with gorgeous mixed babies, I know Asha will sometimes have to explain who she is," she continues. "My only hope is that we will arm her with the confidence and self-possession to handle it with grace."

D'Souza hasn't yet had to explain to her daughter what it means to be mixed race, but she's ready with an answer.

"Recently, I had to come up with a clear analogy for my 4-year-old niece on the spot," D'Souza writes. "All I could think of was 'It's the difference between fluffernutter, peanut butter and Nutella. All different flavors, but all tasty'."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.