May I Suggest: Watch Through The Night

In the documentary Through The Night, we follow three working mothers and a 24-hour child-care provider. A question of “Who Cares For The Caregiver?” is threaded throughout. It becomes so very present in little and large shifting pieces that crystalize in an ending you can’t shake. My own connection to the film wasn’t just because of my life as a working mother who has relied on group daycare and more recently, a sitter to help me with the kids. It wasn’t only that as a child, my own mother relied on a cast of caregivers that reached neighbors, aunts, friends and even my eldest brother, to help her keep her own full-time job. It was the combination of all of these things within the essence of this particular time of our lives.

Through The Night airs on PBS this evening, and may I suggest you spend some time with it. Here’s what filmmaker Loira Limbal has to say about the film…

On her inspiration for the film:

My mother, my neighborhood, and my own children are constant sources of inspiration. There is so much beauty and complexity in my community and I have a deep desire to make work that reflects that back to the world. I also drew a lot of inspiration from Kathleen Collins, Toni Morrison, and Carrie Mae Weems. In some ways, their work gave me permission to make a subtle film about love and the interior lives of women of color. While the film touches on a lot of social issues, it is ultimately a story about love between mothers, caregivers, and children.

I was inspired by the stories of our protagonists, my mother’s story, and my own. And while I want to shine a light on the many systemic problems in our society, I was ultimately most inspired by the abundance of love and interdependence among the women, children, and families in our film and our communities.

On how the film came about: 

One day I was browsing through an online mothers’ group that I am a part of and I came across an article about the daycare at the heart of our film. I quickly became obsessed with the idea of making a documentary about the community described in the article because what I read was so similar to my own experience, my mother’s and that of so many other working class Black and Latinx women that I know.

When I was nine years old, my sister Glomery was born. Shortly after her birth, my mother had to return to work to support us. She was a single mom. Babysitters would cancel. Family would flake. My mother was a home health aide. She didn’t have paid time off and she could not call out sick last minute. And so she was often forced to make the impossible decision of leaving me her 9 year old home alone to take care of my infant sister. While that may sound shocking, you should know that my mother was devoted, hard-working, and above all incredibly loving. She was a great mother. She just didn’t have many options.

Thirty years later, support still remains very limited for working mothers across the country. And if you happen to be a working class woman of color, this country still forces you to make impossible decisions on a daily basis. The cost of daycare for a 3 year old rivals the cost of rent in most US cities. But childcare providers themselves are often struggling in a mountain of expensive government bureaucracy and minimum wages. At a time when many people in the U.S. have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and have a shrinking safety net, women of color are disproportionately impacted by our current way of life.

THROUGH THE NIGHT is a love letter to single mothers and caregivers. I was raised by an amazing cast of Black and Latinx women who performed miraculous acts of resilience, creativity, and subversion on a daily basis. Unfortunately, when I look around at our popular culture these women are rarely seen and when they do appear, they are represented in reductive ways that often amount to caricatures. My vision as a filmmaker is to flood our popular culture with beautifully complex portrayals of the lives of working class women of color so that we have new gazes and new ways of seeing ourselves.

We have an opportunity to strengthen our communities by lifting up the stories of the women who do the work that makes all other work possible: the people who care for our children, our sick, and our elderly.

On the importance message of the film:

More and more people in the U.S. now work one and a quarter jobs. Many of those jobs require nonstandard hours including late-night and early-morning shifts. The national debate about the challenges facing working class people in this country is still dominated by the narratives of white men working in industries such as coal mining and manufacturing. While those stories are no doubt important, the conversation is woefully incomplete because women are already nearly half of the U.S. workforce.

In nearly half the country, it costs more to send a 3 year old to daycare than it does to send an 18 year old to a state college. Not only is childcare expensive, but for Americans working multiple jobs or irregular hours, it can be difficult to find care at all. This spurs a set of impossible decisions that parents, and single mothers in particular, must make every day.

The irony is that while child-care is unaffordable for most, providers themselves can barely make ends meet. The overwhelming majority of home based child-care providers are women of color and immigrants whose income is far less than the median in other lines of work. As one interviewee told me, “there have never been decent jobs in this sector because it’s women’s work. It’s caretaking work. Our society doesn’t value that as a whole.”

Through the Night will add complexity to the national conversation about issues that affect working class families and the working poor by centering the experiences of women and children of color. I want women of color to feel seen and affirmed.

On the featured caregivers:

After reading the article about the daycare center, I reached out to someone involved with creating the piece. I asked them to make an introduction to the daycare owners but they declined to do the intro. They stated that the people profiled in the article had been very hesitant and they didn’t think they would be open to the idea of a documentary film. I accepted their response. I took their no for an answer and sat on the idea for two years before I worked up the courage to cold call the daycare center. I finally did and at our first meeting, Deloris agreed to participate and told me time and time again how comfortable she felt with me and that even though we had just met, she felt like she knew me. She said “I know you get it and I want to make this film with you.”

Patrick and Deloris’ story started like many other home based childcare providers. They filled a need in the community and decided to turn it into a business. Deloris often refers to Patrick as her “right hand.” While I believe their support for each other has helped their 24 hour business thrive and their love for each other is felt in how they care for the children in their daycare, they are also working harder and longer hours than anyone should. They talk about the sacrifices they made with their own family, their health, and their savings to keep the business open. Many people would call them heroes but that diminishes their lifelong work. This is why I wanted to make Through the Night, to show working women of color as full human beings with triumphs, struggles, and complexity.

Thank you Loira for letting me watch this stunning piece of art and truth. You can watch Through The night, at 10 p.m. EST on PBS this evening!

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