Why political action is my New Year's parenting resolution
Before I was a mom, I worked for three years as a grassroots organizer in abortion rights advocacy. I regularly put in 10- to 12-hour days running phone banks, gathering petition signatures and lobbying state legislators. The state where I live, Kansas, is one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to abortion access, and working to expand that access was often met with hostility. Despite its challenges, I loved the work, and I continued it throughout my pregnancy — even as I was regularly called a murderer and told I didn’t value life.
Once my son was born, I planned to bring him with me to protests and rallies, but after a rough newborn stage with constant crying, little sleep and a bout of postpartum depression, I’ve spent much of the past year just trying to adjust. The early days of motherhood felt so long, and the task of caring for a newborn were so overwhelming that I slipped into a numbness I’ve never felt before. While I typically would be involved in a political campaign during an election year, instead I rarely left my house, spending day after day on the couch with little energy or interest in doing much else than feeding my baby.
With the right support and treatment, I’m feeling like myself again, and with that comes the familiar tug to address injustice.
Showing up for issues I care about is especially urgent now, given the current political landscape. With the election of Donald Trump as our next president, I believe we're at a turning point as a country. We must decide if we will succumb to hate and fear or rise up in spite of it. I feel an even greater responsibility now to help create a world in which my son can thrive and to also serve as an example for him.
This is why resisting president-elect Trump’s agenda is my one parenting resolution for 2017.
The Trump administration poses a real threat to people of color, immigrants, women and those in the LGBTQ community. Trump’s cabinet picks so far also give reason to be concerned about labor conditions and economic security for the majority of American workers. The ability to turn away from the horror of a Trump presidency is one cloaked in privilege, and as a white woman who does not experience racism, I could choose to ignore it. But that’s exactly what got us into this mess. Given that the majority of white women voted for Trump, and that I am raising a white child, I know that my work, personally, stretches far and beyond just voting every two to four years.
My time is more limited now with a little one, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a stand. Here are some of the ways I plan to take action in 2017.
Engage in conversation
I’ve often been told to quiet down when I try to discuss political issues, especially in mom circles where the topic is deemed too controversial. But I disagree. Political issues are parenting issues. If parents can discuss poop and vomit, sleep training and breastfeeding, then we can certainly find a way to engage in respectful discourse about important social issues.
Everything that matters to our families — from the air we breathe to the food we consume to the quality of our children’s schools — is political. And not only is it important to teach our kids about civic engagement, but it's also important to show them how to talk about these issues, especially with people with whom we may not agree. This year, when I encounter another parent who may think differently than I do, I’m going to practice listening and empathizing and hopefully gain a greater understanding of where someone else is coming from and how we can find common ground.
Additionally, for parents looking to start political conversations with their children, there are lots of great children’s books that can help. A dear friend gifted us with the book A Is For Activist when I was pregnant. Although my son is still quite young, I’ve enjoyed reading it to him and look forward to discussing it more as he gets older.
Become more involved in local groups
Getting involved locally is one of the best (and in my experience most fulfilling) ways to take action. Many national groups, such as Showing Up For Racial Justice, have local chapters and allow members to bring children along to meetings. These groups provide education and community, as well as plan local events and actions, and with meetings once a month, I’m able to participate without sacrificing my other needs and obligations.
Make my voice heard
While posting on social media or firing off an email is better than doing nothing, phone calls are still one of the most effective ways to get the attention of members of Congress. Calling a politician’s office can be intimidating, but it helps to remember that they work for us. With many helpful scripts and guidance online, there’s really no excuse for not picking up the phone.
This year when something political upsets me, instead of just taking to Facebook or discussing with like-minded friends, I will first call my representatives’ offices, both in D.C. and locally, and encourage my network to do the same.
Put my money where my mouth is
I may not always have the means to contribute as much as I would like, but I am often able to contribute something. This year, I plan to ask friends and family to donate to an organization I care about in lieu of a birthday gift. As my son gets older, I’d love to make it a family tradition that we choose an organization to give to as a birthday gift.
There are many loving ways I hope to parent and many values I seek to instill in my son, but above all, I want him to have the courage, knowledge and tools to stand up for what is right. His ability to do that starts with me.