This past December my daughter went to 4 days total at her preschool. She missed most of the month due to a combination of sickness, snow, sickness, and school holidays.
I’m 90% a stay-at-home mom, so you would think that I can just roll with it, but with a newborn at home, I was counting on those breaks.
Having been a teacher and knowing how hard the work is, I don’t regret paying for school for a month when my daughter barely attended. Her teacher deserves every penny of it. Yet, it roughly worked out to us paying $100/day attended for preschool this month.
Now, I don’t blame the school, or the weather, or even poor handwashing and kids who sneeze on everything and spread germs everywhere. No, what I’m frustrated by is society.
I know the working moms (as in work-outside-of-the-home moms, cause lord knows we are ALL working moms) have to be super scrappy to make it work during winter time in the south, because there are so many things working against you actually getting any work done. #Iblamesociety
What’s the bigger picture?
And so when people tell me that they don’t want to learn about politics or follow it at all, I want to ask, “Do you have children? Are you a human being who cares about sanity?” Because there are two big problems going on here: 1. we’ve got a society that is built to serve workers, not families AND 2. we value work and busyness and productivity more than we value cultivating a life.
Now a lot of people will say that they value family, more than work and that they are working to provide a better life for their families. And I totally believe them, but if you look at how society values the family, those placing family first are often making up for the lack of compensation by having to be extra resourceful on their own time.
The reason politics matters is because at the most basic level, politics is about power. And the women I know who are trying to juggle work, getting kids to school, doctor’s appointments, caring for older parents, going for a run occasionally, aren’t in the power positions to make an impact and do anything for anyone beyond our small circle of friends.
Politics matters, but so does having the time to engage in change
We don’t have time to make societal change because we’re too busy raising our families, making a living, and squeezing in bookclub or a Netflix marathon every so often. But if we don’t make time for trying to impact society, we’ll keep going down the path we’re on. Which leads us to the shitty situation we’re in where most women I know are fed up with feeling defeated not having time to do much about climate change, white supremacy, low minimum wages, homelessness, the lack of paid maternity leave in our country, saving for retirement, etc, etc.
A lot of folks are really looking forward to see what Congress does these next few years, because we have never had the number of women in office before. Obviously men could have made political choices that valued family before, but they’ve been in office for quite a while and I don’t see Congressmen getting out of their armchairs for anything beyond a beer and token diaper change anytime soon. (I’m sure some of the men in Congress are very involved fathers/grandfathers, but politically they sure as hell aren’t acting like it.)
Now don’t leave because maybe you’re starting to feel depressed about what I’m talking about. Read on, dear lovely, because I do have hope. And I want to give you hope too. So I’m going to suggest some actions and mind-shifts we can take together.
I’m not going to give you some productivity hack to free up 30 minutes a day so that you can attend your next local protest. I wish I knew enough about your life to tell you the thing that will give you 30-60 minutes more a day. (Email me and let me know what you wish you had more time for).
What do we do?
Here’s what is going to be our solution- its not a quick fix, but its a good one.
We are each going to pick one cause (two if you are really ambitious and actually have some free time to give). One big cause that you care about. Maybe its climate change or its the wage gap, maybe its gun laws or affordable housing, maybe you can’t stop thinking about rights for all genders and sexual orientations. Pick just ONE thing and tell yourself that you are going to release your attention and knowledge of the other issues. Don’t worry, you’re not going to forget about everything forever, just for the next little while.
The reason that you can relax and just focus on one thing is this- we are not going to do this by ourselves.
I must note, that if you are a single mom, in a very strapped financial situation, or a marginalized person in society, you may not have one extra iota of anything to give. If you are in that situation, my only request is that you care for and love yourself. The rest of us have a job to step up and help and now is your time to focus on you and your kids. Take care of you, mama!
Our community is going to pick up the slack. “But what if they don’t?” you might be wondering. Yeah, I wonder that too. But I have concluded this: If they don’t pick up the slack, then it didn’t really matter enough to the world at large to address this issue.
Yeah, it sucks that maybe the earth is going to be polluted beyond the ability that we can safely live here. That bothers the hell out of me- but I am also practicing a Buddhist non-attachment attitude about it all. I am one person. Yes, I can do a lot, but I can’t do it all, and I can’t do it alone.
I stay motivated, knowing that even little changes and small efforts matter. I re-engage in topics because I believe in a better world.
None of us can do this alone. We have to connect together to experiment and test out new solutions.
But if you are raising a family and/or caretaking for other people, you cannot give everything you have to a cause. Its not only physically unrealistic, its detrimental for you over the long run.
If I burn myself out trying to change something or fight for a cause, but neglect my health or my family or my ability to support myself, well, I’m not really making good, sustainable forward progress, now am I?
This is the problem of our times.
But I bet you’re thinking, Rachel, come on, changing things is not going to fix my problems. Its not going to fix the fact that whenever school has an early release day I have to either take off work, pay a sitter, or some other logistical money-suck.
Yes, I hear you, but think about this. You know that Prime minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern who went back to work on like one week postpartum, wearing her baby and breastfeeding between meetings and addressing the parliament? Or Supreme Court Justice Ruby Bader Ginsburg (RBG) who went back to work in her home office 1 days after she broke 3 ribs? Do you think that even while we admire them, they are the exception, not the rule?
I repeat, these ladies are amazing and while I think that you are amazing too, these ladies are the exception to the rule. I don’t personally look at them and think, “Wow, I want to do that!”
I’m not them and there’s no way in hell I want to bring my kid to work or show up to do good work with 3 broken ribs. No, if my ribs are broken I’m staying at home nursing my injuries and binge-watching my fav YouTubers and pinning away craft projects.
We can be proud of these women and not want to be them.
We admire these women and I am so proud that they are being who they want to be. But the rest of us, we are just not built like that. We want a world that will accommodate us a little better, not a world that demands that we cart our bleeding, relaxin-packed postpartum ass back to work in order to keep a roof over our heads.
We want a world that accommodates moms a little better, not a world that demands that we cart our bleeding, relaxin-packed postpartum ass back to work to keep a roof over our heads.
We don’t want to have to show up to work on painkillers with internal injuries because no one else is going to get shit done if we’re not there. Do we? We can admire RBG and still think, what if we had a world where she’s allowed to relax and heal from her injuries and the rest of us were handling things.
Who wants to live in a world where nothing happens if we don’t get the shit done? Where all the responsibilities are on your shoulders?
No, we aren’t RBG or Prime Minister Ardern, but we still feel that same hardcore drive to make sure shit gets done. And I say its time we stop trying to get so much shit done and start letting other people help us do it!
We know so much, but we are still the same small individuals. We have so much impact- but when we aren’t making an impact we feel guilty about having all this privilege and all this technology at our fingertips and the only thing we used it for today was to order new socks online.
Climate change & the environment is my big cause (with eradicating racism/white supremacy other big cause). Do you think it doesn’t bother me knowing that I can only do so much and if I don’t do more, the literal fate of the world hangs in the balance? Yup.
You think it doesn’t occur to me everytime I don’t attend a protest or don’t call my senator about an issue about racist policy, that I might be one step closer to being complacent? Yes, it bothers me.
But I don’t focus on the worry or the whatif or the fear. I focus on what is one small step I can take this week to move the cause forward. What is one thing I can do consistently?
We need the whole society, the whole community to get behind these causes. But similar to my theories on building a good life and more happiness, most of us don’t have the freedom, cash, or lifestyle where we can drop everything and go fight for a cause (or lounge on the beach in Hawaii). We’ve got bills, people who rely on us, and a whole life we’ve built around us that doesn’t leave a lot of time for protest marches, calls to senators, etc.
So what do we do while we’re in the throes of raising families, building careers, and maintaining a small semblance of our own personal lives?
How to stay engaged?
How do we stay engaged without being pulled in 30 new directions every time we hear a new cause? How do we make a difference when just planning a night out with friends takes at least 20 texts with 3 alternate dates, deciding on a venue, an hour to prep everything for the kids, and trying to get out the door on time in 15 minutes to find a nice top for going out that still fits, isn’t for work, and doesn’t smell?
1: Involve Your Family & Friends, if possible
You pick your own cause and find a way- if you can- for your family to be involved in it somehow. For one of my friends, she takes her kid to the women’s marches and climate marches. I’m more into education than marches (more about that in a min), so I talk to my husband and my kids about the environment- a lot! I engage with my kid and talk about social justice issues.
Another friend of mine makes packages to hand out to the homeless at road intersections like this family and goes with her kids to volunteer at the food bank.
2: Make your money support your values.
I make monthly donations to your favorite organizations. I have several nonprofits set up to get automatic monthly donations from me and I am committed to donate a percent of all my profits from writing, coaching, and speaking to my favorite groups. Below are two impactful organizations.
In addition to donating money, I recognize that buying power is connected to autonomy and equity as well. I follow and support the Fight for $15 movement and movements to raise the minimum wage. When mass amounts of people are living in poverty, they struggle and all of society struggles too.
Some political leaders try to get us to hate the poor, but I cannot hate my fellow human being. Redirecting hatred to the poor, when GE and Amazon made billions of dollars, but paid no taxes, seems rather like confused thinking to me. I stopped supporting Amazon when I found that they would not pull their ads from white supremacist propaganda websites. You may not feel ready to make that choice, but I encourage you to reflect upon who you are really supporting with your hard-earned money and is it worth it?
Reflect and consider how and where you spend your money.
3: You can use your unique talents & skills to contribute your way.
Recognize that social, political, environmental change all happen by the efforts of all different types of people with all different skills. I mentioned earlier that I’m not a protester, but I am certainly a big educator. Because I don’t attend protests or marches, I make sure that I am engaging with change via education and communication. This image below will give you some good ideas. I also very strongly believe that art-making (whether it be visual, musical, cinematic, etc) is an incredibly powerful too for social change.)
Poets can have such an impact on society. One of my favorite poets, Sparrow, first published some of his work in the Sun Magazine in 2003 with the title Yes, You are a Revolutionary. It is now a small, powerful book you can purchase. To give you an idea of his reverent style, this book also includes “Dinosaur Haiku.”
4: Follow & Listen to those who have more time & knowledge on the issue
Find a friend, peer, colleague who isn’t in the same stage of life as you- a younger friend with no kids, older friend with an empty nest, same age and choosing to be childless, or someone online. Have that friend to be your political action buddy. Stay connected to this friend and listen to what they are involved in. Ask them for info, actions to take, etc.
5: Make consistent daily or weekly actions.
Consistent action might look like lifestyle changes- for example I am always looking for more ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, etc to care for the environment. Daily actions add up to big impacts over time. Sign up for one of these small daily or weekly action newsletters- do what you can and be ok with that. Two examples of these are Americans of Conscience Checklist or 5 Calls.
I definitely believe that I could have included more than 5 tips, but if you’re already scrapped for time, then you probably don’t need more ideas. If, however, you believe that there is something critical that I missed that I should include, then please contact me and let me know. I am always interested in furthering my education.
Share with someone who would appreciate this. I appreciate you and whatever action- or non-action- you are able to take right now.
Lots of love,