By Jess Procter
In the first year of motherhood there is a LOT to get used to, and it can take some time to find a new groove. At first, you must master the new schedule. This means that there is no schedule and the world now revolves around the new baby’s basic needs. For a time it feels like you’re living in another dimension where you stay up even when the whole world is sleeping. At any time you might witness the most magical moment of your whole life or a few hours of abject horror. You sleep in the afternoon and eat breakfast at midnight. The clock will no longer hold any meaning and for a time your new family unit will exist only for each other.
But the first few months inevitably pass and the baby gets their nights and days sorted out and everyone finds a semblance of routine. After emerging from that hazy, housebound world the survival instinct that has roiled like a stormy sea inside you lessens a little and you find that your family now has a new and natural dynamic. Your baby becomes fun and interactive and your days become a little easier. You might even score a full night’s sleep somewhere between the teething and the sleep regressions. But at some point you may find yourself wondering “wtf happened to the last year?” or “do I just live in the suburbs now?” or “who even am I anymore!?” because what is motherhood if not for a constantly churning cesspool of identity crisis. JK.
Motherhood makes us soft. When my daughter turns her goofy jack-o-lantern smile in my direction my mood brightens. When she bumps that big, precious head on something I scoop her up into my arms and smother her in so many kisses that she comes up gasping for air. I’ve heard so many parents say that all they want is for their children to be happy and I can confirm that that’s the simple truth. When they are young we humiliate ourselves just to coax out a laugh. We sacrifice whatever they ask of us. Whatever they need, we give without pause.
But for every yin there’s a yang, and the softness that I feel toward my daughter is counterbalanced by a new ferocity I feel towards the outside world, a protective and animalistic knowledge that I would lunge for your throat like a mountain cat if you moved to harm my child. As a fall 2016 baby, the first year of her life has been full of deeply unsettling news stories – racism, refugee crises, natural disasters, genocide, shootings, and sexual assault allegations. It’s not like these things weren’t an issue before 2017, but I think we can all agree that this year has been an especially troubling kind of political quagmire that has left many of us wondering where we’re headed and what we can do about it.
A Call to Arms
“What can we do” is the question that all of this global tension and inward intensity keep bringing me back to. With limited time and resources and a baby on one hip, can we change the world? Our community? The conversation? Mother Theresa famously said “if you want to change the world, go home and love your family,” but I’m just not sure that’s gonna cut it in the current climate. Sure, there are times on the journey of parenthood when accomplishing even that simple love seems kinda difficult, but there are also times when our energy and love compel us to do so much more. I think we owe it to ourselves and to the generation that we’re raising to heed that calling.
If we want to change the world we should start by loving our family, but we also have to vote. We have to give a shit. We have to take part in the conversation. We have to show our children how important it is to be active in our community and the dangers indifference can lead to. We have to raise the resistance we want to see in the world.
Here are some ways that I think even the busiest parents can make small efforts toward big differences, and please add new ideas to the comments if you feel compelled to participate!
- Get informed by reading unbiased news stories from reputable sources. Listen to the stories of those who are living different experiences than yours.
- Get involved by attending events that highlight local and global issues to keep the whole fam woke, like the recent anti-racism protest at City Hall or the Annual Women’s Memorial March held every year on Valentine’s Day since 1992. Check out LL’s latest Resistance Roundup to see what’s goin’ on out there.
- Do your research when you choose who to vote for. A healthy democracy relies on individuals who have an understanding of the issues and (ideally) the chance to choose from many qualified, agreeable candidates. Like I said, that’s ideal.
- Loving yourself is, sadly, kind of a radical and political act these days, and one that can have a revolutionary impact in the lives of the children we’re raising. So can we quit defining our own worth by how other people view us already? Love your damn self.
- Support women and respect their right to make their own decisions, even if you disagree. Whether a woman decides to have children or not, decides to breastfeed or not, decides to be a vegan or not, just be respectful. It’s hard enough being a woman or a mama in this world, so be the type who says a kind word or don’t say anything at all.
- Believe women when they find the bravery to speak about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. When you tell someone that you hear them you give power to their testimony and you become a much-needed ally in their struggle.
- Raise your babies to be bold, empathetic and inclusive. Show how important those things are by leading with your own example; kiddos don’t do as they’re told, after all, they do what they see us doing. Raising feminist girls is crucial to the empowerment of the next generation of women and raising feminist boys is perhaps even more so.
I know I said earlier that happiness is all I want for my child, but happiness is no longer good enough. I want my daughter to thrive. I want her to know her rights and to defend them fiercely. I want her to recognize her own privilege and defend others fiercely. I want her to grow up in the future that we keep saying is female, in a future where she doesn’t have to put up with all of this 2017 bullshit, a future where men and women aren’t afraid of each other and are able to build each other up. So let’s all agree to make like Mother Theresa and go home and love our family… and raise them to raise some hell.
Jess is a wife and mama livin’ by the river. She likes going to the library and makes the best peanut butter cookies you’ll ever eat.