“So now we can’t eat mac and cheese. Is there anything we can feed our kids?!” That was the cry heard across the land from moms and dads who read the Scary Mommy or New York Times articles on phthalates in mac and cheese. Both of the articles are based on a report put out by a coalition of environmental groups concerned about toxic chemicals in processed food. (If you want to be super data-geeky, here’s the actual data.)
“Going to the movies” read the text from my husband. I shook my head. He had told me earlier that he was planning to go to the movies, but it still annoyed me. Logically, he had every right to go. He had led one of our preschool’s clean-up days all morning, the kids and I were out, and he spends a ton of time with them as a stay-at-home dad. And yet, it still felt wrong. Whereas I and many other women would have used the free afternoon to tackle their to-do lists, his first (and probably only) thought was re-watching a movie he had already seen. In the world of 28 million blog posts about why moms should be taking “me time,” he was living the dream.
“You’re not going to bring the kids to homeless shelters are you?” asked my husband, several years before we had kids. “Probably. We need to teach them how to help people.” He most likely rolled his eyes. But now after being married to me for a decade and living in the Age of Trump, he understands. Which is why all four of us were out in the sweaty heat this past Saturday walking in the Washington D.C. People’s Climate March.
Privilege is a word tossed around a lot these days, often in the phrase “Check your…” But even though the words are new, the idea is something I’ve known about for a long time. My mom emphasized how I was lucky to have what I had. Sure, my parents and I worked hard, but what we had wasn’t through hard work alone. I hope to pass that knowledge onto my kids.
Knowing how damn lucky and I my kids are motivates so much of my activism. I got the chance to write about it for Mamalode recently, in a piece called My Privilege Protects Me and My Sons From So Much – This is the Least I Can Do.
Here’s the first two paragraphs:
“President Obama, I know you have two daughters. I know you love them. But I want you to know that I don’t know if I’ll have kids. That’s because I don’t know if they’ll have clean water to drink,” said Eryn Wise, a 26-year-old organizer of the movement against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. As she stared out at the crowd gathered in front of the White House, I gasped just a little. Of course, I know this is a calculation women make every day – whether the world they would bring their child into is good enough. And too often, that answer is no. But to hear a young woman say it in person made me breathe in just a little more sharply.
That’s because it’s a question I’ve never had to face.
Standing on the National Mall in the February cold, I stomped my feet and tried to ignore how sore my lower back felt. Watching the stage, I strained to listen to the speakers, from Silicon Valley billionaires to Native American activists. I was at one of the biggest climate change protests ever, focused on defeating the Keystone XL oil pipeline. While it attracted 12,000 people, it’s unlikely that many were in the same situation as I was: five months pregnant.
Despite the cold and a serious lack of bathrooms, I marched in hopes of shifting the tide against climate change. Now, with the election of Donald Trump for president and the Republican domination of Congress, I find it more important than ever before to be an activist mom.
The election of Donald Trump for president has unearthed a whole spectrum of reactions. While some people are triumphant, many of us are frustrated, sad, angry, and exhausted – including me. Trump’s future policies are likely to be disastrous for climate justice, immigrants, people of color, LBGT people, religious minorities, poor people, and disabled people. Even though Trump hasn’t taken office yet, there have been numerous reports of people emboldened by his rhetoric who are targeting and harassing vulnerable people.
But as Valarie Kaur wrote after the Charleston shooting, “Today we mourn, tomorrow we organize.” Now, it’s metaphorically, if not literally, tomorrow. It’s time to pick ourselves up and take action.
While it can be very hard to find time, energy and money to spare as a parent, here are some constructive things that we can do in response:
To my children,
I’m sorry. That’s really the core of what I have to say right now. I’m so, so sorry.
I’m sorry that I was crying as we snuggled in bed this morning. Sprout, when you asked me what was wrong, I said, “The really mean person was elected leader of the country.” I almost choked saying the words. They just seemed so wrong. I’m sorry that I may be crying when I put you to bed tonight.
I’m sorry that our country elected a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic bully to lead it. That this is the sort of leadership the people of the United States of America actually want to have. That someone who stands for everything that I’m trying to teach you to stand against is going to be the most powerful person in the world. That we can’t hold our future president to higher standards than I hold you.