My 9-year-old stands with her underwear pulled up to just underneath her little sports bra. She looks like a little Wonder Woman with untidy hair. Her dad has just told her she needs to stop pulling her underwear up to her armpits and instead put a robe or pjs on.
“You don’t get to tell me what to do with my body!” is my daughter’s retort of choice. “Only I get to decide about MY body.”
I’m proud of her, but her standing up for her rights also gives me a familiar twinge of guilt that I didn’t bring my daughter to the Women’s March to rally for those rights. Nor did we go to the recent Moms Demand Action Meeting, or get involved in the rally outside my Congressman’s office. I feel guilt reading about yet another recent shooting — and not bringing my daughter to a protest against gun violence. I feel guilty that the only action I took was writing my representatives.
My life, right now, is a constant tornado of guilt.
Don’t worry; I still have traditional mom guilt too, of course. I have to make sure we have 20 minutes of reading a night, we have math to look over and review, we have to eat supper, there are showers, and there are the random questions about monkeys going to space that take us into endless conversations. I lose my patience after a long day of work doing these “mom duties” that I want to enjoy, but I’m too tired to.
Then, I have the added guilt of a person that deeply cares about the (currently abysmal) status of our country. I no longer believe that someone else will fix it if I don’t take action. I have become more interested in volunteering, and yet as the interest goes up, I watch my stamina go down.
I want to teach my daughter, through experience, the beauty of demonstrations for the sake of democracy, but I have the plague that the children caught from school this week. I’m afraid to get too far away from the bathroom. I want to bring my girls to the Mom’s Demand Action meeting because I believe in what they are doing. I want to show them how powerful organizing and exchanging ideas can be. However, there was a lice scare this week and I am rewashing every stuffed animal, bed sheet and hairbrush this weekend. I want to go to the office of my Representative to show my daughters how we remind them they work for us. The problem is I don’t know when I’m going to get to take the girls to visit my parents again and they really want to see their grandparents. Family matters too. The climate change action taskforce is meeting and I want us to go learn about recycling, but how do I do that when the girls are already overtired and at each other’s throats?
The political guilt sits in my gut. It cuddles up to the mom guilt and they trade barbs about who is failing more. Sometimes I realize that they aren’t mutually exclusive. When I fail to teach civics, I also fail to show them the tools to be an adult. That is the main goal of parenting.
Other times, like now, I see my daughter standing tall with her underwear up to her chin, telling her father that she knows her body belongs to her, and standing proudly. In those brief moments, the guilt subsides and I let myself be proud of the work I’ve done. I see that I haven’t gotten to fight publicly, but I have been teaching lessons in my house. I teach lessons of equality and lessons of confidence. I wish I was doing it at marches and activism rallies, but I’m not able to do it all right now. Forgive me?
For those on the outside, it may appear my days are spent idle. I haven’t made the splash that I want to in fighting what I see as dissolution of decency and the rollback of equality. I have been frustrated with my inability to focus on enough things to make a difference. I feel small and ineffective in a world that keeps dragging out the worst in people. The guilt seeps in. Today,
I finally see something that I hadn’t before. Here in my living room, I see that I’m cultivating the change. Please be patient with me while I build them up to fight the good fight. Maybe I can give myself a break too. I don’t have the endurance to do all that needs to be done, but it doesn’t mean that I am idle.
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