We often ask ourselves, as women and mothers, what we can do to improve society. Those of us with young children rightly feel overwhelmed by the prospect of any more responsibilities beyond our everyday struggles. For those of us with older children, however, the timing could be right for making our voices heard outside or our own homes. And, while social action is important, what we really need is more consciousness.
There is now a vast array of networks and organizations working to increase awareness for families and to influence social change. These voices of mothers are varied and distinct—we have many leaders. Here are some ideas for finding and expressing your own voice as a mother.
- See your mothering as a political act. The way you talk to your child becomes his or her inner voice. The way you model acceptance of your own body becomes the way your daughter learns to accept hers. The way you model the distribution of chores in the household provides a blueprint for your children’s marriages. Bringing consciousness and awareness to the small acts of your life with your family can change the world. Your mothering is enough.
- If you feel you have time for more and want to get support for yourself as a mother, have conversations with other mothers. Talk on the phone. Get together informally. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting perspective on your own life by sharing common concerns with other mothers.
- You may want to formalize your conversations with other mothers by joining or starting a group for mothers in your area. When I was a young mom, I found a family of support in my La Leche League (LLL) group. Today, in addition to LLL, there are mothers’ groups through the National Association of Mothers’ Centers (NAMC), the Holistic Moms Network, MOCHA Moms, and Attachment Parenting International.
- Some mothers’ groups have started brick and mortar centers in their towns that sell retail products and provide classes and other services to parents. Turning your group into a mothers’ center with a physical location can be challenging, but may be attractive to moms with entrepreneurial spirit or business expertise.
- Write letters to the editor. This may sound simple, but it is a great way to bring important issues to the attention of your community. The practice of writing letters improves your ability to make an argument and to articulate your thoughts on an important issue. It is also something you can do with a baby. I started as a writer when I was a new mom by writing letters to the editor of our local paper.
- Get involved in advocacy groups that support your favorite causes. Go to the meetings of political parties in your area. Find out how things happen, how bills are passed, what groups have influence. Bring your school-age children to visit your state legislature.
- Educate yourself about the political process. Visit your state and US representatives at their office in your town and develop a relationship with one of their staffers. Think about an issue of importance to you, an issue that impacts your family and families like yours. Educate yourself about the issue and ask for your representative’s help in working on it.
- Run for office. This is something you may not want to think about until your kids are older, but it may be the perfect thing to do then. With all of your experience as a manager at home, you are quite qualified for the multi-tasking of legislative work.
- Most importantly, strike a balance between shoring up your own family life and contributing to society as a whole
BUILDING A MORE JUST SOCIETY
As mothers, we hope that our children are protected by society and feel compelled to act when they are not. We have authoritative knowledge about our own experience—an experience we have in common with millions of women—and can build a more just society on the ground of this common experience.
Our common experience as mothers, however, does not guarantee that we will agree on everything. This doesn’t have to matter. We may have differences of opinion about abortion, for example, but may agree that all children should have access to healthcare. We may disagree about gun ownership, for example, but agree that special interests should not dominate politics. And, while we may be of different faiths and spiritual practices, we would certainly agree that all families in the US should have adequate shelter and enough to eat. The values of a just society do not belong to any one religion or political party.
I hope that as women as mothers, we have the courage and equanimity to give one another reciprocal liberty, and mutual accommodation. Can we overlook our differences and focus, instead, on our common ground? We are strong in our diversity and successful when we forge unexpected alliances. Society needs our voices: the voices of compassion, empathy, and mediation.
It is time for women to save the world. Mothers’ common experiences of making ends meet, seeing all sides of the story and cultivating optimism can help us all right now.
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011 and founded Mothering.com in 1995. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.