Peaceful Revolution: Motherhood Awakens 'Naptime Activists'
By Amy Tiemann
Motherhood has become a political wake-up call for Gen X and Y women. Growing up in the 1970's and 80's as part of the "Free to Be You and Me" generation, we were taught that we could do anything and be anything.
The successes of the Second Wave of feminism pushed back the frontiers of inequality and made more room at the top for us. Education and career opportunities opened up. Nonetheless, many of us have found that motherhood is the defining life event that introduces job inequality and financial insecurities of many kinds into our lives. We still lack the basic policies and infrastructure that would support families: guaranteed paid family leave, health care for all children, and quality child care and after school programs, to name the basics. Even women who are able to fill in the gaps on their own recognize the vulnerabilities of family life, and the untenable choices that other families are forced to make. Does a single father risk losing his job to stay home with a sick child? Does a new mother with a premature infant in the hospital use up her limited leave for her own recovery, or wait until her baby comes home to take time off from work?
Women are responding by creating a revitalized motherhood movement. A few years ago it became clear that if this effort was truly going to get off the ground, what was needed was not just another organization, but new tools and strategies to meet the challenge or connecting mothers. The founders of MomsRising.org responded by creating a nexus of netroots activism for moms.
Mothers are the ultimate grassroots. We are everywhere, but between family and work obligations, we can't count on getting free to attend activist meetings. Forget traveling, even scheduling a time when everyone can get on the telephone can be challenging. Part of MomsRising.org's success has been to create a variety of creative actions for "Naptime Activists." We operate as a virtual organization, from the Executive Team to our 130,000 members and 90 aligned organizations. Emails, conference calls, and our website enable us to coordinate actions that reach across the barriers of geography and limited time availability. Parents who can find one free hour a week after work or when the kids are asleep can become meaningfully involved.
Motherhood can feel very isolating on an individual level. MomsRising.org allows us to harness the collective power of mothers, along with our allies, to work on unifying issues. We gather for house parties to watch The Motherhood Manifesto documentary film. We speak out against the blatant job discrimination that many working mothers face. We move beyond the so-called "Mommy Wars," knowing that any mother's plans could flip in an instant by an unforeseen necessity, and also understanding the reality that families with a stay-at-home parent are seven times more likely to live in poverty than two-income families.
We contact our leaders and hold them accountable. A recent action on After-School Programs resulted in 40,000 letters sent to Congress, with two hearings scheduled. Our Fair Pay Act outreach motivated members to hold meetings with their Senators in 44 states. We are creating strategies to register mothers to vote, and turn them out to the polls in November. Our best ideas come from our membership. Our "Power of Onesies" (www.momsrising.org/powerofonesie) display of baby clothes decorated with family leave slogans has graced state capitols from coast to coast, as well as Washington, D. C.
We are finding our voices, working together, and leaning how to make ourselves heard. I am proud to be part of a generation that is empowered by feminism, politicized by motherhood, and connected by MomsRising.
Note: This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post.
Amy Tiemann, Ph. D. is the author of "Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family" and the creator of MojoMom.com. She is on the Executive Board of MomsRising.org.
MomsRising.org is an organization working to build a truly family-friendly nation. Started in May, 2006, MomsRising uses the power of online organizing in coordination with grassroots activities and media outreach to educate the public about problems facing American families and to propose common sense solutions. MomsRising.org provides citizens with an opportunity to amplify their voices and to take their concerns to leaders who are in positions to implement real changes.
Find us and join us at MomsRising.org.