As the world struggles with the pandemic and increasing political division, it is more apparent than ever that government policies – local and global – greatly affect the fates of our families. Many moms have awakened to this reality and are trying to be strong advocates. Yet many don’t know what to do beyond protesting in the streets to get the attention of decision makers. They get frustrated to the point of throwing up their hands and saying, “Why even bother?”
I encourage every mother to engage in the next steps of reaching out personally to elected officials, because we have the motivation and skills to change hearts and minds! For over a decade, I’ve coached everyday folks to meet with members of U.S. Congress. I continually see the characteristics that mothers have that make us powerful advocates.
Here are five reasons that you should tell your government what’s on your mind:
#1 Moms are powerful
Have you ever been reduced to a weeping heap after watching a news story or a movie about children in distress? In those moments, many of us think, “I wish I weren’t so fragile.” Yet those maternal moments of vulnerability are precisely what give you special strength to speak out for those who needlessly suffer. As mothers, we often find ourselves momentarily consumed by crushing empathy when we encounter stories of parents who can’t give their children what they need. But this emotional response isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, this ability to internalize another person’s story gives you great power because caring and empathy are contagious.
Your passion can incite a riot of emotion and resolve in your hearers even if—especially if—your voice cracks when you retell it. If your audience is a senator, a congressional aide, or anyone in the path of power, you are in a position to create change. Your emotional retelling is more likely to inspire action than a dry recitation of facts and figures.
Your vulnerability can be your strength. And the ability to turn your emotion into positive, constructive action can be your superpower. When you learn to combine your emotions with information and clear requests, you become dangerous to the status quo. You threaten systems that keep families stuck in cycles of suffering. And that is a very, very good thing.
#2 Moms explain things
If you can sit on the floor and explain a concept to second graders, then you’re speaking plainly enough to be understood by a member of Congress. That may sound like a joke, but I’m quite serious. Explaining concepts to kids means boiling your message down to its most basic parts and delivering it in an engaging way. Even though U.S. representatives might sit in high-level briefings all day, that doesn’t mean they relish listening to someone reel off a bunch of statistics out of context. Children love to hear clear explanations accompanied by stories, and so do adults! Never forget that they’re as human as anyone else.
#3 Moms are persistent advocates
It would be nice if governments were so efficient that a single conversation could convince a policymaker to support your request. In reality, it usually takes time, patience, and more reminders than you give your children to get their laundry off the floor.
Unfortunately, no matter how urgent you feel your issue is, there will always be hundreds of other matters clamoring for a congressperson’s attention. Plus, if the office staffers are not already aware of your issue, they’re going to have to research and consider your request even if they don’t oppose it. A mother’s touch to provide helpful information and consistent reminders is an incredible advantage.
#4 Moms are responsible
Once you’ve been the sole person standing between a happy family and total family chaos, you start to view your place in the world a little differently. Some moms are fortunate to have responsible spouses to shoulder a lot of familial tasks. But women in every part of the world bear the heavier responsibility for household chores and child-rearing. Moms are generally the ones making lunches, outfitting diaper bags, scheduling play dates, and making sure you don’t run out of toilet paper or cheese sticks. Moms are chess players looking two, three, and four moves into the future.
So, how does a responsible nature translate to successful advocacy? It allows you to stay organized and prepared to react to the needs of your volunteer groups. It gets you to meetings on time with all the materials you need. It helps you respond to emails from congressional aides in a timely manner. Moms are welcomed at advocacy conferences because we are low-maintenance, responsible, capable people who get things done.
#5 Moms are experts in the most important skills
I won’t tell you that everything I needed to know about advocacy I learned in kindergarten. But I insist that the most critical lessons were learned around age five, especially since the most successful advocates believe in strong teamwork. Advocates should always be prepared to:
Treat others with respect;
Give everyone in the group a turn to play;
Avoid calling anyone a hurtful name;
Apologize when you hurt someone; and
Say “please” and “thank you” (this is the number one lesson and the step that is most often forgotten when talking with members of Congress as well as other volunteers).
Moms keep all of these skills top of mind because we coach our kids to use them. We should be able to follow them even when our children aren’t in the same room. We can model these important skills for young college activists and aging senators alike.
Our mom voices need to be heard more than ever before in our political climate of nastiness that permeates cable news and social media. Mom advocates can be at the forefront of carrying a positive tone of reason, kindness, and respect into politics. Whatever the cause is that drives you to protect your children, put yourself forward. You are more powerful than you think.
Have you, or would you, approach your government with issues in your community? Has being a parent helped you in this quest?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Cynthia Levin. Photo credit to the author.
Cynthia Changyit Levin is a mother, advocate, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.” A rare breed of non-partisan activist who works across a variety of issues, she coaches volunteers of all ages to build productive relationships with members of Congress. She advocated side-by-side with her two children from their toddler to teen years and crafted a new approach to advocacy based upon her strengths as a mother. Cynthia’s writing and work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, the Washington Post, and many other national and regional publications. She received the 2021 Cameron Duncan Media Award from RESULTS Educational Fund for her citizen journalism on poverty issues. When she’s not changing the world, Cynthia is usually curled up reading sci-fi/fantasy novels or comic books in which someone else is saving the world.
Yes, you read that right: “Something WORTH doing is worth doing BADLY.” When I first read that sentence in an email from one of my mentors, I thought that he had made a typo. Surely anything worth doing is worth doing WELL I thought. In his email, he went on to explain that people like us (perfectionists) tend to put off doing something—or don’t attempt it at all—due to our fear of not doing it WELL enough.
That really hit home for me. I have a very large number of examples from my own life of when I have done just that. The one I am sharing with you is something that has been stuck in my craw for most of my life.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to write a book. Since then, I have spent more money than I care to admit on writing courses and programs like Scrivener. I have started (and abandoned) numerous manuscripts. I let my personal blog die from neglect. I have made friends with a lot of people who have had books published (some of whom are probably reading this with some compassion…. at least I hope it’s compassion!). I read and watch everything I can about how to become a published author. I am doing everything… except actually writing! I am doing everything EXCEPT the only thing that truly matters, if I genuinely want to achieve my goal.
It’s Ok if it’s Not Perfect
I wanted to share this to encourage you NOT to be like me. DO the thing that you want to do because, odds are, people will admire your courage for trying, and NOBODY will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself.
This advice is as much for me as it is for you. A couple of years ago I attempted NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place annually in November. Of course I sabotaged myself and didn’t finish. Last time I told everyone that I was writing a nove, because I thought that it would keep me from chickening out but it didn’t. I don’t know if this is the year that I finally will get it done. What I do know is that nothing and nobody (apart from my own inner critic) is stopping me from doing it.
What is the one thing that you have always wanted to do but haven’t done out of fear of failure? What do you think would have to change in order for you to go for it?
This is an original post to World Moms Network from our contributor in Spain (formerly from South Africa), Mama Simona. The image used in this post is credited to Rebecca and used with permission from Creative Commons by Flickr.
Mamma Simona was born in Rome (Italy) but has lived in Cape Town (South Africa) since she was 8 years old. She studied French at school but says she’s forgotten most of it! She speaks Italian, English and Afrikaans. Even though Italian is the first language she learned, she considers English her "home" language as it's the language she's most comfortable in. She is happily married and the proud mother of 2 terrific teenagers! She also shares her home with 2 cats and 2 dogs ... all rescues.
Mamma Simona has worked in such diverse fields as Childcare, Tourism, Library Services, Optometry, Sales and Admin! (With stints of SAHM in-between). She’s really looking forward to the day she can give up her current Admin job and devote herself entirely to blogging and (eventually) being a full-time grandmother!
Sure, we all feel it now and again. But recently, I seem to encounter this word more than usual. It pops up on my Instagram feed and lingers in the air from overheard conversations at work. A few weeks ago, Singapore was even cited in an article as being the most fatigued nation in the world. This article, by a UK bedding manufacturer, based this by calculating working hours, time spent in front of a screen and sleeping hours; it concluded that Singaporeans have the highest levels of fatigue. Now, while my competitive, cosmopolitan city loves coming in at number one, this is a ranking that we should be concerned about. Do we really not get enough rest? And do we even realise it?
These days however, the fatigue I hear about and which is more detrimental, extends far beyond work hours and screen time. It’s an exhaustion that has recently set in, an exhaustion brought about by battling the Covid pandemic, an exhaustion that we cannot so easily remedy with some extra rest or time off from work.
As I thought about the kind of fatigue that I experience (because it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘how much’), I asked some friends if they felt this way and the majority of them answered with an overwhelming ‘YES!’ The most common factor was the inability to travel. We probably took spontaneity for granted, underestimated the freedom to travel, and never truly appreciated how some time spent abroad was like a magical reset button. The friends who find the county’s closed borders much harder to bear are my expat friends who have not been able to return to their home countries in close to two years as well as those with families living abroad.
Having been an expat, I truly empathise with these friends as the trips back home are necessary to re-establish familiarity and comfort, to reconnect with your loved ones or just to be around for important life events. I appreciate that this is an essential part of an expat’s life. So it’s understandable when my expat friends commented that they were tired of waiting for big changes. There have been many smaller targets in Singapore, for example, of breaking transmission chains, controlling the cases in the foreign workers’ dormitories, or achieving a national 80% vaccination rate. But for many expat families, these provide little concrete relief or hope that they will get to go home for a visit anytime soon, and I can sympathise with their tired frustrations and impatience.
The exhaustion could also stem from an imbalance of work and home time. Many people here have switched to a default work-from-home arrangement. While working from one’s laptop at home, it seems even harder to tear ourselves away from our work. The overlap of spaces creates an inability to properly draw a line and cease working. Just yesterday, I had to stay home and conduct lessons remotely from my dining room table. Between lessons, marking and the preparation of examination revision material, I sat in my dining room for the most part of twelve hours.
On usual days, I try not to bring any work home when I leave the school. I feel like the extra hours I put in may have resulted from an overcompensation on my part. Since I was not in the classroom and teaching the students face-to-face, I felt like I had to make up for it by preparing extra notes. This overcompensation has been obvious among my other colleagues after each lockdown or period of home-based learning. While we comfort our own students and try to ensure that they are coping well with the changes of this pandemic, we attempt to make up for precious lost curriculum time and interaction with students, forgetting that in the end, we’re overloading ourselves and the kids. And as I say this, I will guiltily and sadly admit that in doing this over the past year and a half, I have had much less time, energy and patience for my own child.
Emotionally, I think many people are exhausted too. We’re all tired out from trying to be positive all the time and hoping that things will turn around quickly. As part of a bigger community, people living in Singapore have rallied together to abide by restrictions and measures, minimised social interactions and worn our masks faithfully. It’s amazing how we’ve been plodding on in the hope that life can soon return to normal. But with recent spikes in cases in May and with another surge in cases happening at the moment, our synchronised steps are getting more and more weary, and it is of no wonder that we are fatigued.
Do our kids feel this too? My 8-year-old daughter says she misses everything pre-Covid – fun celebrations in school like lion dances during Chinese New Year celebrations, running around with her classmates in the playground during recess, and most of all, she’s really sad that she hasn’t been able to visit her cousins and extended family in Australia for such a long time. Even though kids might not be able to fully process these changes and communicate this like we are able to, I’m sure they too feel these losses in their little lives. Kids and adults alike are facing both immediate and long-reaching effects of this unprecedented global issue.
No matter how well we are coping with the pandemic, there is no doubt that we are fatigued. Do you feel it? Maybe one way we can cope with this, is to share something that enables you to tend to your health, your mind and your heart. For me, yes I acknowledge that I am feeling burnt out, and I shall go text my sister in Melbourne and commiserate with her.
This is an original post by Karen Grosse from Singapore.
Karen is a Singaporean with an 8 year-old daughter who’s a little fire-cracker version of herself. She’s spent the last 15 years in her various roles as trailing spouse, home-maker and educator. Having experienced 5 international moves alternating between postings and her home country of Singapore, Karen considers herself a lover of diverse foods and culture, and reckons she qualifies as a semi-professional packer. She is deeply interested in intercultural and third-culture issues, and has grown immensely from her interactions with other World Mums.
Have you ever found, or perhaps re-found, yourself in travel?
A few years ago, during an intense gym session in Krakow, Poland, my friend Paulina and I made a promise to each other, we were going to Norway; neither of us had ever been. We were going to hike (and push ourselves). We were going to do it on a budget (Norway is expensive). We were going to do all of the planning ourselves (because . . . budget).
And just by verbalizing it and making a promise to each other, we made it happen. We began planning in earnest four months in advance, each researching different parts of the trip and putting it all together when we’d meet up for coffee or a long run.
At the time, my kids were 3, 5 and 7. I felt like I had been a mom for so long now that planning a trip without my kids in the picture was a bit anxiety-inducing but also immensely exhilarating. Could I really plan a trip based on all of my interests? Could I choose to do something difficult, knowing that little legs would not have to keep up? Could I actually stay up as late as I wanted, steer clear of all kid-friendly restaurants AND spend uninterrupted time with a friend?
So Paulina and I did just that. We planned a five-day hiking trip to Norway, wearing all of our gear on our backs and staying in Norwegian public huts along the way (they are phenomenal, in case you are wondering), and hiked for hours and hours on all types of terrain through stunning Norwegian National Parks.
The trail and weather conditions changed daily between when we started to plan in February up until the day we left for Bergen, Norway in June. Some hikes were not yet passable due to the winter conditions, even in early June. The Norwegian Trekking Association gurus advised us to wait until arriving in Bergen to speak with local experts to determine safe hiking routes. Because I was so used to the down-to-the-detail style of traveling with kids, it felt unsettling to arrive in Norway with five days of gear, no reservations, and no idea of where we’d be heading, but it was also freeing.
Upon arrival in Bergen, we bought a (pricey, because it was Norway) hiking map and had extensive discussions with the Bergen Trekking Association staff about what we were hoping to do and what routes to hike. They advised us of two full-day hikes, one considered a “black” or expert-level hike from Sunndal to Fonnabu Hut at Folgefonna Glacier in Folgefonna Park, aptly called the “Fjord to Glacier” hike.
The hike was stunningly gorgeous and took us from a beautiful lush forest up to icy, snow-covered rocky peaks (something we were not expecting or fully prepared for in June) to the edge of Folgefonna Glacier. After nine hours of hiking we were exhausted, grateful to have arrived, and overwhelmed by the beauty, tranquility and other-worldliness of this spot that so few others have seen.
Our second hike, a “red,” was just as challenging—if not more so—due to weather. This one was an eight-hour hike from the town of Kinsarvik to Stavali Hut through Husedalen, the Valley of Four Waterfalls, in Hardarngervidda National Park. As the name implies, we hiked past four powerful, awe-inspiring waterfalls at different elevations along the journey. Once we scrambled up massive rock face and landed in the valley, fog started to set in and the trail, marked by stacked piles of rocks every so often, became difficult to find. We did not encounter one single individual for six hours and the only people staying in the Stavali Hut that evening were us.
The Most Harrowing Part
We had to cross a wide, rushing river over which the “summer bridge” was not yet in place. The bridge sat on the land, as if to taunt us, and was definitely too heavy to push into place (believe me, we tried). So what did we have to do? Cross a wide, waist-high icy cold rushing river on foot to continue on the trail. It was not for the faint of heart. It was scary, and cold . . . and after crossing it we still had another 1-2 hours to hike until reaching the hut that evening.
This would not have happened had we hiked during the true summer season; which is July-August in Norway. Blink, and you’ll miss it! But I tell myself we’re stronger for it. It was an experience I’ll not soon forget.
Love a Good Challenge
Our trip to Norway was that, and then some. It was a reset. It humbled me in huge ways. It rewarded me in huge ways. It scared me at times. It forced me to make hard choices. There were times I was in tears because I was so tired. There were other times I was in tears because I was so proud of what I had done. And at the end of the day, I saw me for me.
Not me as a mom.
Not me as a writer.
Not me as a wife.
Not me as a former diplomat.
On this trip I wasn’t a cook, chauffeur, arbiter of arguments, trip planner, master scheduler, nor all of the other roles we play for our kids. This trip was about me pushing myself to my limits and discovering a new, unbelievable place on this planet.
We All Need Trips Like This
You don’t always have to fly half way around the world to find them but you do need to challenge yourself. Do something for yourself. Be somewhat selfish and determine what it is that thrills your soul – and do that. Maybe it’s an improv class; maybe it’s flight lessons; maybe it’s learning how to play a new instrument; maybe it’s the North Pole marathon; maybe it’s a SCUBA certification on the Great Barrier Reef. I don’t care what it is, but plan it.
Then do it!
And in doing so, find yourself. Maybe for the first time. Maybe for the second, third, or fourth time.
My trip to Norway, at 39 years old, was hugely empowering. It was a moment that I made happen. One that required bravery, pushed me, taught me and helped me realize how much I had craved and needed a dose of solo, self-reflection and validation.
Oh, and a little tidbit of information I wasn’t even aware of when planning this trip: I was pregnant at the time with baby number 4. So you know, all things are possible.
This is an original post for World Moms Network from our contributor in Ukraine, Loren Braunohler. The image in this post is attributed to the author.
Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.