It's tough to balance activism and being a mom.
More mothers than ever are becoming politically active — and in today’s political climate, it’s no surprise.
We moms are not a monolithic group. But here’s what we do have in common: the will to get things done, and an innate need to be role models for our kids.
In my work with the nonpartisan organization All In Together Campaign, I work with mothers to tap into their inner political activist. As a mother myself, I know the name of the game is using your time effectively throughout your day, and civic engagement should be no different.
When it comes to balancing activism with being a mom, you hear the same questions over and over: How do I decide what to focus on? What is the most effective way to be engaged? Should my kids be involved? How should I deal with cynics? Here’s my take.
Focus on the Issues That Matter Most to You
There are so many issues that matter to moms — from education to women’s rights to health care to retirement policy. But time is our most precious resource, and it’s often in short supply.
Choose at most one or two issues you are passionate about, and dedicate your time to those topics.
Need to narrow it down further? Consider whether there are issues that you’re especially qualified to speak about based on your professional expertise or life experiences.
For example, if you work in medicine, health care is a logical choice and an area where you’ll have credibility if you meet with legislators. If your parents were asylum seekers, you have unique insight into refugee policy discussions.
Finally, if you need to further narrow your list, ask yourself which issues are most urgent and start there.
Being a political leader doesn’t mean you have to run for Congress. Start small. If you need a sidewalk on your street, schedule a meeting with a local legislator. If you want to see a change in your children’s school, join the PTA. If you want to impact your neighborhood, run for office in your precinct.
And don’t hesitate to ask family, friends, or colleagues for support if you’re crunched for time.
For those who do want to run for local, state, or federal office, there are great resources out there that can help. She Should Run is a nonpartisan organization that provides women with tools to run for political office, and Running Start works with young women to develop their skills as community leaders.
Model Civic Engagement for Your Kids
My parents took me canvassing when I was still in a stroller. From a young age, I understood that being politically informed — and engaged — is everyone’s responsibility.
Today, I do the same with my children. One of my proudest moments this year was when my 7-year-old daughter organized a Vote for Hillary by Kids club at school after a classmate commented that, “All girls are stupid like Hillary.”
When your 7yo is a co-founder of the “Vote for Hillary by Kids” club at school! * * * #Proud #PeytonandBailey #KidsofInstagram #VA #WeAreWithHer #GOVote #StrongerTogether #ForwardTogether #BlackGirlMagic #Kids4Hillary #TeachTheBabies #momlife #2016 #Politics #Elections #KidEntrepreneurs #Entrepreneurs #Vote #Girls #school #IWillVote
If canvassing isn’t your style, consider hosting a fundraiser for a local candidate that’s fun for the whole family. We once attended a fundraiser that included a mini petting zoo and served hamburgers and hot dogs. When it was time to hear the candidate speak, the kids felt invested in what she had to say.
Regardless of your political viewpoint, the idea is to teach your children about our democratic system, as well as their right and duty to be civically informed and engaged.
Be Thoughtful About Social Media Activism
We’ve all seen the heated political exchanges on our Facebook feeds. While political debates are important, social media often isn’t the most conducive place to have them. And as a parent, you need to be mindful of the safety of your children and the ramifications of what you post publicly.
While social media activism certainly has its place (and can be a great way to organize), it’s generally not the most strategic way to reach decision-makers. Calling, writing, and visiting your local representatives can be far more effective than tweeting at them.
When it comes to debate and conversation, it’s important to get outside your social bubble and discuss issues face to face as much as possible — and to also listen to all political perspectives.
Build Bridges With Those Who Disagree With You
Women are historically skilled at consensus building, but in today’s contentious political landscape, we are often too quick to write a person off based on her political views.
Rather than cutting ties with those who disagree with you, seek safe spaces for open discussion and look for opportunities to engage with women from other backgrounds; the outcomes can be extraordinary.
In your day-to-day interactions, challenge yourself to listen more, acknowledge that views you don’t agree with can still be valid opinions, and assume good intent. Remember: Your children are watching.
Editor’s note: Top photo shows the author’s daughter participating in her first political campaign on Feb. 27, 2010.