This International Women’s Day, it feels easy to reflect on how far away we are from where we should be, especially as moms. The last two years of pandemic have taken their toll on gender equality with the burden of child care and loss of income disproportionately falling on women. Many legal protections have been dismantled in this country and abroad in ways that would have seemed incredible not too long ago. As a society, what kind of message are we sending to our children about the value of women?
As a stay at home mom, educated to masters level, the world has often seemed hostile to my sex, neither valuing my sacrifices and contributions, nor my opinions and expertise. The increased isolation of recent times has made it even harder to make my voice heard and I often struggle to bolster my flailing self confidence, in stark contrast to my husband’s experience as we have gotten older.
His voice has become more valued, mine has become less. I don’t have to look far to see I am not alone, the cartoons and illustrations of ‘double standard parenting’, ‘weaponized incompetence’ and the ‘mental load’ that falls on moms abound, but only, it feels as a periodic cry in the dark, and nothing that will bring about lasting change.
My personal struggles pale when I confront the crisis that mothers in Ukraine and other parts of the world are currently facing. One of the most shocking things to come out of the present conflicts is the total disregard for protecting those delivering and caring for children.
How are we to address these weighty and far reaching issues? For address we must if we want to make the world a better place for our own daughters and the women who come after us.
I could say something about how we need to raise our boys to do better than their predecessors, to appreciate the intrinsic value of their female counterparts, and to speak up on their behalf. Or how we must equip our daughters to be proud of who they are, including what they are, and to fight for themselves to be included and counted in a society that will be quick to brush them aside if given half the chance.
But I feel tired of that line of argument, and the burden it places on our children to fix what we can’t or won’t.
Instead I wonder, what if we made up our minds to champion each other? To recognize the inherent value of women in our actions and conversation. To withhold judgment of each other, to give the benefit of the doubt, to silence gossip and the things that tear each other down. To be unflinching and lavish in our attentions and kindness to each other, even if it means sacrificing our time or finances to do it.
It might look like taking time to talk to a new mom at the library story time; how is she doing honestly? Or sharing our own vulnerabilities with other women in the workplace about juggling child care and work so they know they are not alone. It might mean taking someone else’s kids to the playground with our own so they can have a break, or providing free babysitting. Or taking time to thank women who have supported and mentored us. It could be paying for the groceries of the mom ahead of us in line, or donating to those working on the ground with families in places of conflict. It may just mean listening to another moms opinions and giving them the time to know they are interesting and heard.
What could we each do today to show kindness to another mom? What kind of message I wonder, would that send to our children about the value of women?