The most common remark I get when someone wants to describe me is “calm.” I’m constantly told how chill I am in any given situation.
So, it’s really weird that I’ve felt on the verge of a panic attack for the past week.
Like many of you, I’ve been gutted by the election results and struggling to make sense of it. It has been helpful to read articles and posts by others grappling with these questions. At the same time, the news fans the flames of panic with reports of Klan parties, white supremacists in the cabinet, Russia/FBI election tampering, and the steep increase in hate crimes, harassment, and sexual assault across the country. People trying to act as if it’s all normal and fine if we just believe enough. Media calling spades anything but, because the alternative is too horrifying. The emperor has no clothes.
Human capacity is equal to human cruelty, and it is up to each of us to tip the balance. —Alice Walker
The US has come far in many ways. It pains me to see how easily we’re willing to drop all of that. Activists work themselves to burn out for social justice, funders organize and spend billions to save the planet from our abuses, all for teeny incremental improvements. It’s crazy that we have to work SO hard for SO long and spend SO much, just to do the right thing. AND THEN, once a battle is won, we can’t even rest. It’s just so relentless and exhausting, tipping the balance. Dragging humanity forward just to be dragged back the moment our guard slips. No rest for the weary.
I *do* see the good slowly coming of this—speaking out about assaults, abortions, and experiences means more people will understand that these aren’t abstractions. People realizing we can’t rest on the progress we’ve made if we want to keep it. Remember the conservative legislator who suddenly supported gay rights when his son came out, and we were hopeful that he’d meet a woman someday? For whatever reason, it is really hard for some people to imagine and empathize with life and experiences beyond their tiny circles and speaking out and speaking up is one way to expand those circles.
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. —Edmund Burke.
Your silence will not protect you —Audre Lorde
Speaking up is scary. The alternative is worse. We need to keep letting people know when their words and actions are NOT OK. I will do this.
I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. —Anne Frank
If she can say that while tiptoeing around an attic to avoid concentration camps, that’s something. Ultimately, I agree. We’re implored to understand those in smaller towns and rural areas who are panicking since their way of life is dying. I get it. I get that people feel abandoned and forgotten and wanted to send a big FU to DC. The part that’s hard for me to get is the willingness to throw out all standards of decency, humanity, and American values in the process. And our short memories! 8 years or a generation. I get that humans aren’t rational, but I’m not sure how to operate in a world where facts don’t matter, we can say/do/believe anything just because we feel like it. (Also, is anyone curious as to why we city folk love diversity and the promising aspects of modern changes and education and science and a social safety net and so on and so forth? These values matter, too.)
When you’re going through hell, keep going. —Winston Churchill
So whatever. Here we are. For now, I’m going to reduce my time online significantly to protect my mental health and focus on other things for now like health, family, work, home, Luke Cage, decluttering, and certifications to complete. I’m here for you. I’ll wear the safety pin because I mean it and I will walk you to work or sit with you at lunch or whatever if that helps you feel safer. We’re discussing how to use our privilege to help those who are really going to suffer in the coming days/months/years. It’s the long term relationship-building and organizing that really help and I don’t have that in me right now, so it’ll have to come in different ways.
My maternity leave ended about 3 weeks ago. I’m still readjusting and figuring out how to be a working mom again [yes, I know all mothers are hard-working mothers but you know what I mean].
By US standards, my leave was awesome! 12 weeks paid through maternity leave and disability, and I was able to add 2 weeks of vacation on either side, for a total of 16 weeks paid leave. I finished work at 38 weeks pregnant and had exactly a week to get the nest in order as Leo arrived at 39 weeks on the dot.
Being on leave reminded me of how critical that time is for the mother and whole family. I needed that time to establish successful breastfeeding, rest and recover from birth, help my older son adjust, and bond with the new baby. It is such an emotional and chaotic time that I can’t imagine trying to function at a job as well. But heading right back to work is reality for many new mothers in the US. Even now with Leo at 4 months, I’m still tired as he still wakes to nurse at night, but it feels like nothing compared to the exhaustion of the newborn weeks.
I’m also very fortunate to have a clean private room for pumping at work. Euphemistically called the ‘wellness room,’ it’s set up for pumping and helps to keep up my milk supply, ensuring Leo continues to get my milk when I have to be away.
In fact, there is a lot of attention these days to making sure that employers provide nursing moms with appropriate space and time for pumping. This is absolutely important– an investment in mothers, families, and the health of babies! However, I do worry that the focus on pumping at work distracts from something for which we should all continue to advocate and that is paid parental leave in this country! Both are crucial!
I’m sure industry appreciates the focus on pumping as this means: more sales of expensive single user breastpumps, bottles, nipples, and breastmilk storage bags; and employers not shouldering the financial and administrative burden (to put a negative spin on it) of paying for an absent employee AND someone to fill in for her temporarily. But if pretty much every other country in the world can figure this out, I’m confident we can too, America! Did you know we’re one of only FOUR countries in the world without paid leave for new mothers? Yikes.
You can read more about the critical issue of family leave in the US on the MomsRising site here. It’s eye-opening and shows why our babies, parents, and families deserve better.
Sociological Images posted some maps which give a nice visual on paid leave (maternity and otherwise) around the world.
This article illustrates (with graphs!) why family leave is a class issue. They also link to this article which goes into more detail and has a cool interactive on how education and race/ethnicity impact access to paid leave.
What about you? Were you able to take maternity leave? If you have a partner, did s/he also have access to leave? Was it paid? For how long? How did it work out for your family?