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July 2007
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September 2007

Advocacy for Caregivers – All of Them

I’ve been feeling kind of blocked; I took a lot of ideas and impressions home from Blogher and I’ve been going back and forth about posting about those here. There were several serious (and sometimes muddled) discussions going on at Blogher, along with all the usual technical conference stuff. However, the one thing I personally brought back from the conference was a re-clarification of what I want my blog to be; essentially, a fun place, fairly light-hearted with leanings towards the absurd; something that helps me deal with the day to day, something that hopefully lets other people smile, or vent, or just take a break. Really, my blog hasn’t been all that serious in tone (could you tell?). That doesn’t mean that I’m never serious or don’t have particular causes very close to my heart, or don’t support other issues, because I do. But this blog, in general, is not really the place where I want to talk about those things (though I do reserve the right to talk of those things in the future, if I so chose). Yet, I have found that there is one particular impression from Bogher that I keep thinking about, circling back to, and it’s getting in the way of my writing regular posts. So here it goes, a moment of seriousness.

One of the discussions I heard often at the conference was that moms are discriminated against and what forms of activism we could do to change this. I don’t disagree with this, or the movements for change, at all. But there was something about these conversations that troubled me... and it was the fact that it was always, “moms, moms, moms”. I have an issue with this because it reminds me of the first wave of feminism where all the concerns about women’s rights centered on white, middle-class women. For the record, there are a lot of other caregivers out there besides just moms. 

I sincerely believe that we need to start a conversation in this country about how we feel about caregivers. That’s caregivers in the broad sense – moms and dads, stepparents, grandparents, foster care and social workers, educators, nurses, hospice workers, those who care for the elderly – all the people who take care of others, all the ones we expect to selflessly give and whom we dismiss. Because the fact of the matter is we have entitlement issues in the US.  We expect our moms to be of a certain idea - the selfless giver – and yet we don’t value the job they do, their opinions, their needs. We expect our dads to be “good dads” but not to ask for extra time to spend with their families. When teachers or nurses go on strike for cost-of-living increases they face numerous criticisms of “what about the children” as if they are being shamelessly selfish. And what about those who care for the elderly? (Well, it seems like any conversations about the elderly make us put our collective heads in the sand.) We all expect, and feel entitled to have these services available, but we don’t value those workers, we don’t value the jobs the same way other countries that have developed forms of socialized, universal care, value those roles. We feel entitled to these services, not because they are important jobs, but because that’s how these people should naturally be – parents should be selfless, teachers should be selfless, nurses should be selfless – it should be a part of their intrinsic nature and how dare they ever want for anything other than that?

It’s easy for us to say “moms against the world”. We grew up with the feminist fight, it’s familiar, almost built-in, the indignities and dismissals we face as moms are just one more way women are repressed in the world. Right? But it is an exclusive fight. Sometimes it’s harder to step outside of our situation, to take a look and acknowledge the similarities of positions that other roles in our society might be facing – whether those roles are manned by men or women, moms, parents or otherwise – than to simply cry “foul” about ourselves.

We are so good at shoving issues, shoving people away – stay-at-home parents shoved into their houses, the teachers shoved into their classrooms, the elderly and sick shoved in their homes. Shoved away so don’t have to think about them, because we don’t want to talk about them. Or if we talk about them, which the blog world really is trying to do, it’s often still one small manageable segment. Or worse, maybe two of those segments pitted against each other, like moms vs. dads, working mothers vs. stay-at-homes. We don’t discuss the interconnectivity of these caregiver roles, we don’t let them out from where we’ve shoved them. Why do we seem afraid to have them all out in the world, in the sun, with us?

I would love to see a true conversation develop about how we feel and what we expect from caregivers because I think that conversation could expose ourselves – our preconceptions, our prejudices, our reactions – to ourselves. I don’t think many of us really look deeply about what it means to be a caregiver until we are thrust into the role, and even then we are often trapped within the societal norms we were raised with. I think a movement towards change could be furthered by a close look inside ourselves and our society; a really close look at what “caregiver” in all its forms means. And if we don’t like what we see then we can begin a change in national consciousness about how we value our caregivers.

These are my concerns about continuing advocacy discussions that only include mothers… 1) In all honesty, I’m not sure that it’s a fight we can win as “just moms”; I’m afraid, for all the universality of being a mother, that it’s still too exclusive, too narrow (and yes, still too dismissed) to affect the change in national consciousness that I think we need (besides that, as we all know, anything with “mommy” in the title stirs up in-fighting – which is one of the reasons, ladies, that we are dismissed).  And 2) even if we were to win that fight, is it fair that whole segments of other caregivers are not included, or left behind to struggle on their own? Do we want a repeat akin to the second and third waves of feminism where suddenly we acknowledge that there were whole communities that still felt invisible and unheard?

We (us chicks) have a lot of power in this world, more than any other period in history. But outside of the political clout and opportunities in business, we also have the enormous power as parents, as caregivers, of raising our kids to view the world the way we want it to be. Like the children of hippies who expect environmental alternatives today, we have the same opportunity to change the way our children think about caregivers. For our children to value those roles more than maybe we do now. For our children to expect those services that we talk about - universal healthcare, quality child care, flexible work options for parents, better education – not because they feel entitled to them… but because they value and honor those who work those jobs, because they feel those roles are important.

the weirdgirl

I Hate the News

It’s been one of those days where I just can’t seem to get things to pull together, especially organizing my thoughts. Watching the news was just the camel-breaking straw.

The Minneapolis bridge collapse recalls the horror of similar accidents that we have had close to home. My prayers go out to all those affected by this terrible accident. I can only hope they find everyone soon.

Who the fuck even makes lead-based paint anymore? Worse, I knew immediately some of the toys they were talking about because I almost bought Chance some at Target. There are a few others he owns that are on the list but they were all made way before the recall dates specified.

I constantly seesaw between wishing there was more overall trust in the world and the temptation of not trusting anything.

Give your family a hug and keep them close.       - wg