It’s March! and that means it is Women’s History Month! This month, we take the time to honor and reflect on the contributions that women have made to society. In the past, women have fought for and won the right to vote and we are currently fighting for equal pay and for the rights of victims of sexual assault (#MeToo). Like other formerly disenfranchised groups, women’s voices have historically been silenced leading to the disparities mentioned earlier as well as disparities in healthcare, education and almost every other facet of life.
Over the past twelve months, these inequalities have become greater as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic. My friend, Christine Koh, had an amazing write-up in The Washington Post about her experience navigating the pandemic as a mom. Her article Why working moms deserve a tantrum (and how to get through the remainder of the pandemic), is a glimpse into the oftentimes imperfect side of motherhood. Her highly stressful ordeal reflects the shared experience of moms across the globe who are trying to manage a job in addition to a hectic household. Christine has given tips for retaining sanity as the pandemic trudges into its twelfth month (number three has helped me immensely).
But us working mothers, surprising to say, could be considered the lucky ones. Other working moms have lost their jobs and struggle daily to make ends meet with whatever they can while balancing a stressful home life. The Center for American Progress published the article entitled “When Women Lose All the Jobs: Essential Actions for a Gender-Equitable Recovery”, written by Diana Boesch and Shilpa Phadke. In this article, the pair illustrates the job loss inequality in America. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to layoffs and business closures, but women have accounted for over half of these pandemic-related job losses with minority women affected the worst (Boesch and Phadke). As women have been leaving jobs during the pandemic, it is clear that something must be done.
Though we want women’s contributions recognized every day of the year, by celebrating Women’s History Month, we choose to challenge the status quo by incorporating the strides made by women- historically and contemporarily. Historically women have been silenced simply because their voice was not valued in society. As we are all well aware, that was a backward way of thinking. But remnants of this thought process are still alive and well today and manifest in the systems that keep women and other historically disparaged groups at a disadvantage.
As we celebrate women, our celebration must be intersectional. Intersectionality is a term created by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw over 30 years ago to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” with one another and overlap to reveal how people experience inequities and oppression present in our society. Women’s history has always been about intersections of gender, class, and race.
I wanted to take a quick moment to highlight a figure in women’s history whose story is both compelling and inspiring–and is still breaking barriers today. New Mexico’s Representative Deb Haaland is one of the first two Native American women to be elected to the U.S. Congress. As she is also President Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Interior, once confirmed she will be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history. What resonated with me was the fact that Congresswoman Haaland made all these strides, from her obtaining her education to becoming a politician, all while raising her daughter. Some of the finer details of her story are detailed on the “About” page of her state representative website linked here, and I encourage you to check it out: https://haaland.house.gov/about
I challenge every family to take the time to read about women game-changers like Representative Haaland. Below is a shortlist of books I find consequential to Women’s History Month
Why should we celebrate cultural heritage months like Black History Month? For starters, celebrating cultural heritage months provide a low barrier to entry that allows people of all backgrounds the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones and learn something new. Cultural heritage months grant marginalized groups the opportunity to celebrate what makes them unique. And finally, when we celebrate cultural heritage months, individuals focus their learning efforts toward expanding their understanding of others and their relationship to them.
It is a dangerous narrative to believe that at some point we could find our dream job, stand on the peak of our own greatness, or accomplish all that we are destined to do by the end of our lives. We are trained at a very early age to believe that we stop when we get what we think we want. This is ridiculous! Why is it so hard for us to welcome a life path littered with disappointments, detours, and setbacks? What we want should evolve as we learn more about who we are, what we are capable of, and what passions are worth pursuing with every fiber of our being. The journey to our authentic self is just that- a journey. We never stop. Ever.
How do we find the passion and motivation to keep going? Why is it important for us to not only pursue our dreams but bring others along with us on the journey? What ways do our stories inspire others to have the courage, excitement, and the intention to be their best selves too?
We thought about these questions a lot as we were ending 2020. It was a tumultuous year with many set backs, but it was also a great opportunity for us to reimagine the way we would like to make an impact in this world. That's why we started the Let’s K12 Better podcast and that was the impetus behind the What's Your Why, January series.
We know we're not the only ones create ripples in large and small ways; building communities of allies, accomplices, and collaborators; or meeting the moment with courage. We also believe in human potential and know that each and every one of us has the ability to build better systems and ecosystems, but many of us either don't know how or may not fully believe in our power and capacity to do so. That's why we listen to the stories of others living and pursuing their passion because it inspires us to do the same.
I felt a bittersweetness fill my cup on Inauguration Day. Honestly, I was holding my breath in anticipation of error, hatred, or further danger. Living the overt trauma of 2015-2021 has undoubtedly taken its toll on me. Though excited for new beginnings, I had grown accustomed to what was translated as random acts of violence and hatred and had grown weary in the long slog toward a promise of better days ahead. And for those who were privileged to experience the abridged version of my trauma during 2020-2021, it’s safe to say that many of us were looking forward to a collective sigh of relief.
The tradition of Inauguration Day is a symbolic gesture of peace and joy between parties where all of our officials come together as one body politic to present the new executive leader to the people of our country and the world… and somehow on this day, I felt sorrow.
As I watched the festivities unfold on YouTube and watched as our men and women in our military rightfully display the might required to protect our nation’s capital and the proceedings that day, I was reminded that a few bad apples actually do spoil the bunch. A few, rather a mob of enraged insurrectionists pushed the access of our democratic spaces further away from the people on January 6th. In order to bring stability and peace of mind to the process and ensure the safety of our elected officials on January 20th, Washington D.C. was in effect a military state.
With what we've collectively experienced in 2020 - all of the discussions we’ve held in our homes, work spaces, and classrooms; all of the personal reflection; all of the protesting and demands we’ve made of ourselves and each other, now is not the time to forget our commitment to anti-racism. After witnessing white nationalists, their compatriots, and sympathizers invade the Capitol Building in an attempted coup, those of us watching in shock have a responsibility to see this for what it is; a blip in a long history of entitlement afforded to people, specifically white people, who believe this country and its privileges are available to a select few and not everyone.
It's been an interesting year with many of disappointments and many moments of joy. But if it hadn't been for 2020 we might not have started our podcast, pushed ourselves in ways we never imagined, or explored new interests and ideas. For that, we have to give thanks.
Join us on New Year's Eve for an hour of gratitude and reflection. Episode 27 of the Let's K12 Better podcast will be LIVE (and of course re-shared later).
When: Thursday, December 31st 12pm EST
Where: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube (MomOfAllCapes Channels)
More on giving thanks...
Listen to episode 25 of the Let's K12 Better podcast Let's Talk About... Gratitude or learn about our month long gratitude journey by reading our Gratitude Jar Challenge.
Did you miss it? Watch the recording on YouTube.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I realized the job I had ahead of me with nurturing and strengthening an empowered, aware Black child was never going to be easy. Rewarding but not easy. How would I release an empowered civic minded and self aware Black child into the world? I've dedicated every ounce of my parenting time to this personal challenge. It seems like this personal challenge ramped up for me (and many other parents) after witnessing the protests this summer, the continued murders of unarmed Black people, and the contentious 2016 and 2020 election cycles.
How do we have discussions about race with Black children? How do we teach Black kids to self-advocate? What should parents raising Black kids make sure their kids learn before they leave your home?
The first lesson that Black kids should learn is that they are loved and valued. Love is a revolutionary act... particularly Black Love. Cultivating and nurturing Black love is a challenge on it's own, but it is totally worth it. We have to affirm Black kids in their value and their ability to be loved. We have to push back when society signals that Black love is irrelevant, obsolete, invisible, or non-existent. In order to do this, parents raising Black children, have to balance building resilience (tough love) with compassion (connecting with community). This goes for classroom educators as well... which is a whole other conversation I'll have later.
So... How do we get this done? First, think of your home is as civic space. Your home is a community space that prepares children to want to contribute to the well being of their social and physical environment. Doing chores, taking turns, asking about another person’s day; these are contributions that kids can make to the home community.
Raising kids to be community members builds resilience. You can build resilience by having standards that are collaborative in nature. It does not have to be an authoritative environment in order to build resilience. In our home we have four pillars:
When we build community and encourage our children to participate and contribute to making our home community better, stronger, more efficient, etc. we are building resilience through accountability. We are also building compassion through connectedness. This goes beyond cleaning the house and yelling at our kids when they make a mistake, instead we hold discussions about why a missed dishwashing session prevents the success of everyone in the house and how that is not equitable. We invest time in walking kids through how their missteps may prevent the community from moving forward. How am I being selfish? How can I become more selfless? How am I also making sure I make space to listen to others? Am I using my voice so that I may be heard?
Catch more questions and tips like this in this awesome conversation with my favorite millennial couple - Khadeen and Devale Ellis!
Dig deeper into our journey in raising Black kids:
Listen: Talking to Kids... About Race
Listen: #SayHerName... Connecting the Dots
Watch: Racial Issues in Roblox: Blackface in Roblox
Watch: How to Raise a Socially Conscious, Anti-Racist Child
Read: How to talk to kids about race and racism
Read: All Lives Matter...
Read: Black Hair Challenge And Racialized Aggression
Right now we are in a season of gratitude and reflection; a time when groups and individuals take time to look back and plan ahead. Gratitude is a social emotional skill that doesn't just come to us, we must cultivate this skill through the entirety of our lives... especially when times are tough. This was a very challenging year for so many people, but there is always something to be thankful for. What are you and your family thankful for?
As we reflect, there were many disappointments that we faced together, but there's a lot that we are thankful for this year. We finally started our podcast and newsletter; we were forced to step away from our insane schedules to prioritize what is most important; we are thankful for our good health and for family. We are not shy about giving thanks. In fact, at one point we even expressed gratitude for dinosaurs! For us, giving thanks is an opportunity to think deeply about our contributions to making our family run, our commitment to each other, and how reciprocity is a form of love and selflessness.
So... we hope that you and your family will join us for the next 30 days to center gratitude and reflection for a few minutes each day until New Year's Eve.
Join the Family Gratitude Jar Challenge!
This exercise should invite everyone in your home to consciously think about one experience or opportunity each day that they’re thankful for. Give each person the space to give thanks.
The struggle is real. We’re in a global pandemic, we’ve experienced a contentious election cycle, and are continuously witnessing injustice and inequity unfold before us every day on our smartphones. It can feel daunting and overwhelming and many parents are struggling to find answers and solutions that work during these unprecedented times.
Recently I contributed to a Harvard Business Review advice column on parenting during COVID-19. Check out Your Questions About Work, Caregiving, and COVID-19, Answered. I think it's beautifully written and the experts' advice meld together for a perfect pick-me-up.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about how parents in this era are literally winging it every day, much more than their own parents or grandparents had to. There is no manual for these times. NO MANUAL. And we could all use some relief and great advice… But more and more I’m realizing that parents are experts, we just need the encouragement (and the confidence) to pull out the wisdom that is living deep within. We can do this ya’ll!
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.