A new twist on Mom Guilt

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Amish country, you probably know that Saturday was Earth Day and that activists and scientists around the world marked the day with a global March for Science.

Inspired by the success of the Women’s March, the event had perhaps the most absurd premise of any protest in human history – a demand that our leaders base their policies on actual facts. Who would have thought we’d ever have to take to the streets for such a thing?!?

I wanted very much to be in D.C. for the march.

Sure, it is 600 miles from home, but my teenage daughter and I made the trip for the Women’s March despite the uncertainty of January weather. Surely we could do the same for a protest planned in mild April, especially since it aligned perfectly with her spring break.

Alas, it was not to be.

That same daughter, a budding activist and aspiring environmental scientist, is not interested in a single university here in mostly-red Michigan. So spring break was dedicated not to protesting in the nation’s capital but to touring campuses.

But there’s always plan B, right? A sister march. There were several in my state, including one less than an hour away in Detroit.

That didn’t work out any better.

With one child still not driving but working his first full time job and another headed to a Sweet 16 for a friend so close that she calls me Mom, with a husband who works every Saturday, with an 8 year old tired of spending hours in the car after the Great College Road Trip, I just couldn’t be in enough places at once.

Which got me thinking about all the ways real life conspires to make us fall short as resisters. All the times when swim class takes priority over the county party meeting, when softball practice means missing the redistricting reform event, when getting groceries for an aging parent wins out over progressive strategy meetings, when protesting takes a backseat to parenting.

Signing petitions and sharing information online isn’t as satisfying, as unifying, or as effective as getting involved in person. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to be in two places at once.

It is a whole new type of Mommy guilt, that inescapable trap where no choice is the right choice and the road not traveled seems too important to leave untread. Only this time, the choice isn’t between money and time or between personal fulfillment and parental availability. It is about doing the right thing for family, the right thing in the short term, versus doing the right thing for the community, the right thing for the future.

In this high-stakes balancing act, it seems as though everything that matters is at stake… because those swim lessons and mommy moments are important, but so is the kind of world the kids inherit.

No matter what I choose, I let some part of myself down.

I wish I could say I was juggling it all. I wish I felt comfortable with the balance I’ve struck. But the reality is, I’m typing this poolside at swim class while my county’s tiny Democratic party is meeting, 30 miles away, discussing how to get more progressives to run for local office. And for the third time in as many months, I told myself I’ll make it to the next event.

The Women’s March showed the world that women are eager to lead the resistance, but with women still taking on the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities in the United States, I can’t help wondering: Will we have the time and energy to be effective? Or will the resistance be snuffed out under the weight of work and home and children and family?

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