Sunday, January 10, 2010

Taking community building seriously: a single mom's suggestions on helping out with kids

I am a single mother (I got pregnant in high school) and have been since my daughter was born (besides the years I lived with her drug addict father who hardly worked. However I feel I was single with two humyn beings to take care of). I never realized that parenting has been marginalizing from the very beginning. It took me a few years to realize that I was feeling this and I still feel it. I did/do not fit the patriarchal view of motherhood or a nuclear family.

Part of building radical communities and actually living anarchism, feminism, and/or anarcha-feminism is making sure that the people in our communities are supported. This includes parents and children. The problem I have discovered with political activist groups is that they are very inclusive toward middle to upper class, white, and power and authoritative sympathetic people. And of course, people that have free time to participate without any regard to children. If they do have children, they have a lot have resources to get childcare during these times.

This reminds me of when I went to a 2004 Moms for Kerry event. I was new to the area and found it awesome that there were moms who were politically active (not fully on the same political spectrum, but regardless). I went to the event that was 30 minutes from where I lived. I was dressed in jeans and a hoodie, while my kid was in her Halloween costume (it was Halloween). I ended up being the only parent who brought their kid with. I walked into a home that had grand piano in the entryway, everyone was
dressed in almost ballroom-like attire, and the owners of the home had a nanny for their children. I hung out with the nanny with whom I was closer to age with then the parents and left without saying goodbye. Of course this is a class and age issue; however, this is not too far of how I have felt from events that claim to be more radical. In the past, when I have volunteered with Planned Parenthood, I brought my daughter with. For some people having her there was an annoyance because of the “out of place talking” she made or the fact that I would have to leave early because she was

If one thinks about the number of events that go on in our own communities and the lack of childcare or integration of children into these events, it’s disgusting. Rarely are children included or even thought about.

A 9pm event that COULD include parents and children comes across as being a late event that would be exclusive to my daughter and me. If events are scheduled at 9pm, some sort of community childcare could be provided so parents can have child free nights and participate if they choose to. Parents need to be asked what time works for them. For example, my daughter is 8 years old and has school at 8:10, Monday to Friday. A time that would work for us would be any time from 5 to 7:30. But with this
time, supper needs to be provided. So another good time would be on weekends. If times of events are during meal times, make sure food is provided! When my kid is hungry, she wants to eat. My experience with other kids is similar. I also want to point out that if alcohol and/or drugs are at event; this puts children and their parents at risk, as well. I do not feel comfortable bringing my child to an event where people could possibly be getting drunk or high.

This also brings up how children’s interests vary as they grow. This needs to be recognized and addressed in radical communities. One thing my kid likes to do is help the childcare providers with the younger kids. This can help older kids feel included and help the childcare provider with the younger kids. Different activities need to be provided, too. I am involved with a pro-choice feminist group at the university I attend. I bring my laptop, movies, puzzles, color books, crayons, baby toys, and art supplies to our events and meetings. This covers a large array of ages and helps the
kids from getting bored.

My life is structured to fit my daughter’s needs and my mothering self. Like I said, if an event is at 7:00pm, it is hard for me to go. One reason is because I know there will not be childcare. The second reason is because 7:30pm is when my daughter starts settling down to get ready for bed. So this is exclusive to people who can go to those events. Of course, in turn, this makes me feel awful and also results in my family being unable to participate and potentially get our voices not heard or our presence known. My daughter’s voice is just as important as others’ and my own.

I helped with organizing protests for the Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Minneapolis after that. I was helping out with workshops and getting the word out about the consultas. At one of the first consultas I attended, I brought up childcare and how this needs to be provided. People were somewhat receptive to it and I was working with a few others on it. There were some issues with safe spaces at some of the actual workshops. The space that the event was going on at had nails and was dirty and was not good for children. We ended up going to a nearby library and were able to provide activities for the children to do. However, this is an example of childcare not being taken seriously. We had to walk to another space that was thought of at the last minute. Children and childcare were not thought of during the planning of this event. I am sure if these issues had crossed organizers’ minds before I brought up that childcare needed to be provided: a new space would have been used. Again, having to walk to a few blocks to a library was an alright option, but we were away from everyone.

One consulta, in particular that I attended had a safe space house available for childcare. The group facilitating the consulta had volunteers for childcare throughout the day and there were other children there. The people involved were taking shifts and drove the children between the house and the consulta. However, there were no car seats and booster chairs in the cars. This is another example of childcare and
the safety of children not being taken seriously. The organizers could have asked parents to bring their own car seats (if they could) or asked to borrow them for the event. It was refreshing to see that there was childcare. A womyn that the organizers knew, used her house as a safe childcare space. She had plenty of toys and activities for the children to use, as well as healthy food choices. I felt comfortable leaving my daughter there.

As a student, I have been involved with Students for a Democratic Society in the past. As a mother, I brought up the fact that the group needed to provide childcare at events. One event was a talk by Bill Ayers. Everyone in the group supported having childcare at events. However, at this particular event and others, I was the one who watched my child. No one helped (and luckily, my child was the only
child there). It was a hypocrisy to see a group say they supported childcare but did not help. I was not able to see him speak and afterwards, everyone went to a restaurant/bar (which was around 8 or 9pm) and asked ifI could with. Of course, I couldn’t. Why? Because I had to go home and get my kid to bed. I felt so excluded. Not only did I help organize this event, but I also provided the childcare, made the fliers, and got the word out. Everyone went to the restaurant, while I ended up going home. I emailed Bill Ayers about it, as well. However I never heard back from
him about it. Of course, I know the "you made the choice to have your kid, deal with it" but really? Of course, I've "dealt with it", I'm a mom. But if we want build strong, supportive communities, then we need to ALL DO THINGS that can involve everyone.

One important thing to remember is that non-parents need to help out as well. If this childcare is happening and only the parents are doing the work, what is the point? Parents need and want to participate in their events. Another thing is to look at are the gender dynamics and see if there are only womyn and trans people doing the childcare. Cisgender (male-bodied) men can help out too.

Some suggestions to help with this (besides what I already mentioned) are:
- provide workshops prior to events to talk about supporting parents in our communities and providing childcare at events
- safety and legality issues
- non-sexist, non-racist, and non heteronormative child rearing
- privilege dynamics
- making sure everyone is comfortable, which alsoincludes not excluding people because they are not anarchists or radicals.
– continue to have this conversation!

People need to acknowledge the needs in our communities and most communities have parents and children. If we are going to take our communities, seriously, then we need to take this issue seriously.

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