Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why Moms Need to Vote

*I read this in the October 2008 Parents Magazine and thought this was so important to share. No matter what party affiliation you are, we as women need to vote.*

Growing up in the '80s, I considered myself a Republican, inspired by Alex Keaton on Family Ties. Then I became an Independent. Then a card-carrying Democrat with Green-leaning tendencies. These days, I'm something greater than all these put together.

I am a mother.

By "greater," I don't mean "better" in a condescending, you'd-understand-if-you-had-kids sort of way. I mean that since becoming a parent, I've tapped into something more primal, more global, more far-reaching and intuitive than a political loyalty. Yes, I (usually) identify with a particular party, but I'll back any politician, any bill or measure that I believe to be in the best interest of children. My kids. Iraqi kids. Sudanese kids. Your kids.

There was a time when I let other people decide the issues and tell me what to support, whom to put my faith in, how to live my life. Not anymore- not by a long shot. Today I'm a woman with a mind of my own. You may be one too. Call us members of the Mothering Party.

I've read reports showing that only about half of all eligible American voters cast their ballot in presidential elections. Though I haven't seen any statistics specifically regarding mothers, I would argue that the number is also too low: In light of our collective power, I think that anything less than a 100 percent turnout by the more than 80 million moms in the United States could rightly be called too few.

The problem is not just our failure to vote. It's also our hesitation (frequently inpired- it's true- by exhaustion) to stand up, speak out, and rock the boat even as we're rocking the cradle. It's our failure to recognize, celebrate, and effectively seize the vast power inherent in the mothering role: power that we wield whenever we shop, whenever we speak, whenever we choose to take (or not to take) a stand.

I realize, or course, that mothers carry a heavy enough burden without being told we need to do more in the political realm. Sometimes, just getting through the day is tough enough. When your house is a veritable disater zone, when you're trying to b urp the baby and stock the fridge and find time to pay the bills and pick up one kid from a playdate before driving across town to another one's band concert- really, who's got the time to worry about immigration and national health care and fluorocarbons and Gitmo and the future of Roe v. Wade? Some days, it's just easier to block it all out, curl up on the sofa with a pint of Ben & Jerry's, watch American Idol, and hope that somebody else will step up and fix things.

Except no one else is stepping up. And if we truly want to leave our children a world that's worth living in, we moms are going to have to fix it ourselves.

A few years ago, I saw a television documentary about female leaders in developing countries. One woman from a war-torn nation said something to the effect of: "If women were the ones who came to the table to negotiate peace, none of us would leave until an agreement had been reached - because we know that women and children are the ones who will suffer the consequences if we don't."

In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Later, John Lennon had a dream. We all have dreams, and here is mine: that one day, all mothers will use their political power and voice not in the way that the media and our husbands, pastors, fathers, and politcal leaders direct us to, but rather as we're led by our personal wisdom, our deepest intuition, our maternal instinct.

I dream of a day when the image of a woman with a child in tow is the first one that comes to mind when people hear the word "activist." I envision a country in which voters' primary concerns revolve not around oil and money, but around the issues facing families and children, issues like health care, education, paid family leave, and flexible workplaces. I imagine what it will be like when the most active political groups in the world are not those obsessed with winning a war, but those determined to win the peace. I picture a day when the driving force behind politics in my country is not power or money, but maternal love.

If my experience raising three children has taught me one thing, it's this: There is no more powerful political act than mothering. There is no greater reason than my children for me to become politically involved, and there is no more important work to put my efforts to than those things that will make this world a better, safer place for my kids. And your kids too.

From the book The Maternal Is Political, edited by Shari MacDonald Strong. Excerpted by arrangement with Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2008. Parents Magazine.

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