We’ve been in a liminal space for the last 15 months or so, since COVID shutdowns. (The word ‘liminal’ comes from the Latin root limen, meaning threshold). It’s a place where a certain part of our lives has come to an end but the next thing hasn’t yet begun, so we’re in a transitional state.
We’re finally starting to see the end of this liminal state but before we can fully emerge into the new world, we need to ask ourselves: what do we want that world to be like?
Do we want to go back to what it was before?
Because the world we had before wasn’t working for a lot of parents. We were constantly rushing our children around from one activity to the next, maybe also trying to balance a career at the same time, attending thirty kids’ birthday parties a year and just feeling completely spent, most of the time.
If we don’t take the time to think about what we want life to be like when we reopen, chances are it’ll look pretty much like it used to. And that can seem safe! It’s always safer and easier to go back to what we know, rather than forward to what is unknown and scary.
What would something different even look like?
Maybe we would have fewer friends, whom we know much better.
Maybe we would do fewer activities, and spend a bit more time being, rather than always doing.
Maybe we would actually support families financially instead of having a ‘families are the bedrock of our society…but you’re on your own to provide for it’ approach.
In this Mother’s Day Momifesto, I explore all of these issues, and encourage you to think about how YOU want to be in this new world.
And if you need help figuring it out, the Parenting Membership is here to help. Doors are open now through midnight Pacific on Wednesday May 12th. We’ll support you through the challenges of today (how to prevent tantrums! raising healthy eaters! navigating screen time!) while keeping an eye on where we want to go. Because you need both.
Jump to highlights:
- (01:27) The Mother’s Day Momifesto
- (02:04) COVID shutdown
- (04:28) School reopenings
- (07:04) 18% of women in the US have taken antidepressants
- (09:29) We try to control our bodies in a variety of ways
- (12:27) Success is defined for men
- (19:38) Women working communities
- (20:25) Plenty of parents and children’s needs are not met by the school system
- (22:47) Intersectionality – the idea that different parts of our identities intersect
- (25:10) Public transit systems are geared around men
- (26:17) Contribution of scientific research on COVID 19- women scientists have published 19% fewer papers as lead author
- (29:26) Standard Body Mass Index calculations are based on the weight of white people
- (31:41) Nonviolent Communication
- (34:06) How we can begin to make a difference
- (44:55) Learning how to meet our own needs is a great place to start
- (46:44) Reopening of your Parenting Membership will close on the midnight of May 12
Click here to read the full transcript
Jen Lumanlan 00:03
Hi, I’m Jen and I host the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. We all want our children to lead fulfilling lives. But it can be so hard to keep up with the latest scientific research on child development and figure out whether and how to incorporate it into our own approach to parenting. Here at Your Parenting Mojo, I do the work for you by critically examining strategies and tools related to parenting and child development that are grounded in scientific research on principles of respectful parenting. If you’d like to be notified when new episodes are released, and get a FREE Guide called 13 Reasons Why Your Child Won’t listen To You and What To Do About Each One, just head on over to your YourParentingMojo.com/SUBSCRIBE. ou can also continue the conversation about the show with other listeners in the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. I do hope you’ll join us.
Jen Lumanlan 00:54
Hello and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. Today I want to do what feels a bit like going out on a limb and connect some ideas across the podcast episodes and some reading I’ve been doing and some thinking and some work I’ve been doing outside of these episodes as well to ask: Where are we going? Not just where am I going? Or where’s the podcast going? But since today is Mother’s Day in the US, although I know it has passed in many other places where it’s celebrated. Where are we as mothers and more broadly, we as parents going? And I think I’m going to call this episode The Mother’s Day Momifesto which really did seem revolutionary when I thought about it in the shower this morning. After all, how can I call something about mom’s a manifesto. But now I google it, I see that I’m not the first one to think about it. But anyway, I think the idea stands and run with it.
Jen Lumanlan 01:42
I think it’s time to look at this idea of where we’re going right now is because we’re in something of a liminal space. The word liminal comes from the Latin root, lemon meaning threshold, it’s a place where a certain part of our lives has come to an end. But the next thing hasn’t begun yet. So we’re in something of a transitional state. And in a way, we’ve been in a liminal space for over a year now, once COVID shutdown started, life changed pretty dramatically. For a lot of people, the old way of life had ended. And for most of us, it was very much against our will. And now we’re entering a new phase of the liminal space where mass vaccinations are underway in many countries, although vaccination rates within countries of high wealth as well as across countries still show that life isn’t valued equally, and that whiteness and money are associated with higher vaccination rates. Suddenly we can see that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, and that we’re coming to the end of this liminal space, and we’re coming into what’s next.
Jen Lumanlan 02:40
But what is next, the natural tendency is very often to go back to what we had before. And I see this play out in protest to reopen schools. Yes, having schools closed for such a long period of time has been incredibly difficult for a lot of people, and most of all, for people who have no choice but to leave the house to work every day. But in all the protests, where I’ve seen mostly affluent parents and children campaigning to reopen schools, what I haven’t seen is any discussion of what we want to reopen.
Jen Lumanlan 03:07
Because let’s face it, schools were not working very well for the vast majority of children before COVID. Even if we accept that standardized tests are acceptable measure of achievement, we can see the average scores in reading and math hovers somewhere between 250 and 300. On a scale of 0 to 500 points, that’s between basic and proficient. In other words, on average, in the richest country in the world, our average student performance is somewhat less than what we consider to be average performance, and far below anything approaching superior performance. And as we all know, huge discrepancies in school funding that’s driven by using property tax as the main source of income for schools means that children in some schools are doing quite well at passing standardized tests while others are essentially not learning anything at all.
Jen Lumanlan 03:55
I’m not seeing any discussion about whether we want to keep using standardized tests as a measure of our children’s learning or what steps we want to take to fund schools more equitably, or to completely reimagine what school looks like. So it’s actually a welcoming place for all children and all parents, and not something that creates and perpetuates ongoing trauma, while socializing children to participate in a system governed by white supremacy. And if you need more information, and full references on that, I encourage you to check out Episode 117 on school socialization.
Jen Lumanlan 04:27
I’m using school reopenings as an example here, because it’s one we can see playing out in the news, because the conversations I’m not seeing at all are about what we want parenting and specifically mothering to be like as we move into our new beginning.
Jen Lumanlan 04:42
Because if we’re really honest, parenting and mothering, were not working for us before the pandemic either. We were probably spending a lot of time rushing around trying to get up early in the morning so we can get a tiny bit of exercise in and realizing we’ve failed again as our child wakes us up and suddenly we’re scrambling to get ourselves ready for our day. Get some kind of food into our children teeth brushed clothes on out the door and time for daycare or preschool drop off, get us to the train on time to work sort out somebody else’s problems for eight hours rush back to meet the precise train that we need. sort of hoping it’ll be late because we left the office a minute late, so we might not make it if it isn’t. But also knowing that if it is late, we might miss pick up time and get fined by the minute and incur the teachers weathering looks for disrespecting their time. And then we’re rushing home trying to spend a few minutes or something that looks like quality time while somehow also getting dinner on the table, getting bath time done everyone in bed at a reasonable hour, before we just collapsed on the couch in front of Netflix. And then we got up and did the whole thing over again the next day. While feeling endlessly guilty about the tiny amount of time we were spending with our kids.
Jen Lumanlan 05:47
Or if we weren’t working outside the home perhaps our days were spent in an endless monotony of trying to get the baby down for a nap while the older one has independent playtime. But just after we sit down to eat lunch, the baby wakes up needs help resettling, we barely get to finish our meal, the older ones getting restless and needs our attention again. And so every day is just passing in this whirlwind of activities that somehow needs to be done and yet are so mind numbing that all the days blur together. Because if we aren’t working and we’re taking time to be with the children, then that’s our job, right? And we’re supposed to be completely devoted to it and not need any help. And if we ask for help, then we feel guilty because we feel like we should be able to handle it all. Because isn’t everyone else doing it?
Jen Lumanlan 06:29
And here’s the real kicker. If we realize we can’t handle it all and we’re falling apart, we go to the doctor for medication. Now I’m not dismissing or shaming medication at all. I know many parents who have found it a lifesaver, literally. But what I want to point out is that at no time in the process of falling apart and going to the doctor and getting medication, do we ever question that there’s something wrong with the system rather than with us? Right now, our system says if we can’t cope, the problem must be in us. My point is that when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us almost 18% of women in the US have taken antidepressants in the past 30 days when they were surveyed between 2015 – 2018, 86% of women aged 40 to 44. Being mothers, there are a massive number of mothers who are taking antidepressants to cope with the everyday experience of being a mother in our society. And these antidepressant usage is not spread evenly across all mothers. If we can assume that a similar proportion of mothers are taking antidepressants compared to all women, more than 22% of white women are using them compared to 10% of black women 9% of Latino women and just over 3% of Asian American women. So there are probably a lot of cultural variables here with white women being more likely to have access to health care, and also a greater acceptance and of intolerance for medication as a solution to what seemed to be melt mental illness in the white community.
Jen Lumanlan 07:55
But overall, there seems to be between 10 to 20% of women in the US who are so overwhelmed with life that they seek medical help. And my guess is there is a far greater proportion who don’t seek medical help but are either depressed at a subclinical level, or who have simply accepted that this is the way life is and that if something doesn’t feel right to them, it must just be that they need to cope better, planned better, hold it together better. And not that there’s something wrong with the system they’re trying to function within.
Jen Lumanlan 08:27
What does it look like when we’re in this state? Well, obviously, it looks different for different people, but it can look like feeling frazzled, like our brain is always turned on. Like we don’t know how to shut it off. So maybe we need sleeping pills to turn our brains off at night and then coffee to wake it up again in the morning.
Jen Lumanlan 08:43
It can also look like control. So much of our lives seem outside of our control, not least of which is our child’s behavior, which very much looks like a black box. A lot of the time. We input something in one side that was completely innocuous yesterday, and today output screaming and hitting. When our child’s behavior seems out of our control, we try to control it more.
Jen Lumanlan 09:02
When our partner doesn’t do things like feeding the toddler or loading the dishwasher or planning a vacation the way we would do it. We just say Oh, nevermind, I’ll do it. I was talking with Nicole who’s in my parenting membership in an interview that was published on the podcast a couple weeks ago and she said she clearly remembered realizing something needed to change when she found herself yelling at her husband from the other room when he was changing the baby’s diaper saying you’re doing it wrong.
Jen Lumanlan 09:28
We also try to control our bodies in a variety of ways. We pay excessive attention to what we eat. We try to control the shapes of our bodies. I can’t remember or find the original source but I remember reading something along the lines of if white women spent as much time thinking about racism as they do about being thin the world would be a very different place. We’re also told to control our bodies in a variety of ways. Breastfeeding has benefits for our baby of course, but one big reason to do it is because it will help you get your body back. If our bodies don’t fit in this tightly prescribed box of height, weight, corvinus lack of lumpiness, muscularity, hairlessness and color. Then we’re sold a host of lotions, potions, workout regimens, weight loss pills, diets, makeup, hair removal products to make them fit in that box. I’d venture to guess that not many of us spend hours each week managing our bodies to fit into this box because we enjoy it. We do it because we’re expected to do it, or we risk social ridicule and ostracism if we don’t.
Jen Lumanlan 10:29
The problem with all of this is it becomes so baked into us that we lose sight of where we end and where social expectations begin. So just as a tiny example, I shaved my legs. I like how smooth they feel I after I do it. I also remember being ridiculed by the kids at school for not shaving my legs, because my stepmother refused to buy razors for me and my sister and my stepsister. And my parents tightly controlled our access to money so that we couldn’t buy our own. And for people using my stepbrothers razor, used to blunt it pretty fast. So there was this humiliation of knowing that we weren’t supported at home, and the shame that we were getting at school for not toeing the line of femininity standards. And of course, all the men I’ve ever dated have just assumed that I would shave my legs and have made fun of women who don’t. And so yes, I do like how my legs are smooth after I shave them. But how much of this is me and how much of it is pressure from outside?.
Jen Lumanlan 11:20
And another example a parent in my membership, whom I was coaching recently had a revelation during our session. She’s actually in my Supporting Your Child’s Learning membership and we were having a coaching session, because she’d been having trouble getting started with the material. She was noticing that the content was really well aligned with her values of how children learn, which is very child LED, but she was finding herself gravitating towards something that she’d signed up for it that would send her daily emails telling her what to do to engage her child. And those activities can be fun when they happen to line up with a child’s interest. So they’re because they’re going out to hundreds or thousands of parents, they will only be ever a small number of children who are actually interested in the topic of that day.
Jen Lumanlan 11:59
But the parent was telling me that she felt drawn towards those emails because she thought she needed the structure they provided. During our console, she had a huge aha moment. She has a master’s degree. So she says she was in school from the time she was four until she was 24 without stopping. And she realized that this discomfort around lack of structure might not actually be the central part of her that she had assumed it was, but something that school had ingrained in her. She was still processing that thought as we finished the call, but this door had suddenly been opened. And behind that door was a tantalizing half formed image of her actual own self, which had been buried so deeply under the rituals and expectations of schooling. And she’s going to start to do some work to understand who she is without all of those layers that have been put on top of her squashing the real her underneath.
Jen Lumanlan 12:50
And until last year, I saw parents all the time running their children around from one activity to the next trying to fill holes in some perceived gaps in their children’s skills and abilities and well rounded us, we have a sense that there are a finite set of options available to our children, which traditionally end in high paying jobs or consulting companies or investment banks or in being a doctor. And the child has to get into one of our very few elite colleges to be among the first picked. And they have to graduate high school with the best grades in advanced my placement classes and volunteer experience in Brazil or Bali or Burundi, and share that they’re a team player by doing a sport at a high level and preferably play an instrument well and do regular community service and to do all that they have to be exposed really early on to an extraordinary array of activities, from gymnastics to piano lessons, to ballet, to chess, to soccer, to coding to scouting. Because if we aren’t doing those things, we’re failing as parents. we’re failing as mothers.
Jen Lumanlan 13:47
And all of us is policed on the playground and at preschool pickup and birthday parties when we’re asked. So what classes is your kid in? What summer camps are you doing? Our little Johnny’s really loving his piano lessons. Are you doing any music classes? And even if we’ve never thought of doing music classes before, suddenly we’re thinking crap, why Janie isn’t in music classes? What if we’re missing a critical window for her to learn something that she won’t be able to learn later in life, and it affects her ability to pick up languages are coding or something else? There’s a music school in town. I wonder if they have any openings? But it’s halfway through the semester, maybe somebody dropped out of a class? Can we afford it? And do they have a mobile friendly schedule on their website, so I could check it out and try and get as a slot on our way home. And all of this happens in the blink of an eye and sometimes we catch ourselves on the way home thinking. It’s okay. Janie doesn’t need music classes. But sometimes we don’t. And we add another thing to our pile.
Jen Lumanlan 14:40
Our role in all of this is to navigate and apparently impossible challenge to pursue our own individual success, happiness, maybe career, while also being completely selfless and giving our children everything they need. And where there’s a conflict between those two things like when work requires an overnight trip, and we have a six month old who’s nursing or we get an amazing opportunity that would require us to be available in the evenings on a regular basis, or our partner gets a promotion that makes them essentially unavailable during the children’s waking hours during the entire week. But we can’t do anything about it because we had to dramatically cut our hours. So we could supervise Zoom-school. And now it’s our job to keep the kids quiet all day. Well, I’ve heard and is working. And when these things happen, it’s us that have to give.
Jen Lumanlan 15:25
And if we’re going to be successful, it has to be successes it’s defined for men. success means that we have access to the same opportunities as men, and that we do well on those opportunities on the terms that men define. We have to work within the existing rules about the numbers of working hours and when those working hours happen. And being in the office and the metrics that are used to define our success and our promotions. And if we’re ever seen is asking too much for ourselves, or deviating too much from the norm, or being a bit too emotional. If we rock the boat in any way, then we’re ashamed or humiliated back into the mold. I still remember when I was freshly back from maternity leave in my consulting job. At that time, I was still working in a client facing role. And I asked the person who was responsible for getting me placed in a role, how long I would be allowed to not traveled to client sites every week. And her response was, we usually give you a few months to re acclimate. After all, the job hasn’t changed. So our ‘choices’ when I put that inverted commas are to continue on the hard and fast track of travel and client meetings and all the rest of it, or step off onto the mommy track where you don’t do all those things, you just work on internal projects. That’s not a choice, that’s picking. That’s like being in school, when the teacher tells you, you can choose between two assignments neither of which interests you, and which isn’t really a choice at all.
Jen Lumanlan 16:45
Like my client from the coaching call, we create a tough skin for ourselves to hide underneath. We assume that the way we’ve been trained to act is actually us. I’ve worked with so many parents who fit the traditional model of success defined by a large number of years of education at good schools, a lucrative career or having made the choice to step away from a lucrative career to care for the children, and who suddenly wake up and have no idea how they got there. They were simply putting one foot in front of the other each step of the way, turning in the next book report studying for the next exam, getting into the next school, applying for the next job, because that’s what everybody else was doing. And the whole time, we either have the blinders on so tightly, we don’t even realize there might be another option or we feel something isn’t right. But we’re not sure what we feel like we’re afraid and yes we’re nominally in a family with all these other people around us. But why do we feel so alone so much of the time?.
Jen Lumanlan 17:43
If we keep the facade up long enough, the tough skin we’ve created to protect us hardens into a shell. I see this happening all the time in the parents I coach in The Taming of Triggers Workshop. The hard skins that they start to start to to form to protect themselves from the pain that they experienced in childhood, have turned into impenetrable shells. And much of the work we do is on peeking underneath those shells which we had thought were integral to ourselves and finding that actually they are not, and that maybe we can show up in the world without them. But what would that be like? And what would it be like if the world actually supported us in that process, rather than doing everything it can to make us think we still need that shell and it’s better all around if we keep it on? What would it be like to make a real choice about how we live our lives instead of feeling caught in a trap that was laid by the choices that we didn’t make, or the things we picked between that somebody else chose for us.
Jen Lumanlan 18:38
The easier option by far is to smooth down that little bit of shell were peeking under where it came from continuing to lift it up is going to rock the boat, it will rock the boat in our partnership, with our children in our jobs, with our friends. There may be a lot of grief for what has been lost along the path to where we are today. And there will likely be a deep desire to paper everything over to not show weakness to stay in control to make sure nobody knows. But do we want to go back to the way things were before?. Now that we’ve seen what’s under their shell? Can we go back to the way things were before?.
Jen Lumanlan 19:14
We’re on a journey. And if we identify as male, this is the hero’s journey. This is a journey that a male takes after separating from the people they love going on an adventure, experiencing some kind of victory in a crisis and being transformed through this and then returning to their world and figuring out how to integrate what they learned into life. The separation is a critical part of that story.
Jen Lumanlan 19:36
But women don’t work like that. Women working communities. Women must work in communities and in communities that are broader and more inclusive than the ones we’ve been able to create so far. Because it might not feel like it at times when our kids are pulling our pants down when we’re cooking because they need us right now. And our boss is breathing down our neck to make sure we deliver something tomorrow that they just dumped on us today and we’re feeling pulled in a million reactions that we who have time to listen to podcasts about parenting and child development are incredibly fortunate. Pretty often we’re the ones who actually have a lot of power in the world. When we email the director of our child’s preschool because we don’t like how much the teachers are praising our child, they pay attention. If we demand extracurricular programs in French or drama or chess, and we’re willing to lead a fundraising event, chances are the school is going to make it happen.
Jen Lumanlan 20:25
But there are plenty of parents and children whose needs were not met by the school system before February 2020. And whose need will not be met after it reopens if it reopens in the same format that it was before. Some of these children come from cultures that value oral storytelling and tell the most complex and amazing stories. But because they don’t fit into the narrative that white teachers expect. If this happened, then this happened, then this happened, they get singled out for special attention, remedial attention, also called special education. Some parents were bullied in schools by other students or even by teachers. And when they set foot in a school, they get flashbacks to those events, and then they’re treated poorly by their child’s teachers today. And then the parents don’t want to come into school anymore, and they’re labeled hard to reach. And teachers lament that the parents don’t seem to care about their child’s learning.
Jen Lumanlan 21:14
There are parents who spend less time with their children so they can take care of our children. Maybe some of the parents listening are on their way to care for somebody else’s children right now. There are parents who want to nurse their babies, but they had no paid leave. So they went back to work three days after giving birth. And they have to pump milk in the bathroom in the cafe where they work while the clock ticks down on their break time minutes. While the people who work at the corporate office have designated pumping rooms and fridges and unlimited time for pumping. I’m looking at you Starbucks. There are parents who speak three languages, but their English is accented so people don’t really listen when they speak. My English is accented too. But I have the right kind of accent. So people think I’m smarter than I really am. And the same systems are keeping us all in our place. So when we’re thinking about this world we want to create it has to be one that accounts for the different challenges we face.
Jen Lumanlan 22:04
I interviewed Dr. John Powell for the episode on the idea of Othering, and he talks about the concept of targeted universalism. We’ve already discussed a version of that when we look at standardized testing, we don’t want to hold up the white and the Asian American students who do relatively well on standardized tests and say that we want to bring everybody else up to their level. We actually want to observe that there’s room for improvement for all students and we need to create systems that help everybody allocating more help for the people who need it most. Well, actually, I think we need to get rid of standardized tests and use more effective ways of understanding children’s learning. But let’s take one thing at a time. I really appreciate that idea of targeted universalism, because it gives us a way to approach intersectionality that’s actually helpful. Intersectionality is the idea that different parts of our identities intersect. So for example, the lived experiences of a black woman will be different from those of a white woman or a black man. The blackness and the femaleness intersect, so the black woman may face more prejudice and discrimination than the white woman or the black man.
Jen Lumanlan 23:03
When people object to the concept of intersectionality. It’s usually because they see themselves often white men at the top of the heap right now. And they assume that if they’re not at the top and black women are talking about this, that they want to be at the top and suddenly white men are going to be at the bottom. But if we look at this through the lens of targeted universalism, we can say that actually, things aren’t going so great for white men at the moment either. As we learned in our episodes on patriarchy anger in our society. So if they’re hurt or sad, they have to keep it inside, they’re more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with it and have a higher rate of suicide than women. There are links between patriarchy and illness in men like heart disease, lung disease, and also with violence towards a partner and having been arrested. So no, we’re not looking to flip the order and put white men on the bottom. We’re looking to make society better for everyone, but more better for the people who have experienced the most difficulties in the system we have right now.
Jen Lumanlan 24:03
As Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw argued in the 1989 paper that she wrote, which defined intersectionality, the legal system has long refused to see it as even a thing. She traces legal decisions against black women who alleged discrimination by their employers, because they were black women, arguing that the women had failed to demonstrate discrimination against white women so damage discrimination could not have occurred. In one case called DeGraffenried v. General Motors. It was observed that General Motors laid off all the black women hired after 1970 in a seniority based layoffs during a recession. The court ruled in favor of General Motors because the women bringing the suit had failed to show sex discrimination or race discrimination. The women had tried to show they’d been discriminated against in both ways, but the court refused to recognize this as a possibility. Dr. Crenshaw argues that quote, “the very fact that black women’s claims are seen as a parent suggests that sex discrimination doctrine is centered in the experiences of white women”
Jen Lumanlan 24:59
And these issues pervade our society at every level, and in more ways than I can possibly count. So I’m just going to kind of take a small sample that can’t even hope to be representative of the broader picture.
Jen Lumanlan 25:10
Public transit systems are geared around men’s, needs particularly white men, who are commuting from suburbs to the city center in the morning and back again in the evening. Rather than around women’s needs who take different kinds of journeys. Women have to drive or if they don’t have a car and the bus doesn’t go where they need to go, they can’t go. more than twice as many black indigenous people of color don’t have cars as white people.
Jen Lumanlan 25:32
After a woman named Sarah Everard was walking home in London in March of this year, she disappeared she was later found murdered, police went door to door telling women to stay home to protect themselves. A politician Jenny Jones sarcastically wondered whether it would be better to impose a curfew on men to stop them from committing crimes, and then she received hate mail from those who were not amused. Women are expected change their behavior so they won’t be killed. And this case received an enormous amount of press in the U.K and elsewhere, partly because Everard was white and pretty. But in the three years to the year ending March 2020, the average homicide rates per million population were around five times higher for black victims than white victims in England and Wales, and almost four times higher than victims of other ethnicities.
Jen Lumanlan 26:17
When we look at contributions related to scientific research on COVID-19, we found that women scientists have published 19% fewer papers as lead author led half the number of clinical trials related to COVID-19 compared to clinical trials in two fields unrelated to COVID, and were massively outnumbered in press coverage. The Gates Foundation found that quote, “every individual woman’s voice in the news on COVID-19 is drowned out by the voices of at least three, four or five men. The women who are given a platform in the COVID-19 Coronavirus story are rarely portrayed as authoritative experts or as empowered individuals, but more frequently as sources of personal opinion, or as victims slash people affected by the disease.”
Jen Lumanlan 27:00
There’s so much going on in just these few statistics on the COVID case. In the beginning of the pandemic, the woman in a two parent family was more likely to be in the lower paying jobs so that was their career that suffered more when the children’s school was closed, and someone suddenly had to babysit Zoom-school for five hours a day. This impacts all women but schools serving majority white students and more than three times as likely as school districts that enroll mostly BIPOC students to be open for some in person learning. So women and especially BIPOC women scientists had less time to devote to work, just as studies related to COVID-19 were ramping up. But the 19% fewer papers and half a number of clinical trials is still outweighed by the 3, 4 or 5 as many men who appear on the news, which means that even when women are doing the work, they’re being passed over and opportunities to talk about it. And this may be partly because media coverage has focused heavily on quoting the government leaders and the very top scientists in each country, the majority of whom are men.
Jen Lumanlan 27:57
As Ijeoma Oluo says in the foreword to Sonia Rene Taylor’s book The Body is Not An Apology, Black women and girls are shamed for being too loud, too angry, too fat and too black. If they were men, they’d be allowed to be loud and fat, although we’re still too threatened by angry black men. If they were white they could be loud and angry but still not fat because our culture sees body weight as something to be ashamed of as a sign of insufficient willpower and control.
Jen Lumanlan 28:23
Moving to another topic, 32% of the US population is represented by black and Latino people. But 56% of the people in jail are African-American and Latino. Black and Latino men also face significantly higher odds than whites of receiving life sentences, life sentences without the possibility of parole and the death penalty for committing the same crimes. Nationwide in the US black people will comprise 58% of those serving life sentences with no possibility of parole. And as much as 77%. In Maryland, black people make up 13% of the US population. But more than 40% of people on death row are black. And this doesn’t just affect the people who are in jail, but their families who lose the source of income the children who lose a parent, the communities who lose citizens.
Jen Lumanlan 29:08
Pretty much the entirety of science is geared to validate the white way of seeing the world. I’m going to do a podcast episode on this at some point but some brief illustrations. Standard Body Mass Index calculations are based on the weight of white people and put too many black people into the obese category. Even though research indicates that BMI is actually a terrible predictor of health we still use it.
Jen Lumanlan 29:28
White cultural norms about family structure pervade all aspects of scientific research, so anything other than the nuclear family is seen as an aberration.
Jen Lumanlan 29:37
In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, author Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer describes the dean of her department dismissing a proposed study on the potentially positive impact of harvesting sweetgrass on sweetgrass population since “anyone knows that harvesting a plant will damage the population, you’re wasting your time and I’m afraid I don’t find this whole traditional knowledge thing very convincing.” When actually the student ended up finding that harvesting sweetgrass, which is a common practice among the citizen of Potawatomi Nation peoples, and which causes sweetgrass population to increase.
Jen Lumanlan 30:10
This idea extends to the way we manage public lands. National Parks are places that are only to be visited and enjoyed and not used for consumption, so nobody can live there or harvest resources there. People actually did live in the places we call national parks once, but white settlers either killed them or forced them to leave. There’s actually a new article in The Atlantic arguing that National Parks should be turned over in their entirety to be managed by Native Americans. Native people are maintaining their cultural practices despite centuries of genocide, and ongoing underfunded health systems and a dominant narrative in the media about the social problems like drug use and violence on reservations that somehow never seem to find genocide to be the cause of these things.
Jen Lumanlan 30:51
The overall point that I want to make here is that everyone is hurting. All the people that colonialism has affected or hurting, and the colonists are hurting too. So do we want to drop right back into that system?. Some might argue that there can be no real redress for the harm that colonists have done until we compensate the descendants of people who were enslaved, and return all the land that used to belong to indigenous peoples to them. But even if we can’t, or won’t be able to do that, shouldn’t we try to work towards a solution that at least goes some way to help all of us who are hurting so much?.
Jen Lumanlan 31:28
And when we start thinking about this, it can be tempting to see rights as the solution to the problem. If I have a right to be treated in a certain way, then I can punish others, or ask for them to be punished if they don’t treat me in that way. I look to Nonviolent Communication practitioner Mickey Kashtan on this topic, who’s much further along than I am and thinking about this, and she says even she’s still working to translate the language of rights into the language of needs. She says that when we disagree with people, the language of rights separates us, while the language of understanding what we each need connects us. When we focus on the effect that their choices have on us, we can think that they deserve punishment for their actions that violate standards we have set or the government’s have set.
Jen Lumanlan 32:10
But governments aren’t neutral actors. They aren’t set up to protect us. Actual conditions have varied by state, but the United States Constitution was written so mostly white males who own property, often around 50 acres of land and or 40 pounds of person property could vote. Many states has a religious test as well. If you weren’t white, you most likely couldn’t vote. If you’re a woman, you couldn’t vote except if you lived in New Jersey, and you could meet the property requirement, at least until 1807, when the state decided they didn’t want women to vote anymore. If you experienced disabilities, and this prevented you from earning enough to meet the requirement, you couldn’t vote, if your skin color was anything other than why you couldn’t vote. All people over the age of 18 now legally have the right to vote. But that doesn’t prevent the largely white male population of lawmakers from trying to disenfranchise anyone who doesn’t look like them now, even today.
Jen Lumanlan 33:02
So as Mickey Kashtan says, this language of rights isn’t enough. We have to constantly earn rights, we have to work to earn the right to have money, we value some forms of work much more highly than others. And we pay people who do that work more. We say that if you aren’t working, you don’t have a right to healthcare, and how those two ideas come to be connected in the first place is really beyond my comprehension. We have to earn a place at university which will give us the right to a well paying job by doing tasks in school that are irrelevant to our lives over and over again. And only people who are willing to suspend their disbelief that this can really be what we need to do to prove our worth are the ones that make it through. And if we feel that someone has prevented us from doing something we’re entitled to do, we can go through the highly patriarchal legal system, which refuses to see how intersectionality impacts us, and requires that everyone in the system interact in a way that white males would do through confrontation, the use of superior logic and punishment.
Jen Lumanlan 34:00
In the face of all the things in our society that are working against us, it can be hard to imagine how we can even begin to make a difference. I know I very easily fall into the thought patterns of what I’m just one person, how much can anything I ever do do make a big enough impact to make a difference. I was in the process of launching the project to develop anti racist policies for the podcast and the business which has taken a massive amount of my time and thinking how big of an impact will this really have even if I believe in it. But I’ve already heard from people who have podcasts and businesses starting to think about doing this work themselves because they’ve been learning about it for me. So my work hopefully has immediate benefits for the people who listen to the podcast and participate in memberships and courses and workshops, but it also has much broader impacts.
Jen Lumanlan 34:47
And one way that we can all have a huge impact is the way we’re raising our children. And this can perhaps seem like incredibly slow incremental work, but over time, the implications are profound. If we’re all invested in raising human beings in a deeply respectful relationship, because they learned about real respect from us, not the one way respect that we learned from our parents. These will be people who see that needs are not being met in the world, and who will want to do something about it.
Jen Lumanlan 35:16
So every time we see our child’s behavior, so every time we see our child’s difficult behavior, and we don’t react with a punishment, but instead try to find out why the child is behaving in this way, and respond with compassion, we’re doing this work. When we teach our children that no means no by not tickling them unless they’ve said they want to be tickled by not forcing them to submit to grandmas kisses, we’re doing this work. When we see that we’re reacting to our child’s behavior out of frustration that comes from the conditioning we received from our own parents and we take steps to recognize and understand that and not react from that place of fear and shame. We’re doing this work.
Jen Lumanlan 35:54
When we see what our own values are, and be with our children in a way that is aligned with those values. We’re doing this work.
Jen Lumanlan 36:01
We can never know exactly how our children are going to turn out. But if we do this work, and it is hard work, our children will most likely have an easier time than we did. They won’t be saddled with a triggered feelings that plague us that arise out of the difficult relationships we had with our own parents. They won’t feel the same shame that we feel whenever we step out of line, they’ll know how to understand their feelings and needs, instead of getting to the middle of their lives and figuring out for the first time they have needs, but have no idea how to identify and articulate them.
Jen Lumanlan 36:32
But at the end of the day, if our children, the children of relatively advantaged people who have the time to listen to podcasts about parenting and child development are the ones who get the benefit of our efforts, then I think we’ve missed something of the point. If our children graduate from good schools and get well paying jobs, or invent the next must have widget that we can make for 25 cents and sell for $14.99, then we won’t really have succeeded.
Jen Lumanlan 36:55
The real promise of respectful parenting is not what it can do for our children, but for how it will affect all children. Because we need to raise children who see respect for all people as a foundational principle, we need to raise young adults who look beyond the boundaries of their own selves and even their own families and see the well being of all families as wrapped up in their own well being. The success of all families wrapped up in their own success. We need to raise children who see that they’re getting ahead in life at the expense of everyone else, doesn’t really mean they got ahead and to work towards a state where everyone’s needs are met. As Dr. John Powell says, we aren’t just trying to close the gap, and bring everyone else up to the level of what white people have. We’re saying that right now. nobody’s getting their needs met. And we’re going to need to work hard to meet our needs an extra hard to meet the needs of people who are struggling more than we are struggling. That to me is where we parents need to go.
Jen Lumanlan 37:51
So what would life be like as we leave this liminal space and create a new beginning? What will we make of life in the new beginning? What we breathe a sigh of relief that schools are reopening and feel slightly more spacious. Now we can have a bit more time by ourselves, even as we get back on the treadmill of shuffling the kids from one things to the next?. Well, we take the time to look back and say, yeah, there were a lot of parts of last year that really sucked. But there were some good parts too. We spent some more time together, we got to know the neighbors. We learned some things about what’s really important to us. And use those lessons to shape how we’ll spend our time in the future?.
Jen Lumanlan 38:27
On a small scale, where we go back to attending 30 kids birthday parties a year? Which of our friends do we really want to spend time with? With all of our lives be richer if we had a small set of really close friends?
Jen Lumanlan 38:39
The New York Times ran a really visual article lately with quotes and photographs from people who report as interviewed about the shift in their lives that they see coming. So many of the quotes from throughout the article made me think that maybe we are going to do things differently.
Jen Lumanlan 38:54
Mary Fugate from Pennsylvania said, “I don’t think I can go back to her before. I don’t think I fit into that life anymore”.
Jen Lumanlan 39:01
Elena Cruz from Missouri said,” I care much more about being with people who make me feel whole now, the pandemic scraped away facades we’ve built around our lives”.
Jen Lumanlan 39:10
Joelle right, Terry from Michigan is a COVID survivor whose husband died of it last April. She said, “I know I am becoming someone different”.
Jen Lumanlan 39:18
So there’s a lot of thinking about what this new world will be like and what might be our place in it. And some people are thinking about how they will interact differently with that world as well.
Jen Lumanlan 39:30
In the same article, Aline Miller from Georgia said “I am not going to try to be polite anymore. I am going to be hopefully a less behaved less likeable, ballsy, a more outspoken, more dangerous woman. All those rules I had followed those rules will not save me”. Then hopefully when she says balls, he or she doesn’t automatically means she’s going to be more like men, and that she’ll be a more dangerous woman on her own terms.
Jen Lumanlan 39:54
I know it can seem as though there isn’t much that any one of us can do to change the larger scale of things that we don’t Like about the world, but there’s actually a lot that we can do. So as I started develop this comprehensive set of anti racist principles for the podcast in the business, which are being finalized, as I record this, I wondered, can it really make that much of a difference, but when I randomly end up on a group zoom call unrelated to your parenting merger, and I met someone in a breakout group who happens to be a listener, and who tells me she’s thinking about introducing sliding scale pricing in her business. For many of the reasons I’ve talked about doing sliding scale pricing, including using it as an opportunity to address past and ongoing wrongs, I see that it does make a difference. My tiny pebble made a ripple and who knows whom her record will touch, and how many other people are there out there whom I haven’t happened to meet on zoom calls, who are creating their own ripples.
Jen Lumanlan 40:47
Other things we can do, we can get involved with organizations like showing up for racial justice or search, which takes the lead from organizations led by BIPOC organizers, and reports to them on its progress in dismantling racist institutions and practices. Through work that you can do as a volunteer with no knowledge or experience just by showing up on a one hour call. They tell you exactly what to do and how to do it.
Jen Lumanlan 41:08
We can look to the people in our community whose voices aren’t being heard. Which parents did you use to see at school pickup time, whom you don’t see on the district’s zoom meetings to discuss reopening plans, you can ask your school district what plans they have for making sure these families voices are heard. If you plan to speak up about something that isn’t working for your family, make sure to talk with other families too, including ones that might be outside your regular network. Perhaps you’ll find the arrangement was critical for them to being able to get back to their job, even if it was a minor inconvenience for you. And maybe it’s something you can live with. After all.
Jen Lumanlan 41:43
If you work outside the home, where do you see issues of equity showing up in your job? What tiny reticle? Can you make yourself to hire someone who wouldn’t normally have been considered for a role because they look different from the hiring committee? What can you do to make the language you use in your daily interactions more inclusive? And how can you make a bigger record by working with a team of peers or someone who has more power than you? What could you changed by collaborating with others to expose inequalities in your world?
Jen Lumanlan 42:10
The initial massive new infrastructure plan that was heavily publicized here in the U.S focused on hard infrastructure like bridges, roads, subsidizing electric cars, basically saw the world that men live in and ignored women’s concerns. And then the new American families plan was announced, which would provide universal preschool available to three and four year olds, ensure that low and middle income families wouldn’t spend more than 7% of their income on child care. And that the childcare they access is of high quality, you would create a National Comprehensive paid family medical leave program and expand access to school meals for children. Tax cuts related to children will be extended, including health insurance tax credits.
Jen Lumanlan 42:49
If you’re listening to this, and you happen to be in a job that provides maternity and paternity leave, and maybe you pray for private preschool, and you earn enough that the tax cuts would benefit you then it’s easy to think, Oh, well, this doesn’t really affect me much. So it doesn’t really matter how it turns out. But if we want things to be different as we come out of our liminal space, it does matter. We do need to engage and beyond just the needs of our tiny bubble. We need to do the small things like Cary’s and I have been helping to get an outdoor space ready for learning at our neighborhood school. Even though she doesn’t attend that school. We’re doing it because we want the children who do attend to benefit from it. We do need to call our representatives and tell them that childcare is a component of critical infrastructure even if we’re not using it ourselves. Schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy each have a board of directors and there are people on it who are community members who don’t even have children in the schools. When people in town see a problem, they turn to the children in the schools for help in solving it. In Braiding Wweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer says that people from across the community in her town come out to celebrate the high school graduation, whether they have children graduating or not. Everyone is invested in the community as a whole, not just in the services they use. That’s what I think we are missing and what we could so easily build up and that would repay itself so many times over.
Jen Lumanlan 44:07
So the real test is whether you say things like The American families plan being announced, and you see that it won’t benefit you directly very much. And you call or write to your senator and Representative anyway, and ask them for their support for it. Because you see how much will all be lifted up if we do this work together and that the parents who need it most will be lifted up more. I’ve sent messages to mine, will you join me and send messages to yours?.
Jen Lumanlan 44:31
There are so many more things we can do. But these are the kinds of things we’re going to need to do to shift so that we can all be more fulfilled as parents and as people than we have been in the past. To shift to a world where we don’t just see what rights we have and they aren’t being met but to see each individual’s needs, our needs, our child needs and the needs of all the other children and families as well. And to work on meeting those.
Jen Lumanlan 44:55
Learning how to meet our own needs is a great place to start. I regularly coach pair Parents who have absolutely no idea what their own needs are, nevermind how to start getting the mat on the setting, loving and effective limits masterclass last weekend I coached a parent Mariana, whose children need her to do every single thing for them. Even her husband would come out of his home office and tell them to stop asking her for things. So he saw the need for her to get some time to herself. But just telling the children to stop bugging her wasn’t actually doing much to help her meet her need.
Jen Lumanlan 45:28
On the call, we helped her to make a plan to get 15 minutes to herself each day when the children are home. So not while they’re out at school. And her eyes were wide open as she imagined that this might even be possible. She had felt caught between her own need for some time to herself and her desire to give everything to her children. The comments in the chat were flooding in from parents saying how much they could relate how much they could see themselves in her and how much empathy they had for her.
Jen Lumanlan 45:56
What’s wrong with our situation, when we can see that we have this need for something as basic as 15 minutes of self care time. And we can’t fully articulate that to anyone who can actually help us achieve it. When we feel too guilty to ask for it. In a way it goes back to Aline Mello the ballsier woman from Georgia, who seemed as though she was working on identifying her needs and getting those met, and not spending all of our time meeting everyone else’s needs and never having energy left for ourselves. I’ve helped lots of parents start to understand how to be more fully present in their lives by understanding their needs. And I’d love to help you with it too.
Jen Lumanlan 46:32
There are lots of people who can help to guide you along this path. But if you’d like to learn about this from me so that you can understand your and your child’s needs and meet both of those also work toward meeting everybody else in the communities needs. I hope you’ll join me in my parenting membership. doors are open now through midnight on May 12. And sliding scale pricing is available, you can find out more information about it at yourparentingmojo.com/parentingmembership.
Jen Lumanlan 46:57
In the membership we work on supporting you and your family. But we never lose sight of the fact that we’re not only doing this for us and for our children. We’re working to shift our own mindset and raise compassionate children for the benefit of all of us. Whether you choose to work with me on this or not, we need you. Our global community needs to hear your voice about what you want life to be like as we reopen, and needs your help making space for other voices as well. Will you join us?
Jen Lumanlan 47:24
Thanks for joining us for this episode of Your Parenting Mojo. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show at YourParentingMojo.com to receive new episode notifications, and the FREE Guide Called 13 Reasons Why Your Child Won’t Listen To You and What To Do About Each One . And also join the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. For more respectful research-based ideas to help kids thrive and make parenting easier for you. I’ll see you next time on Your Parenting Mojo.
About the author, Jen
Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.
Her Finding Your Parenting Mojo membership group supports parents in putting the research into action in their real lives, with their real families. Find more info at www.YourParentingMojo.com/Membership
She also launched the most comprehensive course available to help parents decide whether homeschooling could be right for their family. Find out more about it – and take a free seven-question quiz to get a personalized assessment of your own homeschooling readiness at www.YourHomeschoolingMojo.com
And for parents who are committed to public school but recognize the limitations in that system, she has a course to help support children's learning in school at https://jenlumanlan.teachable.com/p/school