Welcome to Parenting from Below, the Leveller’s column for parents and their friends and allies. The column discusses the various trials and tribulations of social justice parenting while aiming to create a dialogue amongst parents and their supporters on raising children with a critical perspective and a radical purpose.
Our society is dominated by overconsumption, hypersexism, racism, homophobia, and a myriad of other forms of discrimination and oppression. These conditions leave parents in a life-consuming struggle. In short, radical parenting has become a necessity. This column will look at the why and how of parenting from below, of challenging and defying parenting norms, and of sharing and soliciting ideas from radical parents and their allies.
Strengthening Support Networks
Last issue, Parenting from Below took baby steps with its very first column. At this point I have not determined a logical pattern concerning the content of this and future columns, but would like to take this opportunity to touch on the topic of support, as it is often on my mind.
More often than not, new parents are either abandoned by their communities or impose isolation upon themselves (depending on who you ask). So, as friends and allies engaged in various struggles for social justice, how can we support our comrades who have babies? How can new parents support each other? What does meaningful support look like? Perhaps most importantly, how do we sustain ourselves and each other over the short and long terms?
The pregnancy, birth, and first days, weeks, and months of parenting are a grueling, stressful, exhausting, and astoundingly beautiful time. But aside from a couple of excellent books – see the Resource of the Month – there is no existing guide on how to offer (or for that matter ask) for support. It is easy for new parents to become consumed by their new responsibilities and disappear from their activist and social circles.
Friends and allies can first offer support by offering to do chores for new and expecting parents. For example, our friends cooked extra portions at every meal and supplied us with frozen, nutritious food for the first few weeks of our newborn’s life. This was extremely helpful, since we, as many other new parents, did not have time to cook or do basic housework. Offering to cook and do laundry or other housework is a great step in a supportive direction.
As far as parents helping parents, basic support can come in the form of knowledge and resource-sharing, such as books, clothes, and other second-hand items not in immediate use. I for one have a crummy record of reaching out to fellow new-parent-activists in town and would love to hear other parents’ perspectives on how new parents can keep in touch and support each other.
Feeling abandoned? Personally, I have been thinking more lately about the concept of self-reflexivity and trying to move from the mental position of expecting help and support to contemplating, “if I am not receiving the support I expect, perhaps those close to me are not in a state to offer support.” So what can I do to reach out and offer support to those in my community? Yes, I am busy and at times overwhelmed, but even reaching out and attempting the little things can help to build mutual aid and reciprocal support.
If we support each other in the short-term we help build a foundation for sustainable relationships and community building in the long-term. We can build inclusive movements which include parents and children. In sum, let’s support each other. After all, we are raising the revolution.
Send in your comments, questions, and testimonials to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resource of the month: Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities. Edited by Victoria Law and China Martens. PM Press, 2012.
This column first appeared in the Leveller, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Nov/Dec 2014).