How Parenthood Prepared me for the Trump Presidency
Parenthood is a life changing event for a LOT of different reasons. It has certainly taught me the kind of life skills that are applicable to multiple situations. While I really hate the fact that I have to deal with it at all, here are some ways that parenthood has prepared me for Trump’s administration:
It opened my eyes to the social problems in our nation.
When I got pregnant one week after finishing grad school, it was the spring of 2007. Suddenly, the fact that I hadn’t yet been able to find a job was critical. When I struggled with postpartum depression, I realized how sparsely mental healthcare was covered by our insurance. When my daughter started kindergarten at our neighborhood school, I learned that so many of the local children came from poverty that the entire school received free lunches.
While we can intellectually acknowledge and appreciate many of the problems faced by minorities and underprivileged groups in this country, there’s something visceral about parenthood that brings all of these social inequalities into sharper focus. Additionally, parenthood makes you part of a club that you can’t ever leave. There’s no such thing as another person’s child – you care about every child’s future with the same fervor as your own.
Just when you start getting used to things, they will change.
There’s always something that’s challenging about whatever phase your kid is in. Maybe they’re teething, giving up naptime, afraid of the dark, struggling in a class. But just about the time you start to get used to the situation, the tooth pops out. They make it through the day without nodding off, sleep through the night, bring their grades up with extra credit assignments. And then there’s something else you’re going to have to face.
It feels much the same way in the Trump era – just as soon as we’d handled the Travel Ban, Trump began pounding his chest at North Korea. When that seemed less urgent, we got Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Now we’re cleaning up after those storms, only to discover that Congress is going after health care again and trying to ban abortion after 20 weeks. It’s like “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”, only this time, people are going to die if we get complacent.
It gave me experience dealing with irrational people.
Let’s be honest – every one of us cackled at Senator Bob Corker’s tweet about the White House being an adult daycare center, but then came the Politico report about how staffers have actually used some of the same techniques on Trump that I employed with my toddler. Suddenly that silly joke became less of a joke and more of a sad sign of the times.
Toddlers and kids can be absolutely unreasonable, and the younger they are, the harder it is to have any kind of rational interaction. The same often seems to happen when we encounter hardcore Trump-trainers, who insist that climate change isn’t real and that the Virgin Islands have their own president. It can make you insane to realize that you work with these people – or worse, you’re related to them – and that you have to have some kind of functional relationship to get the job done, get dinner on the table, or just make it through a holiday event without being written out of the will. The ability to pick your battles becomes a massive advantage. Just like you let Junior’s mismatched socks go unchallenged, you know that Great Aunt Tessie’s birther beliefs are not even worth your mental energy.
Take it one day at a time, but keep the long term goal in sight.
I confess: there have been many, MANY days that I’ve counted the minutes until my husband came home, eagerly anticipating a break from the constant needs of my kid. But even though I felt like I was taking things a day (or even an hour) at a time, trying to survive, I knew that I had to keep our long term goals in sight. Whether potty training, teaching her to read, or fighting over her tooth brushing habits, there were plenty of times I wanted to abandon the struggle for the day. Yet I knew that the long term goal was so important that I needed to keep fighting the good fight.
It can be so tempting to just throw in the towel – give up on our government, stop having the hard conversations with friends and neighbors, and instead binge watch Netflix and hope it all blows over soon. But we all know that no matter how hard it gets, it’s important to keep our cool and set our eyes on the prize. We WILL prevent Trump and his cronies from doing permanent damage to our country. The future depends on it. Which brings me to the next way parenthood prepared me…
It taught me to “fill my own cup”.
And it’s not just filled with coffee(…or booze, I promise). In the first couple years of parenthood, I felt like I had to be a self-sacrificing martyr mom, giving up everything that wasn’t about my kid. As a result, I fell further and further into depression, which made being a mom even harder. It wasn’t until I got a job outside the home that I began to recover my vision of who I was when I wasn’t changing diapers or playing dollies. I realized that taking care of myself made me a better mom.
Nowadays, it’s easy to spend too much time battling Twitter trolls and watching 24 hour cable news. The constant stream of anxiety over nuclear war threats and executive orders is flooding our systems with cortisol, and it’s exhausting to the body and to the spirit. We have to keep ourselves sane somehow, or we aren’t able to keep up the momentum of calling our Congresspersons, finding spare cash to donate to causes under fire, or explaining to Uncle Ralph why the Travel Ban is unconstitutional. We have to take time to feed ourselves nutritious food, take short breaks from social media, drink plenty of water, and rest or sleep when necessary.
It taught me how strong I am, and how I can keep going when times get tough.
For all the wonderful memories and touching moments parenthood brings, there are plenty of times when things just SUCK. Whether it’s a colicky infant, a nasty stomach flu, the emotional rollercoaster of teenagers, or helping your adult child out of a bad situation, there are going to be times when parenting is not fun, or even tolerable. But we don’t give up. We know our kids are depending on us. We know they need our stability and our strength, our experience and our enthusiasm, our love and our encouragement.
Friends, it’s got to be the same for the country. We are counting on one another to wade through the bullshit, bring the criminals in power to justice, stop the creep of fascism and white supremacy, and make a better tomorrow for all of us. It sucks. It’s not fun. But we need each other.
If nothing else, we do it for the kids.