This Mothers Day: Turn Ache into Action

A few years ago I boarded a plane with my son Coleman to go home to Nebraska for the holidays. He loves this trip to Nebraska but it was sobering for me that year as the Nebraska state legislature was considering a bill demeaning and debasing the two of us and our family. Were we really welcomed home? Debate raged again this spring in Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia around these same mean-spirited bills to restrict LGBTQ moms and dads from parenting via foster and adoption. Literally as children wait in limbo for forever homes, bills have passed in Kansas,Oklahoma, Texas, and South Dakota that basically say LGBTQ people are so scary, so “other” that we can and should be restricted from offering love and building family.

On good days this just pisses me off — and I am grateful that I live in a city where my family’s rights are respected and protected. On bad days it is an Ache beyond measure. The early years when we steeled ourselves daily against the double-take at two moms. Eighteen years of changing diapers, navigating schools, putting his every need before my own — slapped in the face with the mean-spirited judgement that I am not worthy of being his Mom. That Coleman needs to be protected from…me.

But I have learned to turn my own Ache into Action and to honor the heartache of so many mothers also simply trying to do their best in a culture that sometimes makes a fetish of motherhood even as it denies and demeans real Moms. I am thinking of some courageous mothers:

Silvana, a mother who made her journey all the way from El Salvador– fleeing violence and poverty and risking life and limb to get her family someplace safe — only to have her children ripped from her at the US border — agonizing as she imagines her little ones alone and crying for her — wild with worry about their safety.

Lucy McBath who lost her son Jordan Davis to senseless violence. She is one of too many — Black mothers mourning their sons and daughters shot down by police or vigilantes or stray bullets in the neighborhood. She turned her loss into triumph turning a red district blue when she got elected to Congress from GA 6 — she is now Congresswoman Lucy McBath,thank you very much.

Judy Shepard– who lost her precious Matthew to anti-gay violence some twenty years ago and turned her tragic loss into a crusade that helped pass the Matthew Shepard James Byrd Hate Crimes Act.

I am thinking of Angela who is a minimum wage workerwho works hard every day and is sweating whether she can put food on the table for her kids. Speaking of Fierce Moms, Katie Portman did a fantastic job last month laying out the challenges of a working mom from her districtwho works for JPMorgan Chase and makes more than $!5 an hour and still cannot pay the bills. ($15 an hour is NOT too much — living on $15 is no walk in the park, people.)

And I am inspired and fueled by the growing momentum of so many Fierce Mama Bears fighting for the basic dignity of paid leave — what better way to celebrate Mothers Day than to stand with Family Values at Work, National Partnership for Women and FamiliesMom’s Rising, National Women’s Law Centerand CLASP’s brilliant Pronita Guptaas they testifythis week in support of the Family Act — common sense legislation that would ensure paid family and medical leave to workers in the US. (We still are one of only 2 countries in the world that are so behind the times on this basic support for moms, dads, kids and families!)

This year for Mothers Day in addition to brunch or flowers or a sweet card for the mothers grandmothers and aunties in your life (who truly deserve a little indulgence — please don’t skimp here!) — how about also a contribution to Families Belong Together,orBirthmark Doulas. Sign a petition for the Fight for $15or to support Domestic Workers. Buy a Supermajority T-shirtfor yourself or your Mom or the woman in your life who is the best Auntie that every child needs and adores.

We each have our joys and we each have our heartaches. But what we do best as Moms is turn Ache into Action — for our own babies yes, but for all the children every bit as precious as our own, and for each other. For a world that truly honors Mothers every day.

With Coleman at the Families Belong Together rally in my favorite “Fight Like a Mother” t-shirt