by Siobhan Carroll, WRUN Contributor
I’m baaaaack! I know my faithful readers (both of you) are super-excited. I have a good excuse for being gone for a while- my third daughter, Nora, was born at the end of July. She’s awesome and I’m doing well, beginning to emerge from the baby fog. And I can’t say I like what I’m seeing around me.
Admin Jen explored this quite nicely in her “Feminism Isn’t Working” post last month. It is rough out there ladies and gents, and maybe it is because I now have a triumvirate of little girls to raise that I sense it more acutely at this moment. Maybe it is Malala Yousafzai, a girl who was shot simply for going to school, making the media rounds in the states; or the young woman so graphically photographed giving birth on the lawn of a clinic in Mexico that had denied her medical care just hours before; or the heinous and reprehensible questioning of the alleged victim in the Naval Academy rape case. Afghanistan, Mexico, my state capitol- all sites of lurid treatment of women, all examples of how we like to consider society so advanced and equal and yet we fall short on a daily basis. It is saddening, infuriating and maddening.
I can’t do a whole lot, about that I’m realistic and honest. I can write for this small but mighty blog and share my thought-out, researched and reasoned opinions with those I encounter and when it is appropriate. But to be a cliché, I need to be the change I want to see in the world. I have 3 daughters (3 DAUGHTERS!! How did that happen? Sorry, still a little stunned). I stopped working full-time almost a year ago for reasons personal, familial and medical. It has been a year of many transitions as I became a stay at home mom, my eldest began kindergarten, my husband started a new job with a lengthy commute, my middle one entered a new pre-school, and the baby made us a traveling circus of 5. I am more aware of how I am a model for my children and that my choices have an impact beyond our finances and the week’s dinner menu. My older girls are at the stage where they will actually remember what is going on- I don’t know if they will have a sense of before and after in terms of my working versus being home, but I know they will remember that I was there for field trips and co-oping and the first day of kindergarten, and that’s what is important to me now.
By being home I am a stronger presence, and that is both positive and negative. If you stopped by my home at 5pm you’d be pretty sure that a bomb when off, someone abandoned a crying infant in a carseat and two small children had declared nuclear war on each other while a banshee attempted to make dinner in the kitchen. It is loosely organized chaos at all times. I yell a lot (I am working on that). I get tired and stressed. I dream about 3 hour long massages and housekeepers. But I am happy in a way I haven’t been in a very long time. And I am present, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. We read books and talk about them. I help with homework. We talk about our days. My eldest daughter in particular shows an aptitude for engineering and science that I try to encourage with projects and discussions about how things work. My 3 year old is a natural-born actress and I try to turn her emotional breakdowns into interpretive dances.
I am there. That’s what I’m saying. I am there and I am here, and maybe instead of trying to change the world and improve the lives of women by making grand gestures I am doing it by tiny motions every day. By treating people with respect. By being kind when it is difficult. By raising smart, confident girls who will no doubt face adversity in their lives but who I also know will make extraordinary contributions to this world.
The news, the stories I cited, they focus on awful instances that yes, happened all around the world. But millions of girls go to school every day and excel. A select few will even go to the United States Naval Academy and serve their country with pride and dedication. And maybe one will run a clinic for women in a small town in Mexico, one that won’t turn away patients because they can’t pay. That doesn’t happen magically or overnight, it happens little by little every day because a mother cares, a father listens, a teacher educates and a coach encourages.
If you are angry and frustrated, I don’t blame you- I am too. But think about what you can do on even the smallest level to make things better. Sign a petition. Volunteer. Be a positive presence in a child’s life. Microfinance a woman’s business in a poor country. You can even donate to the Malala Fund if you’d like.
Bad things happen in such big, terrible ways. But good things, they happen every day in ways small and not so small, in ways that move us forward without us even knowing it. Be a good thing in your own small, terrific way. My little girls will appreciate it.