I so enjoyed the hour I spent today on WHYY/Radio Times. The host and I chatted for about twenty minutes, and then the phones lit up with callers from both the local Philadelphia/Delaware Valley area, and from as far away as Virginia, and Colorado. At times in the past week or so I've felt depressed about whether change on behalf of women, men and families is possible, yet after today's show, and the wonderful callers, I was energized.
Moms called in with stories about leaving their jobs, about wanting to do more, but ending up as at-home mothers. Moms also called in to talk about part time work, or about getting back into the workplace, which we all know are favorite topics of mine, and these stories were inspiring. A teacher takes off three years, loses her teaching certification as a result, but then gets called back in as an administrator--a path she always wanted to take. And to make it possible, her husband became the primary parent. Another mom of older children told of her over a decade ago, she and a group of co-workers--they are accountants--together went in and requested part time work. They were succesful--I can't help but think of how much more powerful workers are in groups when we make requests--and they've been working part time now for 13 years.
Another woman called in who runs a small business in the health professions, and she talked about how she hires women--mothers, mainly--who want part time work and she pays them all benefits. It's a competitive field, she kept saying, and she has to do this, and does it happily. Some people called in about things I can't figure out how to change--like the guilt one woman felt about her 4 1/2 year old's five minute tantrum every morning at day care drop off--she works 4 days a week as a dentist---her husband called in to talk about this. But mostly I felt charged and inspired about the small changes we can make, about the continued conversations we can have. I was left with much to think about.
I also suggested my new favorite political act: when you're frustrated about family life and/or about workplace issues, just call any of your local elected officials, from Senators on down. Tell em what's going on. They won't start fixing stuff until they hear more from us, and how many angry complaints from moms and dads do you think political staffers will bear before telling their boss, and before said boss jumps on the band wagon.
Do you think our elected officials can ignore a bunch of parents making a fuss? i don't think so. Now pick up that phone, check the pages at the back of your big phonebook to get the numbers, and dial. And don't get derailed by feeling silly. I've called elected officials for much less weighty problems, like getting potholes fixed, and dealing with garbage pick up. And then tell me what happens. But people: they need to hear from us. And let's be idealistic for a moment. We elect them. We deserve to tell them what we think.