Thursday, April 13, 2006

Vermont’s Mothers Movement

I discovered Vermont’s Mothers Movement after our twins, Carson and Austin, were born. I didn’t define it that way at the time. To me, I was simply seeking advice on tandem nursing at a twin moms meeting, requesting used toys on a local listserv, or chatting with other moms and dads as we passed the time at the playground. But I didn’t put these activities together as the building of a movement. In my mind, that term was reserved for monumental paradigm shifts and for masses of people demanding change. The parents I was talking to weren’t protesting in front of the statehouse or writing angry letters to the editor. We were just looking out for our kids.

Or were we? Webster’s definition of a “movement” as “a collective effort by a large number of people to try to achieve something, especially a political or social reform,” sounds softer than a revolution. It could describe the weaving together of hundreds of interactions by parents daily in our Vermont communities. Behind the fragmented conversations on creative work arrangements or new programs at the local school is a common vision for healthy, happy, knowledgeable families.

So, how can this underground vision, this whispering movement, actually influence political and social reform? Do we have consensus on what we want for Vermont families - high quality health care, excellent education opportunities for parents and children, affordable childcare, safe environments, fulfilling work, rewarding relationships with other adults and confidence? Mothers and fathers are already building a framework one conversation at a time at their homes, playground and workplace. Now is the time to elevate the debate to a higher, public level of discourse. Mothers, as well as fathers, need to be in places where important decisions are made - whether that means speaking up at town meeting, joining a local committee, running for City Council of taking the Executive Director position. Our kids will thank us.

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