One of the books that I read during my maternity leave was Equally-Shared Parenting. My husband and I are trying to figure out how he can create a work schedule that will allow him to play a larger role in our child-rearing responsibilities, since my work/life balance is great, except for the elusive idea of any free time when I’m taking care of kids all day and working most of the night.
It’s a pretty inspiring book and has given our family a lot to think about, and to work towards.
But it also has implications for our social change work, too, especially the part that chides us all to remember that, when we hoard work, what we’re really doing is hoarding power.
It doesn’t feel like that, does it?
When we stay really late and come in really early, when we spend our anniversary registering voters on a Saturday, when we work through yet another maternity leave, when we sacrifice our health and family and friends and sanity, all because we care so very much about the causes to which we dedicate ourselves (um, obviously, all of the above are just hypothetical!)…
We feel like we’re doing it for others, like we’re being so very good.
We need committed advocates, not martyrs.
Except there’s nothing honorable about structuring our work, or our campaigns, or, indeed, our movements, so that it looks like they’d fall apart without us.
There’s nothing moral about keeping information close to our chests, so that then we can argue in good faith that we really DO need to be there, because no one else knows how it’s done.
There’s nothing particularly laudable about making ourselves seem indispensable.
So, just as Equally-Shared Parenting means that we divide responsibilities so that no one’s saddled unjustly, and no one can feel smug and superior, either, I think we need a mental frame for “Equally-Shared Social Justice”, where we work alongside our colleagues and our grassroots leaders, making decisions together about what, and how much, needs to be done, and collectively owning both the input and the outcome.
It’s a more authentic, and empowering, way to approach the reality that there IS always more that can, and maybe even should, be done. At home, in the capitol, in the streets.
Because the truth, of course, is that we aren’t the only ones: Not the only ones who can take care of the kids, not the only ones who can write the press release, not the only ones who can pull off the legislative meeting, not the only ones who can handle parent-teacher conferences.
Painting ourselves as such is unfair to the fullness of the lives we deserve to live, and really unfair to those who walk these journeys with us–our partners, and our allies–in our public and private worlds.
Here’s to sharing.