It's Call to Action Week over at Her Bad Mother: I asked bloggers to write posts about ways and means of making the world a better place. These posts took a variety of forms, and Canadian bloggers stepped up large: some wrote about a variety of charitable causes or about raising awareness of certain issues that have touched them personally (as I did when I wrote here, a few days ago, about my nephew), others wrote about social justice issues, and about supporting the arts, and about mothers simply supporting each other in their choices, and some wrote about their belief that charity begins at home, with raising happy children, or that making a difference comes from the little things. All of these posts were wonderful, and I would love to profile each one of them here, but neither time nor space permit this. (I do, however, encourage you to go over to HBM and follow the links to these posts.) Because I can't talk about them all, I'm just going to talk about one...
So I don't know about you, but the first few weeks of motherhood for me were overwhelming. The first few months, actually.
OK, it's stll overwhelming.
But in the early weeks and months, I was knocked-to-the-ground overwhelmed. And I was stunned by this. I knew that it would be hard, but this? This was crazy. I had no idea what I was doing, and yet I was expected to do it, all the time. Hold the baby, nurse the baby, burp the baby, change the baby, wash the baby, swaddle the baby, rock the baby, soothe the baby, try to get baby to sleep and on and on around the clock. I was overwhelmed by love and fear. I was exhausted, struggling with sleep exhaustion and ravaged nipples and depression.
I was a mess.
But I wasn't alone. My husband was a champion, doing everything in his power to be an equal partner - more than equal - during the first, difficult weeks. And he has remained a champion. I couldn't do this without him. Nor, I think, could I do it without all of the advantages that we have. We're solidly urban middle-class: we're educated, we own our home, we have savings. We have access to resources. We have supportive family, friends and neighbours. We have every advantage. And still, it's hard. I'm exhausted at the end of every day, and we're only ten months in.
So many times, during the early days, I thought to myself, how do single mothers do this? How do young mothers do this? How does anybody without my advantages do this hard, hard work?
I still ask myself this question. I ask myself this question nearly every day.
Karen Rani of Troll-Baby asks herself a variation on this question. Every day, when she walks through the government-funded housing complex that stands between her home and her son's pre-school. A housing complex in which the playgrounds are covered in graffiti. Where someone has scrawled, in graffiti paint, the words, This Place is Hell:
Troll Baby has been going to school for a little over a week. In that week, I have witnessed a mother screaming at her 5 year old son to “Get your f***ing shoes on! You’ve had 20 f***ing minutes to get ready! You’re such a f***ing imbecile!” This has been nearly every day... I cry for him... My heart hurts, thinking of what he deals with every day and how he will turn out.
She doesn't ask, how are they managing. Because they are so clearly not managing. She asks, how is it that the government (in this case, the government of Ontario) lets this happen? How is it that we as a society let this happen?
She asks, what can we do? What can I do?
She wants to document what's happening. She wants to do something to raise awareness of what's happening, to let people know, to let the powers-that-be know that we know and that we don't like it. She hopes that maybe, by raising awareness of the conditions that our most vulnerable families live in, we might effect some change. I think that she's got the right idea. I'm going to do everything that I can to help her (stay tuned on this.)
But what do you think? Is raising awareness enough? How can we help these vulnerable families, these vulnerable children?
These children who play in a place called hell.