If you are great at sticking up for others—but maybe not-so-great at doing it for yourself, this story is for you.
True story: I yelled at a motorist for nearly running over my mail carrier.
I’ve had the same mail carrier for more than 5 years. He’s a nice man who loves my cats and knows my baby and always, always has a smile. (I’m not sure why; it’s just what his face does.) We’re not close friends or anything, but I’ve seen him around for half a decade.
A few weeks ago, on a walk with my son, I saw a motorist in a Mercedes nearly run over my mail carrier as he was using the crosswalk. Clearly a traffic violation and super dangerous. Without even thinking, i dashed into the street, leaving my son in his stroller on the sidewalk, and yelled at the driver, who was now yelling at the person he’d nearly run over.
Now, was this smart? Eh, maybe not.
Was this my very first instinct? Absolutely.
If you mess with one of my people, I’m going to stick up for them.
It’s just a fact. I can’t help myself. My intrinsic protective nature is fierce. It’s what led me to activism and, later, to healing work. I have a deep drive to heal, and I don’t mind taking bold action to make that happen.
And it doesn’t even have to be people I know!
I see myself in the context of social movements beyond just my own community. In advocating for a more just and compassionate world, I’ve often taken action in solidarity with people I’ve never met—and may never meet. Again, this comes rather naturally for me.
But nothing prepared me for motherhood in this regard.
I’m a total pro at sticking up for my child. When I need to advocate for him, my voice is clear and certain. I have no problem questioning medical authority or asking for exactly what he needs to be safe, happy and fully himself. Since he can’t (yet) speak for himself, I have to be his fiercest advocate. It’s my proudest role.
I’m not a perfect mom by any stretch, but nobody is messing with my kid.
But I haven’t always been so strong in sticking up for myself.
- I’ve let ex-partners treat me poorly.
- I’ve let family members be less-than-nice.
- I’ve unhappily eaten a crappy meal out, rather than sending it back.
When I say that learning to advocate for myself was the advanced work, I mean it.
And, of course, becoming a mom was no different. Motherhood in our society sometimes feels like an engraved invitation to martyrdom. We are judged by how much of ourselves we give.
I am still in process, very much, but I am becoming more of an advocate for myself in my role as a mom. Asking for help. Taking breaks. Letting what I do be enough. Turning off the firehose of input from the Internet and giving my brain some quiet. Doing the things with my kid that I also enjoy (he’s friends with everyone at my favorite coffeeshop!).
Practicing self-advocacy as a parent is scary as hell.
Admitting we don’t have everything figured out. Acknowledging that we have needs, too, in a world that still sees that as somewhat selfish.
I’m definitely not perfect at this. I doubt I ever will be. But I’m committed to remaining a trustworthy ally to myself. i am devoted to my son seeing me take good care of myself, so that he can learn that he doesn’t have to have it all together all the time either.
But in the tough moments, I practice forgiving myself and try to treat myself at least as well as I treat my mailman.
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With deep care,
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