“When my kids can see the words we use in the context of the larger cultural story, they can then participate in changing the narrative to a more egalitarian and inclusive ideology.”
MINDY ON RAISING HER DAUGHTERS (19, 16, 9) AND SONS (17, 12)
PORTLAND | OREGON
Evolution Of Consciousness
My own journey has been an evolution of consciousness beyond what I experienced growing up. My mom was a very hard-working single parent and she instilled in me her strong work ethic. She rose to the top of her male-dominated industry and retired as the manager of one of her company’s largest and successful establishments. She had to fight hard to get to that place and she modeled this persistence to me. She modeled what it means to never back down.
Further, there's been an evolution of consciousness moving me away from the patriarchal religious system that I grew up in. In my teenage years, the church tried to teach me the traditional patriarchal roles and images that were held up as the epitome of what femininity and being a woman should be. This is a damaging view but being young and easily influenced, these views became the ideal of what I thought I should strive for. What ended up happening is that I cared less for myself because this type of religion--and much of society in general--looks at a woman putting everyone's needs above her own as the ideal to be achieved. We put these women on a pedestal even though they’re losing their own identities. We say things like “she's so sacrificial; she does everything for her kids” and miss that this woman is her own person first, not just a mom or a wife. It’s even more damaging in the religious paradigm because she's praised for obeying God through her self-sacrifice.
The ironic thing is that I expected these ideals for myself but I never expected them of my kids. It was an image I held myself to, but I didn't hold others to it. I was less concerned with even acknowledging that I had my own needs, my own wants, and my own passions outside of what everybody else needed from me or needed me to be. This creates many unhealthy dynamics. For example, the people around you, especially children, don't learn to be independent. This also keeps them from having the space to flourish through having to try and make mistakes. They’re not learning the value of trying something, not having it work, and having to try again.
These are the kinds of things that come to my mind when I think of my early years of motherhood- so if I could give advice to young mothers, it’s give yourself the room to grow and be intentional about it. Also, it’s the journey you want to grow and be intentional about, not the destination. You’ll never arrive because you're constantly growing and changing. If you have this growth mindset as a parent, you’ll instill in your kids the understanding that making mistakes is all just part of growing up.
As a family, we strive to embody the values of equality and elevating the voices of the marginalized. As our kids go through life, we cultivate open lines of communication so they can talk with my partner and I about anything. These values of equality and solidarity then are imparted through natural conversation through real life scenarios. That's the dynamic in our home. We talk about how we should treat other people and how to be good allies and advocates. When our current president was elected, one of my daughters was fourteen and she was hearing a lot of words that she had never heard before. There were questions around what harassment is, what misogyny is. We were able to have those conversations and give her beyond the textbook definition and more of the living definition through real-life examples. When my kids can see the words we use in the context of the larger cultural story, they can then participate in changing the narrative to a more egalitarian and inclusive ideology.
When our older daughters have opportunities to be in relationships with boys who are interested in them, there's been natural conversation around our values. I would ask, Tell me about this person. How does he talk to you? What values is he showing you about the way he relates to women? What are his interests? Does he have a good sense of physical boundaries? Is he honoring you in the way that he talks to you as an individual, but also as he speaks about women in general? We have a lot of conversation highlighting the fact that they deserve to be treated with honor and respect by people who might be interested in dating them.
Boldy Be Who You Are And Lift Up Others
We've chosen to homeschool our children so the amount of hours we spend with them naturally makes us their primary influence. Granted, they are still very much making their own choices even though we advocate for the values my partner and I hold in high regard. They have the opportunity to choose for themselves whether our values work for them or not. We don't all have to agree on the way that we live, but we value respecting each other's choices.
There's such an intrinsic wisdom, curiosity, and equality that kids have. We can foster that and not let it be squelched by social pressure or negative culture. We try to teach that all people are just as valuable as we are even when we differ in ages, ethnicity, reading level, family life, hair color, and on.
We tell our daughters to be true to who they think they are and not to allow society or relationships or education or even hobbies define them. It’s more about being who you are boldly and to not diminish yourself. I take a very similar approach with the boys. My partner really models this for them. A lifting up of people who are either physically smaller or people who have less privilege than they do. In doing so they can become an advocate and a friend and stand in solidarity with people wherever they're at.