Written by Diane MacEachern
No matter how much we care about our work, or how much help we have with our kids, tackling them both can be pretty draining. This is true in spades for the field organizers at Moms Clean Air Force, who sometimes choose to leave their kids to travel when legislation is breaking on Capitol Hill.
Here’s how they cope…
Involve the kids!
When she can, Terra Pascarosa brings her son Brady along on her work travels so she doesn’t miss out on “…a day of his precious life!”
“I am blessed to work with a group that encourages us to bring our children to the majority of our events and campaigns,” she says.
That flexibility is key for Trisha Sheehan. She’s happy she can bring her children to her work events, and also involve them in the learning process.
“My 9 year old has testified at the EPA in support of America’s Clean Power Plan, led chants at rallies, and enjoys talking to our members, and the press, about these issues. My six year old came with me to meet with EPA Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe in DC to talk about smog standards!”
Exercise and friends matters!
Gretchen Dahlkemper says the hardest thing to fit into her life is exercise. “I don’t exercise as much as I’d like to,” she says. “I used to run marathons and half marathons and I now don’t have time.” She also finds that her busy travel schedule takes a big chunk out of family time. To compensate, she sets kid-friendly work hours on the days when she is home.
“I don’t work after 3 p.m. in the afternoon. That’s hard because I’m on the east coast and we have people in California and Alaska. But the priority is to be with my children after school when I’m home. I’ll wake up early and work before they wake up, and often go back to work after they are asleep.”
Like her colleagues, Gretchen sang the praises of working for an organization that value their contributions and work effort but understands the needs of parents, too. The mother of three children under 8 acknowledges, “I’m extremely lucky that I’ve had women show me that it’s ok to stagger work hours to spend more time with your kids.”
As for what would help these women feel more in control of their life, it depends…
Gretchen is trying to be more physically active. “I bought myself a cargo bike so I could haul my kids around rather than drive them. I do put a priority on sleep. I also take care of my mental health. I make it a priority to see a therapist, and to eat right.”
She’s also joining informal but supportive communities of like-minded women.
“I have a couple of strong groups of women I connect with,” says Gretchen. “One is a small group of working moms who meet online. It was started by a girlfriend who felt like there was a strong need to discuss the struggles working moms face. We communicate all day online, but also do monthly meet-ups in person.
“I also run with a group of girlfriends and moms on the weekends, so we check in every weekend, which is great.”
Overall, Gretchen advises, “Surround yourself with women you can really talk to about all sorts of stuff.”
As for Terra, her recommendation is to keep an upbeat attitude. “I try to stay positive about all gloom and doom environmental issues I hear. I’m positive because I am advocating for a better future. I have become a resource to not only my family and friends, but to the community at large, about what we can do to improve our environment. I find that to have a positive impact on me.”
“Being mindful and meditating – often as simple as just remembering to breathe!,” are two strategies that help Christine Dolle cope. “I see the value more and more as I age and as my life responsibilities become greater.”
Rebecca Whitley would also “…certainly love more time to do yoga. Sometimes it’s hard to take an hour or two out of the day to do so, but it makes me the most grounded and equips me for all of life’s challenges.”
Like others in this group, Becky says, “…it would be nice to have a community to vent to.” Finding other mission-driven moms, perhaps like Gretchen’s in Philadelphia, would provide a group where she could vent about the challenges she faces raising a child as well as managing her job.
Unplug and sleep!
Remember Arianna Huffington’s story, about breaking her jaw when she crashed to the floor out of sheer exhaustion? She’s now famously taking nightly hot baths and embracing the power of sleep as an essential practice that helps “refocus on the essence of who we are.”
“The way forward,” she says, is to start by limiting exposure to electronics. Her number one recommendation: “Take all devices and gently escort them out of the bedroom.”
I’ve embraced that recommendation myself, both at night and on the weekends. Come Sunday, I turn off electronics, read a physical newspaper, and don’t do email. I’ll make phone calls to family, and answer phone calls, of course. But that’s about it. These are pretty little steps. But they give me the mental break I need every weekend to recharge my activist batteries so I’m ready to tackle the workweek bright and early Monday morning.
Trisha says one of the biggest challenges she faces is making more time for her kids. But she also said that, for her, “…the divide between busy mom and activist doesn’t really exist. After watching my children become sick from the air that they were breathing, I promised myself I would do everything I can to make sure that all children and future generations have clean air to breathe…that means working hard to guarantee that they will have a healthy future. Support is extremely important in this work. Because of its exhausting nature, it’s important to have a team of people behind you, cheering you on and lifting you up.”
That sounds just like Moms Clean Air Force, doesn’t it?
This the second post in a 2-post series about Mom Activism.
Introduction: The Activist Moms of Moms Clean Air Force