We joined the march midway through the course. Will there be room for us? We pushed a double stroller. Would we be crowding everyone? Our sign was simple. Be Kind, it read. Was that message strong enough? My shirt read “Peaceful Warrior,” hers “Future President.” Would we look out of place without the official march shirt or that bright pink hat? They chanted. I stayed quiet, taking it all in, listening. Is that ok? Am I allowed to be quiet in this space?
Questions. Always questions. How does this work? Am I doing this right? Do I belong here?
Today it was the Women’s March, but yesterday and tomorrow it will always be motherhood for me. This club with so many rights and wrongs, lefts and rights, do this and do thats. And behind all these ideas are women like me who are so afraid of getting it wrong.
I marched anyway. I kept shuffling my feet next to strangers who didn’t feel like strangers that morning. Their shirts were different, signs different, and their voices different too. There were mothers and fathers and grandmothers and children. There were singles and groups, friends and family.. There were introverts who stayed quiet (ME!!!) but there were also many many who were determined to have their voices heard. Some angry, some proud. Some backed by humor and others backed by fear. There were pro-choicers and pro-lifers (yes, there were) and those who hadn’t made up their minds yet. There were racial activists and LGBTQ activists and child welfare activists and religious activists and active activists. Some marched for their grandmothers who have been fighting this fight since the beginning of time and some had just Woke Up. The voices pleaded for kindness and justice and safety and love and peace and freedom. No one voice was the same. Yet they all belonged.
Maybe I belong, too, I thought. Maybe there is room for me and my choices. Maybe I’m not like her and maybe that’s why we are here. And maybe I’m not just talking about that day at the Women’s March among thousands of people but also about this beautiful and essential communion of raising our children.
It was this symphony of voices that stirred me the most and kept my feet moving. To be surrounded by differences was unifying. When you are an individual among many you don’t feel lost and stumbled but heard and carried. As I kept marching, the voices answered my questions with a resounding, yes, you are welcome here. You are doing it right.
And to those who did not march that day, you belong too.
It is ok if you did not march. It is ok if you already had plans or crowds are not your thing so you cheered from the sidelines of social media. It is ok if you didn’t really pay that much attention to it, if you don't really follow politics in general, if you protect your heart and your mind by staying quiet or neutral or closed. It is even ok if you don't understand, if you were bothered by some of the things you saw, if you were uncomfortable by some of the messages you hear. It is ok if you have to ask me why I march.
But then, please consider this. When you ask this question, then you must be ready to listen. You must ask with the desire to open your mind to new perspectives. You must approach your neighbor with respectful inquisition.
And I hope while you are trying so hard to listen, to understand or at the very least to respectfully and patiently disagree, I hope that you begin to see how beautiful our differences can be. I hope that you see the healing power in standing tall among friends and strangers who are all just trying to be heard. I hope you can see that ALL voices and perspectives and motives and fears are welcome here.
Whether you march or listen or question, know you belong. Whether you parent this way or that way or not at all, know you belong. We really are stronger together, Americans and mothers alike. This was true that day and every day. We all have our voices and our places in this life, the life of humanity but also that of motherhood. We need each other, to prove we belong, prove there is room, that our way is the right way, for ourselves and for our children with the comfort and security that we will only keep marching forward if we make room for one another to move and to speak.
For it is when someone is listening that the voice finds it belongs. So please, while she is speaking, whether it a voice about a cultural perspective or a voice about potty training, in the march or on the playground or in your home or in your heart, whether loud or quiet or even silent, make sure she knows you are listening.