I’ve found, over time, that stay at home parents are some of the biggest links in their communities. They’re a vital component to creating “a village” where they live, and they get shit done because they have more time than most. Examples: Neighbor going through cancer? A stay at home parent has more time to make a meal to bring them. Neighbor out of town? A stay at home parent has the ability to check for packages each day. Neighbor kids need childcare after they get off the bus for an hour? Stay at home parent to the rescue. Something strange happening down the street in the middle of the day? Stay at home parent/neighborhood watch is on it … We inevitably become caretakers of more than our family and home. Or, at least, we are capable of doing so. I personally find tremendous joy in this, as I feel the heart of community can reside right here. I realize that being this can actually be a nightmare for some as well, and I would be lying if I said I’ve never felt it as a “burden” at times. But, the realization of this and the question of my responsibility within this opportunity, has been the bulk of my thoughts the past 6 months.
Last summer, the plot of land at the end of our street (which is owned by a developer), was clear cut. 8 acres of trees and wildlife chopped and gone in 1 morning. It was devastating to our neighborhood, and while we all knew it was owned by a developer for years, we weren’t given any warning of the events that took place. I walked my kids down that morning to see what was going on, and I admittedly, cried. This was a place I could always count on turkeys and birds to entertain my kids if I needed a break. And just like that, it was gone. The neighborhood was blindsided and the view our neighbors closest to the property had, changed from those shady woods to a busy highway and neon lights from the gas station across the property. We learned quickly afterward that the city was beginning to edit their 2040 Plan for zoning undeveloped properties in the city. The proposal coming in was to change the zoning from low density or medium density to high density, mixed use, and/or office. This was all confusing, uncertain, overwhelming, and concerning to us as a neighborhood. A few neighbors started researching (even just learning the “city language” was a task) and a couple of us organized a neighborhood meeting to discuss what was going on, and what we wanted to see happen. There was a lot to do. Organizing our ideas, our identity as a neighborhood, our wishes, and then creating a plan for how to accomplish it all was overwhelming, and yet (for me), invigorating. As the stay-at-home parent in the neighborhood, it quickly became apparent that I had more time and the ability to get information faster than most. I was by no means the most qualified to do this work, but by the pure default of time, I ended up doing it. And, I still do. In the beginning, I often questioned my place - my ability, and my responsibility to do this, but it has evolved into one of the most wonderful and unexpected facets of my life. Sometimes we don't choose the work, but the work chooses us. I was reminded of this yesterday as I watched a snippet of Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Town Hall (yes, stay at home parents stay informed on politics and the happenings of the world - actually, I think more than most because: time). Senator Klobuchar shared that when her daughter was born, she couldn’t swallow. She shared (briefly) the scary experience of a new mom being forced to leave the hospital in 24 hours (due to insurance company policy) while her daughter was still there with a complex medical issue. And then she shared what she DID about it. She got her friends together, and she went to the policy makers. Her pregnant friends outnumbered the the insurance folks, and they passed a policy to guarantee moms 48 hours in the hospital, if they wanted it. This is not an endorsement for Senator Klobuchar (although, I do like her), it’s a real life example of how parents can be the biggest agents of change in our society. Whether it’s within our home - raising humans to be good stewards of the world, or in our neighborhood- when our neighbors need kindness and help, or in our city- when our environment is changing, or, even beyond that.
I’m writing this blog through the lense of my recent experiences, and where my energy is lying these days. I’m writing it with a purpose too - to encourage hopefulness as we see change can happen - to show the value our stay-at-home parents aren’t always given, but really do have - and to maybe inspire you. Inspire you to question your ability and/or responsibility within your “stay-at-homeness” by asking you to look outside your front window and respond when you see the need arrive. Because, this is really what it’s all about - striving to live a good life in an environment we enjoy being in.