Becoming a mother during a presidential election year has forever changed the role of politics in my life.
I’m a former Republican turned registered Libertarian. This change happened years before motherhood. After moving away from the shell of my hometown and experiencing life with little influence other than that of my own observations, education and experiences, I quickly learned what issues mattered most to me and how my beliefs aligned with the different approaches to solving such issues.
Falling in the middle on most things is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it is easy for me to see both sides to topics that otherwise generate staunch divide. It makes me both tolerant and flexible – two qualities that I am proud of in the midst of a particularly polarizing campaign year.
The curse is that I am often overlooked, both by the system and by individuals passionate about their viewpoints. Meeting in the middle is a concept that has grown foreign to most, it seems, pushing intolerance and anger to the forefront of today’s political discourse – further aggravated by perhaps two of the most disliked candidates we’ve seen in our lifetime.
My pre-parent self would be frustrated, no doubt, and do my part in casting my vote. But it’s different this year. It’s so much more than voting. It’s about setting an example and shaping our future for the next generation. As a parent, you want the best for your child and you do what you can to ensure the world is a better place than you left it.
As a mother, I am a more empathetic version of myself, and I care deeply about utilizing the power of democracy to better serve our communities. But I am also less patient as I have little time to waste on fear, anger, intolerance, and dishonesty that often intercepts this otherwise shared goal. As much as I dislike the ugliness that plagues politics, particularly around election year, I can’t ignore it. I have to be part of the solution.
So I will engage, but I will not fight. I will follow facts, not feelings. I will differ from others, but I will not be divisive. I will cast my vote, without telling others how to cast theirs. I will be passionate, but I will not spread fear or hate.
In doing so, I will teach my son that disagreeing should not resort to disrespect. That popularity doesn’t always reflect what it is right. That tolerance cannot grow where we only surround ourselves with like-minded people. That what we say and do has consequences, and similarly, what we fail to say and do has consequences. That what we know to be true is not everything, but one small part of the picture. That the kind of world we want to live in is not reliant upon one person, but upon our collective actions.
It is my hope as an individual voter and a mother that we remember there are tiny eyes watching and little ears listening. Leadership and integrity are not the responsibility of a select few at the top; it is a responsibility that rests on all of us.