Moms Making a Difference

Ever heard of the activist roots for Mother’s Day? Back in 1870, Julia Ward Howe, an advocate for equality, women’s rights, peace, and the abolition of slavery, put out a proclamation on what some say was the first Mother’s Day. The proclamation called for women to “arise” and “say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.’” She thought of the day as one for mothers to band together, grieve injustice and war, and demand a better world.

That version of Mother’s Day isn’t one we hear much about today, but it’s still relevant. In fact there seems to be more recognition these days that advocating–whether it’s for their children or for their wider communities–is a big part of what moms do. No surprise, but many Austin moms are leading the way. We asked a few of them to share their Mother’s Day insights for 2013.

Nicole Greene

Nicole Greene has two sons, ages 5 and 2, and is leader of the Austin Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Tell us about your cause and what inspires you to do what you do.

Moms Demand Action is a grassroots effort formed in the wake of the devastating mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. Our organization was created to demand action now on common sense gun laws that keep our families and communities safe from gun violence. I am a stay-at-home mom, and I do this work as a volunteer. It has made my schedule even more demanding than it already was, but I keep moving ahead. Newtown rocked me to the core and broke my heart in a way that can never be healed. I know now that 8 children die from gun violence every day in this country. We are in a state of crisis, and I feel that I must stand with other mothers to demand that our elected officials pass laws that protect our families. Like every mother, the most important thing in my life is the health and happiness of my children, and I will continue to work to keep my own children and others safe.

What accomplishment makes you smile this Mother’s Day?

This Mother’s Day, I marvel at the fact that I am living two lives that seem totally different and yet intersect at the heart of motherhood…there are days when I go from changing a diaper and calming a tantrum to–an hour later–standing in front of a news camera talking about gun reform.

What one piece of advice do you have for other moms on a mission?

To moms on a mission, I say: go for it. Years went by before I took on any kind of work or became involved with a cause that really pulled me out of my daily life as a mom and wife. Taking this on has made me a stronger, more motivated person, and I think that shows in my parenting. It isn’t easy to balance, but it’s totally worth it. My love for my kids keeps me moving forward, and like most moms, even when I want to, I don’t give up!

WebEileen

Eileen Garcia is the mom of two sons in elementary school and leads Texans Care for Children.

Tell us about your cause and what inspires you to do what you do.

Texans Care for Children works solely to improve the lives of Texas children through changes in Texas laws and policies. As a mom, as someone who finds great joy in being with children, and also as a member of the community who hates to see the waste of human potential, I feel really honored to have a role in helping Texans get a good start in life and speaking up for those children and families who are falling through the cracks in our systems.

What accomplishment makes you smile this Mother’s Day?

Every legislative session that I have been working at the Capitol I have seen more and more people who are not there in a professional capacity speaking up and getting engaged. Moms with babies in strollers and  slings, school children, former foster youth and children released from state secure juvenile facilities are increasingly coming to the Capitol and getting heard. In a sea of lobbyists, their voices are powerful and legislators take notice of these individuals speaking as experts in their own experience.

What one piece of advice do you have for other moms on a mission?

Remember that that which you don’t seek to undo, you are in fact upholding. When you see something that is amiss, find your role in improving things. That can sound daunting, but so often we overlook the power we readily have. Something like calling your policymaker when an issue is important to you takes just a few minutes, but can have real impact.

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith is a parent of two high schoolers, a daughter and a son, and has advocated for over a decade for ways to address childhood obesity and improve school health. She helps lead the Campaign for Healthy Kids in Texas.

Tell us about your cause and what inspires you to do what you do.

I have been working to improve the school health environment for the past 12 years. When my daughter was born I was working on a project with the American Cancer Society around Coordinated School Health. Finding out that P.E. was disappearing along with recess, school meals were on a decline and vending machines were filled with junk set me on a mission for change. I did not want my kids, or anyone else’s, to go to school in that environment.

What accomplishment makes you smile this Mother’s Day?

I am now working to unite 16 states across the south to implement strategies to impact obesity. Our most popular group is Schools. We have over 50 members on our school work group from across the south ready to work on making schools  healthier environments!

What one piece of advice do you have for other moms on a mission?

Get a partner who is passionate too! That way you can inspire each other during the tough times. And celebrate the small victories!

Mimi-Headshot

Mimi Garcia is mom to a 4-month-old and organizing director for Texas Well and Healthy, a campaign to ensure Texas families can have good health care.

Tell us about your cause and what inspires you to do what you do.

For the past couple of years I’ve been working with an amazing team of women to ensure Texans have affordable, quality health care. Texas Well and Healthy is a statewide grassroots campaign working for good health policies in the Lone Star State. To me, adequate health care coverage is a fundamental need that is the key to keeping each of us personally, financially, and physically secure so we can have the freedom to pursue our greatest self.

What accomplishment makes you smile this Mother’s Day?

Over the last year we’ve been struggling with state leadership to get health coverage for Texas’s 1.5 million low-income uninsured. Although it looks like we’ll have to keep fighting this fight for some time more, I’m so heartened by the thousands of Texans who have shared their story, marched, called legislators, signed petitions, and have worked to get this coverage. I feel like we’ve awakened a sleeping giant that will not be satisfied until all Texans have the option for quality, affordable health care that includes preventive care.

What one piece of advice do you have for other moms on a mission?

Something that keeps me in this work, and that I would have other moms on a mission remember is from Pirkei Avot, an ancient Jewish text. “You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to abstain from it.” There will always be more work to do than any of us can finish in a day or even a lifetime. We each take our piece and do what we can, the next person or next generation will pick up where we left off.

Update: After posting this, another local mom activist we reached out to responded and  you should meet her, too. Read on . . .

IMG_5123

Charlie Rose is mom to an 8-year-old son and the Austin-based fellow with the national group MomsRising.

Tell us about your cause and what inspires you to do what you do.

MomsRising.org is a one-million strong online and on-the-ground group of moms and the people who love us, organizing for family economic security on issues including paid family leave and paid sick days; health insurance for all children; quality, affordable and accessible preschool and after-school programs; flexible workplaces; family-friendly immigration reform; fair wages; and ending salary and hiring discrimination against women and parents.

What accomplishment makes you smile this Mother’s Day?

I love what I do because taking what’s good for mothers is good for everyone. No one wins when a mother gets fired because her kid got sick. But we all win when moms organize together. I love seeing the shift in thinking of Mother’s Day as a Mother’s Day of Action. Our country is so far behind when it comes to taking care of moms–for example we’re one of very few countries that don’t offer paid family leave. I think that is going to change and I am excited to be part of it all.

What one piece of advice do you have for other moms on a mission?

Moms on a mission should connect with other mamas! (Connect with MomsRising.org members here.) It‘d be great to meet you all!

Christine Sinatra is the communications director for Texans Care for Children, a nonprofit that works to improve Texas kids’ lives through policy change. She is the mom to a kindergartener and has worked as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and the Oakland Tribune company and as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching high school girls in Africa.
Share