There’s nothing we love more than seeing our events through the eyes of the mamas, papas, babes and friends who experience them with us. Here, Mindr mama Sally Cunningham shares her perspective on our recent #AdvocateLikeAMother event in celebration of International Women’s Day, both through an incredible short video she created to capture the event, and a beautiful written reflection. What does it mean to you to #AdvocateLikeAMother?

It’s been a couple of weeks since the incredible Mindr and Vox Media’s #AdvocateLikeAMother event in celebration of International Women’s Day, and I’m still energized. The inspiring stories and discussion sparked by the incredible women on the panel, and fostered by the Mindr mamas and papas in the audience, left me with plenty of food for thought. The event has also given me the unique opportunity to reflect on my own experience not only as a mother, but in a new way, as a mother and advocate.

If I am totally honest, until recently, “advocate” was not really a term I ever really thought about, talked about, or even fully understood. I thought it only related to people with political, legal or public platforms — activists, lawyers or politicians speaking on behalf of, defending, or demanding justice for those whose voices are not being heard. But since becoming a mother, I have come to realize the importance of being able to advocate for oneself. As parents, we are fierce advocates for our children. But the question we face is: how do we find that voice for ourselves?

Regardless of who we are, where we come from, and what our experiences are, when it comes to advocating for ourselves as mothers we are often in the dark with how to find and use our own voice, to have our own needs, wants and ambitions heard.

Cue the warm, welcoming and uplifting space created by Mindr and Vox Media. In this setting, stories were shared and celebrated, and questions like mine were asked and discussed. Listening to the personal stories of advocacy from the wonderfully diverse and inspiring panel of women, I noticed a recurring theme. Many of these women had spent their careers advocating for others in their capacity as lawyers, UN representatives and Human Rights advocates. However, once they became mothers, one of their toughest challenge became advocating for themselves. It made me realize that regardless of who we are, where we come from, and what our experiences are, when it comes to advocating for ourselves as mothers we are often in the dark with how to find and use our own voice, to have our own needs, wants and ambitions heard.

There were two moments, in particular, that stood out for me at the event. The first came from a beautifully candid exchange between Lawyers for Children lawyer Tara Sheoran-Khaimov and model/breastfeeding advocate Mara Martin. Towards the end of the event, while answering a question from the audience, Tara used her platform to praise Mara for breastfeeding her daughter while walking the catwalk at a Sports Illustrated casting last year. Tara highlighted how Mara’s action demonstrates how important breastfeeding was to her, and also reflected the importance so many of us place on being able to breastfeed our children. While this may have been a brief exchange on the panel, it demonstrated the importance of championing, supporting, and being allies to one another. It reminded me of the solidarity we all need when navigating the world as mothers, an experience that sometimes seems so isolating. Mara further demonstrated that camaraderie when she shared the story of how she came to find herself on the catwalk, breastfeeding her baby. She said that support she had from the people around her in that moment is what allowed her to make that choice. The knock-on effect of Mara’s actions in normalizing breastfeeding globally has been profound. This really hit home for me how seemingly small acts of support by enough people can lead to great change.

The second moment that really stuck with me came from a question by an attendee. She spoke of how being able to advocate for oneself is a privilege, highlighting that there are women and mothers who cannot advocate for themselves without risking repercussions. She asked the panel how those of us who do have that privilege can help and support women not just by advocating on their behalf but in empowering them to advocate for themselves. What a powerful and thought-provoking question.

We don’t need to have the platform or the public persona or even an overt intention to go out and advocate for a particular issue. By simply showing up, listening and supporting others, we are making it easier for others to advocate for themselves.

What both of these moments revealed to me is that an important condition of feeling able to advocate for oneself is having a supportive network and a safe space to do so. All of us, regardless of who we are, can be that support and create that space for someone else. We don’t need to have the platform or the public persona or even an overt intention to go out and advocate for a particular issue. By simply showing up, listening and supporting others, we are making it easier for others to advocate for themselves. And if we do have the privilege of a platform or a position of power or influence in any given situation, we need to share that platform, pass the mic and create a safe and supportive space for those who don’t have the opportunity to be heard to share their voices.

What I am realizing is that advocacy, like yoga, is a practice, something you need to commit to and work at. So I am going to start small, maybe telling the man-spreader on the train to move his legs so I can sit down. And build up from there. I want my child to know that she has a voice she can use to advocate for herself. But the best way she is going to learn that is from the actions I take and the example I set. So here goes.

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