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While normal people make New Year's Resolutions, some of us sit around thinking about the ways in which 2016 could suck, especially for parents. Sure, it's a little negative. But forewarned is forearmed, am I right?
Here are a few ways that 2016 could suck for parents:
1. If we don't stop shaming women for their parenting choices
Free-range parenting, attachment parenting, let's call the whole thing off. Really, in 2016, let's stop labeling parents for what they do, for what they don't do or for when they are doing it.
2. If we don't do something about gun violence
I hate to keep writing it, but this was yet another record year of deaths due to gun violence. This must stop. We must stop it. 2016 needs to be the year we take action.
Despite the nation's conflicted feelings about abortion, we need to understand that restricting access to birth control will only increase the number of abortions. Access to birth control is an integral part of planning our families, which is instrumental to our happiness and even financial stability.
The media is powerful, images are powerful, we need to stop silencing women and denying them agency—literally and symbolically.
4. If we do nothing about parental leave
This was the year the male-dominated tech world discovered parental leave. Companies like Netflix came out and offered relatively generous paid leave for (most of its) employees. Let's face it, though, we need a comprehensive national policy about this. Too many families have to make decisions about what to do with their newborns based on money. The United Nations recently declared that the U.S. is lagging behind in women's rights, citing this country's lack of support for mothers and our high maternal and infant mortality rates. We can't ignore the relationship between our lack of leave and the stats. A powerful New York Times essay, about what a family who lost their infant on mom's first day back at work, is a must-read for all of us.
5. If we forget about the campus activists and what they say about the state of race in the U.S.
This was also a year when students of color rose up and were vocal about their experiences at elite institutions. As the mother of a child of color, I hope to see these conversations continue to make ground in 2016.
6. If we don't stop awful picture trends that promote harmful stereotypes about girls
I wrote about this before. Just last week a holiday photo surfaced that showed a family where the mother and daughters all had duct tape over their mouths. The husband/father holds a sign, proclaiming their forced silence meant, "Peace on Earth." Their son/brother, untaped, smiles at the camera.
We should examine images like this closely in 2016 and think beyond their obvious "comedic" messages.
The media is powerful, images are powerful, we need to stop silencing women and denying them agency—literally and symbolically. Even if we are just trying to have some fun.
Children are people too and, while they don't belong everywhere, they have a right to co-exist among us.
7. If we don't stop shaming women who breastfeed in public
This conversation needs to be over. Women feeding their children is natural. Moms shouldn't have to hide in bathrooms or cover up (unless they want to) to feed their children.
8. If we don't stop acting like children shouldn't be allowed in public places
This was also the year when people thought it was acceptable to yell at toddlers in restaurants and put up signs banning them. Let's put an end to this in 2016. Children are people too and, while they don't belong everywhere, they have a right to co-exist among us.
9. If we don't force candidates to talk about issues that affect families
If we want a president and Congress who address the needs of parents and children—such as paid family leave and the high cost of childcare—then we need to start that conversation as they try to get our votes.
I'm not just talking about Presidential candidates. I'm talking about congressional, state and local races. Watch the debates, ask questions, check voting records. Get involved. Demand change.
By now you know that 2016 is a Presidential Election year. It will suck if parents don't show up to vote. We have so much to lose and so much to gain. So show up! If you don't vote, you might have a president who thinks global warming was invented by the Chinese.