Even before the pandemic hit, the feeling was pervasive: When we’re raising children in America, we’re going it alone. Demands for more support are growing, but the persistent lack of interest by our government in the essential work of child-rearing has fueled the sense that launching children safely into the world is something we have to figure out on our own. We were struggling—some much more than others—even before Covid-19 roared into our lives. But the pandemic has fully exposed the brutal logic of modern parenting. Too many families entered the crisis with too little. With schools shuttered, many of these children lost access to meals, counseling, and clean clothes. Suddenly without child care, thousands of mothers were pushed out of the workforce. Shut inside our homes, cut off from family and friends, robbed of the solidarity forged at the playground, we battle an isolation that feels more acute than ever.
That isolation may seem inevitable, even natural. But it isn’t, say the contributors to this issue—The Nation’s first ever special issue on parenting, guest-edited by Dani McClain, author of We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood. In the following pages, we consider the ways in which parenthood can push us to recognize our interdependence and spur us to fight harder for justice and equality. Jamilah Lemieux and Courtney E. Martin write about how choosing a school can be an act of resistance. David M. Perry shows that rejecting ableism requires us to rethink the way society responds to human needs. Jenni Monet profiles an Indigenous midwife fighting the maternal health crisis in the Native community. Kathryn Jezer-Morton considers what really mattered about the commune life she grew up in. Andre M. Perry demonstrates that even the struggle to become a parent can be an exercise in resisting racism.
Our contributors encourage us to recognize the radical acts of love parents commit in the face of hardship and oppression. Chesa Boudin and Sylvia A. Harvey share stories of parental love strong enough to scale prison walls. Maritza L. Félix writes about immigrant parents who take enormous risks on behalf of their children. Nefertiti Austin highlights the importance of continuity for children in foster care. Imani Perry considers the way the essential power of love becomes clearer when illness comes into our lives. Carvell Wallace illuminates the truth that children are not ours to make in our own image. And Angely Mercado reports on parents supporting their children’s fight to save the world.
These stories bring us the joy, resilience, and power that comes from reliance on community and embracing collective action. They teach us that showing up for our children can be an act of resistance and fierce dignity. They bring us to the radical heart of parenting.
You can find all the articles in the special issue here.