Parents’ Leadership and Liberation

The leadership parents do at home is important, revolutionary, life-changing leadership. Without this work, human beings will not be in shape1 to change other things in society. We provide the support for ourselves and other people—people who are battling oppressions that are thick, and that keep coming back and dishing out2 more hurts. Without us leading our families, there is no support base from which to view the world-changing work that needs to be done. Leading our families is on the ground floor of building a caring and nurturing society. In a way, parents’ liberation is simply persisting in making this known—that leading our families makes a huge difference, and that it’s worthy work. It is worthy of us building support around ourselves, worthy of us asking for help, and worthy of our best thinking and attention.


In societies addicted to the false sense of power that comes from technological sophistication, it’s hard to maintain a perspective of how much attention it takes to make life fully good for one human being—especially at certain vulnerable times: at the beginning of life, at the end of life, and during illnesses or crises. The amount of attention required is more than human beings have usually realized, more than our cultures have any picture of. It takes thoughtful work, support, and coordination among many human beings to make life go well for a child, or a person who is dying, or any member of our societies who is vulnerable because of oppression, accidents, or other reasons.

It looks to me like every parent feels bad about how much time and effort it takes to nurture a child. We feel that it ought to be different somehow, that if we were just thinking better, it wouldn’t take so much time and attention. This is simply untrue. It does take that much time and attention. It will not feel so burdensome once we get a couple of generations of young people who’ve been treated well. They will not be so restimulated by the task of paying attention to their children. Although they’ll probably still have external oppression to battle, they won’t have the same internal battle. They won’t have the battle that we have had to wage against internalized young people’s oppression.


Leading parents’ liberation doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time and effort. It does take Co-Counseling sessions to keep clearing away our doubts about our own significance. Leading parents’ liberation means continuing to put forward, with confidence, the picture that the nurturing of children does take and deserve this much time and attention. The fact that this much time and attention isn’t available means our societies need to be changed, not that we are falling short.3 Parents’ liberation is perspective. Parents’ liberation is confidence. Parents’ liberation is setting an example by leading our own families and proudly organizing the time and attention it takes to care about them, no matter how that looks to other people.


It can be difficult and feel very difficult to carry the parent identity. When we get together with other parents in the wide world, we often reach for a “better” identity than that of parent. We talk about something unrelated to parenting because doing so makes us feel like more gallant people in society. I do know a few parents who are carrying the identity proudly. They will walk up to anybody and tell a story about their child, and tell it with total pride, as though they were a topflight4 computer programmer. Just carrying our parent identity in a pleased and relaxed way is worthwhile.


We need to be at the center of parents’ liberation—we ourselves. It’s not a liberation movement unless we’re at the center of it, making things right for ourselves.

If you’re a welder, you can’t weld at all unless you have solder,5 a helmet, and the pieces you want to weld. If you’re a dressmaker, you can’t make what you want unless you’ve got your material and your needle or sewing machine. As a surgeon, the special way you work requires your scalpel, a clean room, and people to furnish you the instruments. If you’re a parent, you need at least two sessions a week and a gang of people around you who care about you, who you’ve specifically appointed as allies. These are the tools we need to do the job. Without these tools the job is frustrating and doesn’t move easily and quickly. We’re not supposed to be without help. Parenting is not a job to be done without help. We also need to not just see it as help, but as building the necessary conditions.

I like to visualize parents’ oppression as a video-game board. Like any oppression, parents’ oppression has a lot of rigid moves. They are complicated and hard to master, but they are rigid moves. They are rigid attitudes. They are rigid structures. They are rigidities in institutions and organizations. We, however, have flexible intelligence. The oppression does not. It has a lot of moves, but it does not have intelligence. To keep thinking flexibility, we need to keep putting Co-Counseling sessions in the coin slot.


It’s possible to take a break from the battle. We don’t have to be at the video game twenty-four hours a day. We get to have Co-Counseling sessions. We get to come together and discharge and play and sing and have a good time. To win, it’s not necessary to play the game twenty-four hours a day. We need to give ourselves those breaks.

Patty Wipfler
International Liberation Reference Person for Parents
Palo Alto, California, USA
From a talk at an RC parent leaders’ conference in Connecticut, USA 

1 In shape means prepared.
2 Dishing out means freely dispensing.
3 Falling short means not doing well enough.
4 Topflight means of the highest level of achievement, excellence, or eminence.
5 Solder is melted metal used to join metallic surfaces.


Last modified: 2014-10-06 21:35:07+00