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A No-Limits Mother

I had the wonderful experience of working as a No Limits for Women volunteer this past March at the non-governmental-organization Women’s Forum held in conjunction with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Beijing+20, in New York, New York, USA. It was an opportunity and a huge gift to see what it was like to make the work of ending sexism the top priority for an entire week. As restimulations bubbled up—and they did—I needed to decide and re-decide on a daily basis to stick to the goal. I learned a ton (a lot) and have a clearer-than-ever perspective on what it means to fully take on1 the work of ending sexism and male domination—for myself personally and as a part of a larger movement.

I prioritized the work of the No Limits project while mothering an eight-year-old son, whom I came home to at night and woke up with in the morning. The No Limits work was on top of the mothering work I do every day. Because the project happened in my home city, I could feel and take note of what we mothers are up against all the time as we try to take on sexism2 and male domination in the midst of our daily lives. A few reflections follow.


I invited my son and my husband to join me on the International Women’s Day March for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights on the Sunday before the No Limits workshops began. My son was eager to come. We’d had several conversations about the No Limits project and sexism, and the march was a concrete way for him to participate. We stuck together as a family. My son took great pleasure in chanting, “No Limits for Women, No Limits for Girls.” It made a difference—for me and for them—to have both my husband and my son there as allies.

Before the march, my son wanted to make a sign for us to carry. I suggested a few ideas—“Boys and girls united,” “Boys ending sexism.” He rejected both, and it looked like he was feeling bad about himself as a boy. We pulled in my husband—another male ally who might have had similar experiences and feelings as my son—to see if he had thoughts. After consultation, my son chose one word: “Equality.” I flashed back3 to Diane Balser’s4 comment that it is not soley equality we are fighting for, and that “gender equality” does not describe what we mean by equality between women and men—that the real and basic issue is sexism and male domination. In that moment with my son, I went back and forth about which should come first—backing5 his mind and his thinking, or trying to convey to him the particulars of my/our perspective on ending sexism. I went along with his thinking and felt and still feel pleased with my choice. But the story illustrates a way that we mothers are constantly pushed to weigh different issues and fight for our minds as we move through the world.


Deciding that I would be at as many No Limits workshops and meetings as possible, and arranging my life around that, was a big deal. It meant using the relationships I had with other mothers to figure out more childcare for my son. It meant expecting that my male partner would take on6 more childcare and everything else around the house. It meant deciding to let things be left undone and untidy at home. Having another mother in my apartment building do childcare for my son meant talking about the project I was doing. When I came to pick up my son, it meant listening to her about her day and what it had been like being female. She and I grew closer.


I came home after a long day, and my son asked me for a session at bedtime. I didn’t have the attention to give a session; it felt like the last thing I wanted to do. I decided that I wasn’t going to give him one and that that was okay. I got him to laugh for a few minutes and then told him we needed to go to sleep. The next evening, as we were cleaning up the Monopoly7 game we had been playing, he started taking a session—a big one. I’d had another long day and was sitting on a lot of feelings, but I decided to “go for it” (try) with him this time. I was able to push myself to stay in there with him, stay close, and take the session as far as I could. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t question myself; I just went in “to get him” (to not leave him on his own). When he was done he thanked me for listening (a first!) and asked to counsel me. He sat up and held my hand and listened as I cried for several minutes about sexism and the places where I doubt myself and can’t see my significance. That session with him was the highlight of my week.


During the week of No Limits I got a picture of what it might mean to prioritize my life and myself. I got a picture of what it might mean to have my son as my male ally. I got a picture of what it could look like to not doubt my every decision as a mother. (Was I too permissive? Not permissive enough? Did I make the right decision? Should I have done that differently?) Moving forward, I am recommitting myself to a life of no limits, as a woman and as a mother.

New York, New York, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussions list for leaders of parents

1 In this context, “take on” means undertake.
2 In this context, “take on” means confront and do something about.
3 “Flashed back to” means suddenly remembered. 
4 Diane Balser is the International Liberation Reference Person for Women and was the overall leader of the No Limits delegation at Beijing+20.
5 “Backing” means supporting.
6 In this context, “take on” means take responsibility for.
7 Monopoly is a board game that originated in the United States in the early 1900s.

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00