Parenting in DSA
I am sitting at a cafe and play area, writing this article and making calls to facilitators for the Dallas pre-convention conference. My child is a few yards away, dancing and playing with one of her “DSA uncles,” so I can get some work done.
Parenting in a capitalist society is isolating, especially as a stay-at-home parent. Society largely overlooks the amount of labor that goes into raising and caring for a child, and without the budget to regularly bring her to expensive toddler programs and play areas, making other parent friends is difficult. Instead of society pulling together to share the labor of raising all of our children, parents are expected to manage it on their own in their own homes. This isn’t great for the kids, as they miss out on vital interaction with people of all ages and backgrounds. Even in school and daycare, children tend to only interact with children their same age and background, in addition to a limited number of adults. It also isn’t great for parents, who are overworked and forced to be experts in every aspect of raising a child, without the support systems we so desperately need.
DSA can provide another option for raising our next generation. An option focused on supporting parents and children, that pools resources and teaches children what a compassionate, cohesive community looks like. In exercising this option, parents would receive the space they need to organize against a neoliberal regime which has shifted the burden of raising children onto individual working families. We also have the opportunity to raise children in an inclusive community free from some of the pressures of capitalism that can be so toxic and limiting to young humans.
While I experience many of the difficulties inherent to organizing in a space with largely childless men, I also get the opportunity to get a glimpse of what “it takes a village” really means and how beautiful it can be. I joined DSA while heavily pregnant, so my child has been part of our chapter her entire life. Initially, there were some struggles understanding and accepting me and my family, such as meeting times late at night, socials and events consistently held at bars, and some resistance to having kids around. At times, I was accused of being selfish for fighting for more inclusive spaces for families and children. However over time, the chapter came to understand what being more inclusive towards children meant and became very welcoming towards her. She comes to meetings and events when it makes sense, and everyone understands when I can’t make an action because of her. We host meetings and socials quite a bit, which allows my husband and I to both participate without having to leave at her bed time.
Even more than that, my toddler has become a part of a larger family. Members take the time to help me care for her. They watch her so I can take a shower or catch up on laundry and DSA work while my husband is at work. They come with us to the park and to run errands, since it can be difficult and exhausting to go out with her alone. They are not parents themselves, but they love my child and recognize the importance of supporting children and their parents.
Unfortunately, such an informal system is quite fragile. While the entire chapter is supportive, it depends largely on the irregular work schedules of the DSA uncles who help us out so much. If that changes, things might get more difficult for us. With more formal structures in place, a DSA support system for families would be more durable and able to support more and more families in growing and fighting capitalism.
Families, including children, are an important part of the working class and should not be invited to events as mere afterthoughts, but actively encouraged to attend events (with an understanding that certain actions are not safe for children). Hold chapter events specifically designed for children, such as Radical Storytime, an outing to a museum with relevant exhibits, or a child-led hike through native ecosystems. This will show parents and children that you want them to be a part of the organization and are willing to put effort into making them welcome, while also providing a safe space for parents to connect with one another and share support systems. Perhaps just as importantly, socials like these help non-parents experience what it is like to interact with young people who haven’t been so thoroughly beaten down by capitalism or internalized the alienation inherent to our society.
If you aren’t sure how to best accommodate or support parents and children within your local, ask parents who do not regularly attend events what you can do. Listen and examine where the most effective changes can be made. Often, meeting times clash with bedtime or socials take place at bars or other establishments that are not particularly child-friendly. Offer support during official DSA events, but also at other times as well. If your chapter is large enough or has enough interested members, form a childcare collective or formal childcare program. Most of all, recognize that children are full human people with their own perspectives and intrinsic value, and their parents are working night and day to raise our next generation of socialists who will hopefully carry on our work in building a safe and democratic version of humanity.
If you are a parent, please do not feel as though you can’t go to DSA meetings or be an active member. If your chapter doesn’t offer childcare or make some of their events family friendly, ask them to. Your comrades should recognize your children as comrades too and accommodate them. This should be our most basic expectation of our fellow organizers and socialists. We will take care of each other and value our comrades regardless of their age or family type.
To learn more about Orlando DSA’s work, contact the chapter at DSAoforlando@gmail.com. You can also follow them on Twitter @Orlando_DSA.