Mothers Are Essential Workers Too (with Angela Garbes)
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We rightly celebrated people like health care workers, teachers, and grocery store employees during the heart of the pandemic as the essential workers who kept our country going. But Angela Garbes, author of “Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change,” tells Gloria that we need to think of parents, and especially mothers, as essential workers, too. They get into why we devalue the labor of mothers and caregivers, how we are in a pivotal moment right now with regards to care in America, and what it’ll take to create the social change we need. Plus, Angela lays out the ways in which the overturning of Roe v. Wade will further stress the already threadbare care system in this country.
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Gloria Riviera, Angela Garbes
Gloria Riviera 00:40
Hey guys, welcome back. I hope you’re listening from somewhere cozy and comfy. Maybe you’re in your car, I listen to a lot of podcasts in my car. Maybe you’re on a walk, which would be lovely. I love walking with my dog and listening to good conversations. Wherever you are. Get excited, because this episode is going to bring it this is No One is Coming to Save Us, a Lemonada Media original presented by and created with Neighborhood villages. I’m your host Gloria Riviera. What I love most about this conversation is that I really had to keep up. Do you ever have that feeling when you’re trying to explain something and you’re sort of here there and everywhere? And then someone sidles up to you and just nails it, in this extraordinarily articulate and beautiful way? And you say, yeah, what she said, that’s kind of how I felt. Angela Garbes is the author of essential labor, mothering as social change. She was also the co-host of season three of the Double Shift, an acclaimed podcast challenging the status quo of motherhood in America. She lives with her two young daughters and partner in Seattle, shout out to my hometown, Seattle. And she’s been all over the press with her latest book, because it is so, so, so powerful. During this conversation, Angela explains how this book came to be, how she felt she could not write about parenting during COVID, because she was doing it 24/7, it was hard, exhausting work. It was at times boring. But it was, of course, important work. And so she channeled all those fields into a book about mothering as social change. I won’t share any more secrets from the conversation, but I will repeat something she said that well into season two of this show, still stopped me in my tracks. She said during the height of Covid. As we were all celebrating essential workers, she asked herself, what about me? What about parents and mothers? Yeah. What about all of us? Because we are essential to all right. Here’s my conversation with a true rockstar, Angela Garbes. Angela, thank you so much for joining us.
Angela Garbes 03:41
Thank you so much for having me, Gloria.
Gloria Riviera 03:43
It is an absolute pleasure. We are going to get into it today. And I have to tell you, as I was becoming familiar with your work, so much of it resonated. And I know it will resonate with our audience. This is really the first conversation we will have had on this podcast, with someone who is so deeply informed and shares so much of the perspective of I think No One Is Coming To Save Us. When you wrote essential labor, mothering as social change this year 2022 Is when it was published. What book did you set out to write and how did that perspective evolve as the writing evolved?
Angela Garbes 04:27
Oh, that’s a great question. I mean, I was actually supposed to turn in an entirely different book in July of 2020, which if we can travel back in time, you know, obviously those were the early days of the pandemic when we were still disinfecting our groceries and thinking that we could get Covid by touching our mail. And in March of 2020, it only took me a few weeks to realize that there was no way I was going to meet my book deadline, which had been a book of essays about the human Body, using the body as a lens that for better or worse the body you’re born into, impacts how the world perceives you and how you perceive yourself in relationship to the world. I couldn’t write that book, I asked for an extension. And I got a year a year to sort of figure out what I was doing with my life and how I was going to begin writing again, I was focusing, I delayed that book, because I was taking care of my children full time, I had two daughters, they were five and two at the time, and I was with them for four months straight 24/7. Without any help, it was just me and my partner. And you know, as a writer, I had this far off deadline, I don’t get a regular paycheck, I don’t get health insurance. And so it was very easy for us as a family to decide to prioritize my husband’s work because he gets us all those practical things with his regular paycheck. And I felt like taking care of my children, keeping them safe and healthy. And in that sense, also, taking care of my community, I just knew that mothering and care work was the most important work that I could be doing. But I also had to really wrestle with the fact that I, it wasn’t enough for me that I really missed my writing work. And that being a caretaker, while important was, it didn’t feel like enough. And I felt myself getting really bored. And I felt really undervalued. And around this time, those early days of the pandemic, you know, in New York City, people that every night at 7PM, were clapping for essential workers, right? We were talking about health care workers, teachers, sanitation workers, and all those people are absolutely essential. But the feeling that I had, that I just couldn’t shake was, what about me? Like, what about parents? What about mothers, my work, and I am working all the time, around the clock, trying to do some professional work, but also just the domestic labor, there was so much of it, because there was so much us and we were all around all the time. And my children still needed, you know, three meals a day and snacks. And I just felt like, no one’s talking about this. And we’re all stretched. And so that’s something I was carrying around all of those difficult feelings. And also that feeling of knowing like we are essential laborers, parents are essential laborers. I’ve been writing for a few years. So I had an editor approached me at the end of 2020, I had said something to her to the effect of, you know, this was after 865,000 women, dropped out, sorry, I don’t know, if they dropped out. It’s nothing if that seems very passive, like we were forced out of the professional workforce. And 865,000 women left the professional workforce in one month, in September of 2020. And this had been building we’d seen women dropping out right, and women of color were impacted early in the pandemic, because they’re over represented in service industries, you know, like childcare like salons, and a lot of those places closed, you know, never to open again.
Angela Garbes 08:11
And so I was, you know, swimming in a lot of awareness and bad feelings about how women and mothers specifically were being impacted by the pandemic. But I was just thinking, like, when so many women leave, our participation in the professional workforce and outside of the home is directly tied to our participation in public life. And so I thought, like, what happens if women disappear for a year or more, and so I just sort of wrote about all of my terrible feelings, the way that we devalue labor. And the way that, you know, we hear these statistics, you know, there’s now 2 million less women in the workforce than there were at the start of the pandemic. And those statistics are devastating, but they also kind of, they have a way of making, you know, the really painful individual stories and the emotional turmoil that we’re all going through, they make them sort of anonymous, and invisible, you know, lumping us all together. So I wrote this piece about that. And then, and so I heard from a lot of people and, and, you know, Elizabeth Warren and Melinda Gates, they like retweeted the article. And, and so I set out to write a book that was a history of care work in America, just really looking at how did we get to where we are today? You know, we haven’t an invaluable workforce of mainly Black and Brown women, doing our domestic labor and child care. This is the work that makes all other work possible. And without them, we’re lost. We’ve seen this, people were scrambling to figure out how to keep their lives together, you know, and we pay them poverty wages, people who work in domestic labor are three times as likely to live in poverty as other workers. And I really believe that the reason why we are comfortable paying women of color, very low wages to do such import work is because of the legacy of slavery in America. You know, the home has always been a worksite for Black women. And that’s why now even, you know, centuries later, we’re comfortable paying women of color, a much lower wage, or demanding this work for free. And I thought, How am I going to do this, like, I can be really sensitive in my research and inclusive, but like, this is not my, these are not my ancestors. This isn’t exactly my story to tell. I’m Filipina. I’m Filipino-American, my parents. I’m a first generation born here. My parents emigrated in 1970. And my parents are healthcare workers. My mom was a nurse. And for most of her career, she was a hospice nurse, taking care of people in end stages of life. And during the pandemic, there was a statistic that came out that Philippine X nurses are 4% of the nursing workforce in America. But they are 34% of Covid related nursing deaths. I was seeing it directly like in my community in my family and thinking, you know, this could be my mother.
Gloria Riviera 09:54
I mean, as I hear you speak, what strikes me is that you were sort of grasping at how you were going to get into the story. And then seemingly, all of a sudden, you knew you knew I can tell this story. I am invested in this story. There’s a line. Well, there’s many lines from the book that just stopped me cold. And one is early on when you’re talking about your father, who worked as a pathologist. Do I have that correct?
Angela Garbes 11:39
Gloria Riviera 11:41
So you say I wanted to be able to look at things the way he did see the hidden things only he saw, though, they didn’t capture my imagination, the way cadavers did, I thought the slides were beautiful. And this is the best part, stained gradations of pink and purple. unfurling like nebulae in space. I mean, that just stopped me. And it stopped me because I connected it too many, many years later, this perspective on child care. And the hidden things, right? For me, your book was seeing all of these things. And I guess Covid was experiencing that in real time, these, quote unquote, hidden things that were completely naked due to Covid. You know, I don’t know if that’s a complete parallel, but I just read that. And I, as a reporter thought, oh, wait, there’s something there. That is the connective tissue that brought this book into being.
Angela Garbes 12:40
I love this. That’s such an insightful read. Thank you. It’s really like an honor to be read without much care and that much insight. Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, my father could see those things like if we just sort of kind of carry that metaphor a little bit, many people could see the sort of care crisis that we now as we now talk about it, and the difficulties of care in America and how what passes for our like care structure, which is really, it’s not sustainable people have been like piecing it together. These things existed, it predates the pandemic, right? But what the pandemic really did was pull that curtain away, and there was just no denying that outsourcing care wasn’t working, especially when your care structure when all of the people that you hire to do that can’t perform their work when they can’t come into your home. And when childcare centers and places close, right. I’ve heard the word reckoning a lot. You know, America’s having a racial reckoning, we’re having this reckoning with care. And to a certain extent, I think that’s true. But I think we have to go further. Like we haven’t really confronted the reality.
Gloria Riviera 13:51
I know, the question is, what is the real confrontation look like? Because we feel like we’ve gotten close, right? Especially with Build Back Better, and there was so much enthusiasm. But I do ask you having written this book, what do you think it will take?
Angela Garbes 14:07
I think it just takes more time. It takes longer. I voted in the Biden administration, because they ran on paid leave, right? They ran on all of these things. They ran on codifying Roe v. Wade, right? Like these were these things felt, especially after the four years before, they felt like we were on the same page, right? This is America was realizing this is what we needed, and we were going to make these things happen. And so I won’t lie, I feel really disillusioned. I feel pretty angry. And I feel disappointed in Democratic leadership and in the Biden administration, for failing to make good on these promises. But I realized now okay, I was just maybe a little naive, like all social change. It’s slower than you want it to be. It takes time and I think you know; this is how I tie it to you know, I think about my own parenting and mothering is very much being legacy work, right? I think about how. So these things that I wanted for American life are not going to happen in the next four years, probably. They may not even happen in my lifetime, but they could happen in my children’s lifetime. And my children could be part of making those things happen. So I think what we need is time and we need more, we need more people. And I think, you know, we need change at every level, we need change at the federal level. Yes. But what I’m seeing day to day is, and this is a thing that came out of the pandemic, you know, we formed pods. Right? We started talking about mutual aid, we did briefly have the advanced Child Tax Credit, right? We talked, were talking about we have community fridges, we have little free libraries. And those smaller community based things are people saying, I can’t do this alone. I need help. And I need support. And other people in turn saying, I can’t do it alone, either. And I want to help you, as overwhelmed as I am. And as spread thin as I am. I want to help and I think it’s a very human urge to take care of each other. And so I think that I’m seeing that on the very grassroots level. And I want that to continue. You know, my hope and part of writing this book is to try to take advantage of this moment. And to say, like we are in a very pivotal moment, let’s not let’s not go back to normal, normal wasn’t working for many, many people normal was pretty bad. And now we all know that we share a fate right and that those care infrastructures can vanish. Just because they’re back now doesn’t mean they won’t go away again, right. And I want us to lean into our interdependence and ways of making community and you know, moving away less from the very siloed and isolated nuclear family and thinking more about collective care and collective action.
Gloria Riviera 19:17
It’s interesting because in listening to the double shift, there were ads for community living in New Mexico. And I had never heard an ad for community living and I think your co-host said you know, it kind of makes me want to move to Albuquerque. It’s this idea of helping each other, letting each other know that we are not alone. And I think that’s incredibly important on this podcast, we’ve spoken to a lot of community organizers. And I do take hope from the fact that we have climbed steep mountains before. And it’s all started at the grassroots level. And it has, it has been successful in this country. And as I’m sure you know, you know, this country has done it before, during World War Two, there were childcare centers across the country because women had to return to work to support the war effort. So we know we can do it.
Angela Garbes 20:32
We can, yeah, it’s very possible. And I want to just remind us, too, that, you know, other countries do this, right? This is like, these are not, I want to, like, bring it down to the most basic level, like, it’s not radical, it is not totally out there to take care of each other, to feel like we owe each other something. And that by just being a human on Earth, like you deserve, you know, certain things, you deserve basic human rights, which we don’t guarantee in America.
Gloria Riviera 21:02
Well, you deserve to feel supported. You deserve to feel supported. And when I think about you, and this is the part of you being so relatable, you know, with your young kids, right in it for four months, and having all of these feelings, one of them being I’m not so sure, I would say I’m happy right now, I know the work I’m doing is important. But I can relate to that, you know, my youngest daughter just turned seven. And the fact that we as women need acknowledgement and recognition inside and outside the home if we choose to pursue a career outside of the home. I mean, it’s all I feel like we’re parsing through this minutia and saying, you know, I’m essential. Wait a second, I am essential.
Angela Garbes 21:51
Yes, I would say it to myself in the mirror sometimes. You know, like, when I was writing the book, like insisting on it, then I think, honestly, we need that level, like that sort of very, very micro level of change, of talking about ourselves in that way, talking to our friends about it, you know, like, we’re not just moms, we are essential workers, we are guaranteeing the further existence of human beings. That’s pretty essential.
Gloria Riviera 22:16
Yes, absolutely. Part of why I do this podcast is because I have three children, and I don’t want childcare to be what it was for me for them. It doesn’t have to be that way. And I’d love to hear there’s so much I want to hear from you about but I would love to go back to the Philippines and to talk a little bit if you can share with us your experience and what you saw from domestic help in the Philippines. I’m really interested in the idea of your mother going back and navigating. I guess you could call it the power dynamics. Absolutely. When she was back there.
Angela Garbes 22:56
So my parents emigrated, and my mom didn’t have a support system. You know, my mom worked full time. But she didn’t have extended family. Right? I think about her. I mean, when I became a mother, I started to really think a lot about how did she do this? How did she raise three kids? How did she work full time without an extended network of people.
Gloria Riviera 23:15
By slapping herself in the cheek when she was driving? Right? You write about that.
Angela Garbes 23:21
So my mom grew up with maids in her house in the Philippines, it is very common to have domestic help, people have maids. They have what they call yaya’s, which are nannies, babysitters, they have drivers. And you know, you don’t have to be extremely wealthy. So you have this domestic heap. You know, the Philippines is a poor country. It’s a developing nation. And there’s a lot of people poor than you, right in the Philippines. And so, I mean, it’s complicated, but it’s just a legitimate job that people have throughout the country.
Gloria Riviera 23:52
Well, that’s exactly that phrase legitimate job. We spent time in China and the whole approach to domestic help was radically different. Radically different and a very respected role in the family slash household. I mean, I say family because so many the word for it and China’s eye, so many eyes are part of the family but also I mean, to a large degree they run the roost. Like I’m getting out of your way here.
Angela Garbes 24:20
Exactly. So my mom, you know, I grew up in America hearing my mom say I’m not your maid, wash your dishes, you know, fold your laundry clean your room. I you know, she involved us in the work of the house as much as she could. And when we would go back to the Philippines though it was really interesting. Because I was confused. I was like, Who are these people in the household? Come in and like when you’re not looking, they take your dirty clothes away and then the clothes just appear, like on your bed folded, like a day or two later. You know, they’re telling us to sit down while they clear our plates. And it made me a little bit uncomfortable and I can tell that it made my mother uncomfortable, and my mother who I think, you know, in coming to America was like, I don’t want this, I don’t need this for myself. So she would come back and really sort of awkwardly try to maneuver. And then I saw over, you know, over the course of, you know, two decades, she kind of exactly what you said was like, oh, there’s a way that this household runs, and I’m actually in the way, massive interloper here, and I don’t know the systems, and I’m screwing it up. And she really began to defer to the authority of domestic workers. And, you know, I will say that there’s a high potential for exploitation and abuse. Wages are still low. But there is again, it’s complicated, but I wanted to bring Filipino domestic laborers into this conversation. Because at times, it really strikes me as a more honest way of living. The way we live in the United States. Yeah, you know, we don’t like people don’t I think people have sort of like class guilt, or like class, you know, self-consciousness where they don’t want to own up to having a nanny, or a house cleaner. And, I mean, I’ve encountered that. And to me, I’m like, I if you can afford domestic labor, I think that’s great. Because we can’t do it alone. It’s, it’s far too much to cook, you know, three meals a day, seven days a week and clean the house and do the laundry.
Gloria Riviera 26:21
Don’t forget the snacks.
Angela Garbes 26:25
And so I mean, and I really thought about it, when on, it was an Instagram post that became sort of a lightning bolt. For me. I was looking at this post by my cousin […] on Mother’s Day, you know, like four years ago. And it was a picture of her three children. And these four women who were there Yaya was and were the maids of the house. And she was like, I could never raise my children without these women, named all of them. And I thought, my God, like I’ve never I know that it’s, it happens occasionally. But I’ve never seen an Instagram post, like, personally, I’ve never seen one in America, where an American woman says that, about her babysitter about the house cleaner. And to me, I was like, there’s something that we can learn from this, right? Like, I want to make this work visible. You know, we say things are like low skilled labor. And I just, I reject that, I think all workers work all work has particular skills. And I think labeling domestic labor and child care as low skilled labor is, it’s really a myth that we use to justify paying low wages. And, you know, as someone who took care of her children non-stop for four months, I mean, after several days, I was like, I want to lay down and die, right? Like, this is not easy work like this is highly skilled labor, especially the sort of emotional and psychological work, which we were not very good at talking about that. That sort of intimacy that develops between caregivers, and their charges.
Gloria Riviera 27:49
But you see it, right, like I’m thinking about my own family. And when we were in China, we were very lucky to be able to bring back our […]. And we would send out a card in December around the holidays. And we would put a prominent picture of […] with one of our children on the card. And so many people would comment, like, oh, I thought it was so nice that you include her. And I just felt like, of course, she’s part of our family and the tears upon departure and my tears, you know, I remember taking her, you know, to SFO to get on the plane to go back to China, and I was a wreck, because this is a woman who has helped me do a job that is a home job, right, the job of raising children is not a singular job.
Angela Garbes 28:45
Yeah, it takes so much and it takes so many hands, and so many, you know, like, loving hands. And I love that. I mean, I think that that’s, I want that to be the norm. Right? I want that to be part of the conversation. And I think I yeah, I don’t want people to stop hiring people, what I want are better wages for those workers. I want us to value that work overall in society. And you know, it’s not on you as an individual to figure out how to compensate. I mean, you will wrestle with those things, but it’s not on individual families, to remake the structure, right? Like, these are structural problems. We don’t guarantee family leave, we don’t guarantee affordable childcare, American families know really until your child is six, and can go to a public school you are on your own for figuring out childcare. And so that’s the thing and it’s all we you know, it’s like it’s in the home, it’s private, it’s hidden and like No, no, the home is a workplace and you know, with your […] it is a site of the international transfer of money, right? Like, it affects immigration, right? It affects so many things like this is a big part of the global economy and we don’t name it as such, you know, and I think that that’s a problem.
Gloria Riviera 29:57
It is a huge problem and it manifests it makes me think of one of your episodes on the double shift the podcast that you hosted in which a woman was receiving the child tax credit when it existed during COVID. And she was also on welfare. And it struck me because she said one of the things that she did with that money, and I was about to say, extra money, it’s not extra money. And in my mind, she hired a babysitter. And that led to an improvement in her own mental health that led to her being more involved with her own community running for school board. I mean, all of these wonderful things. It was a significant amount of money. Was it 1000s of dollars? No, but it was just that enough to enable some breathing room. It just, I was, like, good for this woman good for the government. I was so taken by that, because I think there are assumptions about how people will use any kind of financial support right within the hidden walls of their own home.
Angela Garbes 31:06
Yeah, most people just want to use it to get by and make life a little easier. You know, not that it’s really any of our business, how people choose to spend that money, but it is. People just want the best for their families. And it’s like American life is. It’s the truth is it’s just not working for most families. And that’s something that people on the ground know, and that’s the thing that I feel that I worry, I’m like, are lawmakers in touch with this, like, are we, they’re deluding themselves. Yes, absolutely. I feel like I’m like Katey Porter is I we need more we need I mean, we also we need more lawmakers who reflect the identity, like the very diverse and changing demographics of America. You know, that’s I think our government is sort of years behind on that. And it’s, I think about what government and laws exist for, really, it’s to help people hold on to power in some ways. It’s like the government and that system is working exactly as it was designed. So, you know, one thing I wanted to say, in terms of when you go back to this question of, what will it take, right? I kind of see it as like, it’s like a, it’s like a jewel that I’m holding in my hand. And there’s many facets to it. And I think that’s also you know, how we’ll get social changes, like there’s, you know, I’m so grateful for people like the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who have been, you know, on Capitol Hill who are testifying this week, because we have a national domestic worker bill of rights that’s been introduced into Congress. And they’ve been doing this work for a long time. And I think I was talking earlier about, you know, that very grassroots community solidarity with other families and other parents, I really think that kind of next step, and I want to like, lovingly and gently challenge and push listeners, especially listeners with any kind of financial privilege, or any kind of extra flexibility is to look for solidarity with the people who we hire to do this work. You know, the majority of women who do childcare and domestic labor are mothers themselves, which, of course, begs the question, who is taking care of their children when they’re working for you? I think it’s just really important to name that, in fact, we are no different from the people we hire, to do this work. And I think that’s a really hard thing for people, especially white women to let go of into sort of it’s an I get it. You know what I mean? I think that I’ve been, I’ll say this to say that I do get it. I mean, I have been mistaken. I’m married to a man who’s White, my children are mixed race. I have multiple times been mistaken for my daughter’s caretaker, or like my daughter’s nanny, right. And in the moment, is a very humbling and destabilizing moment I was so I’ve been so angry about it. And then when I sit with it, I have to ask myself, Why am I so angry? Because I am their caretaker. It’s not an insult, right? Like, but I mean, there’s an element to it. There’s assumptions that are made against, it’s one of all these things are sort of are complicated. And I’m just like, let’s start talking about them, because that’s the first step to doing anything. But I really feel like if we can like through something like this National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, if we can guarantee a living wage for domestic workers, if we can guarantee worker protections, we’re actually one step closer to asking and guaranteeing and demanding those things for parents.
Gloria Riviera 34:30
So you’re talking about a line to pay […] you’re talking about? What is the path look like? Right? Okay.
Angela Garbes 34:37
Yes, if we’re valuing and we’re guaranteeing these things for the people that we hire to do this work in our home, then people who are still stay at home parents, people for whom like that is their full time job, who don’t get any compensation. I think we’re actually closer to asking for those things because we’re saying this work matters. Whoever is doing it.
Gloria Riviera 38:13
You’ve said before in one of the episodes on the double shift as women of color, we sometimes feel if White people care about it, then more people will notice. And I think you were saying that in the context of paid leave. But who are the more people that you refer to in that quote? I mean, I think I have an idea. But are we talking about corporations who have the ability to offer paid family leave? Are we talking about privatized childcare and early education? Can you just talk us through because I think it’d be helpful. I identify as a White woman. You know, I’ve never felt discriminated against acutely. But I really stopped and I have stopped in prior episodes talking about what I think you’re getting at in this quote.
Angela Garbes 38:58
Yeah, I mean, so White people are not a monolith. Right? I understand that. But when white people which is to say, you know, the dominant culture and the sort of like the narratives that we get told the pictures that we have of like mothers, right? When White people care about an issue like white people, I’m talking to like, affluent white people, middle class white people, you know, lower income white people who occupy many different jobs and many different spaces. And so to me, that’s like, when white people start talking about things like then I see like a shift in the culture a little bit. And so I feel sort of hopeful that I mean, I’m hopeful. I mean, it’s sad. I feel like sometimes I’m like, it’s not enough for us people of color, even though like we will soon be the majority in this country. It’s not enough for us to insist on our full humanity. It’s not enough to insist on like the value of care and the need for changes in our structure. It’s kind of like it’s I see it as sort of like the tide turning right. And like these are people who, that people listen to
Gloria Riviera 39:59
You’ve also said in the past, that mothering can be a form of activism. And we are all mothers, right? That’s maybe one place of connection to start. And I think that that perspective shift you had when someone assumed that you were the caregiver, and you kind of held on to that and embraced it and turned it on its head that’s part of this connection, we can feel in that we are all mothering parenting, raising up the next generation, how else can mothering be a form of activism?
Angela Garbes 40:33
I was missing this idea in my childhood, that I was enough, just as I am, right, I don’t have to do anything to prove my worth, I don’t, I shouldn’t have to do anything to prove that I deserve health care and a house I mean, housing, to, to have basic bodily autonomy, which is not guaranteed in this country. And I think about, you know, this is the sort of activism in that. I mean, I don’t know exactly like what my children will believe. But I know that I have a strong influence in how they will come up in the world. And I want to make things a little less difficult for them. I think about a lot of things that I had to unlearn. In order to arrive at the place where I am now where I feel like I know that I am enough. And I want them to have that earlier. And so that’s really what it is. I mean, I think about how my parents were very focused on survival and fitting in, right? So we didn’t talk about racism, we didn’t talk about White supremacy. And so those are conversations that I mean, I think about it, like if you don’t talk to your children about race, somebody else will. And for me, I can’t take that risk. So, you know, I talked to my daughters about things that I don’t know. I mean, I think some people think you’re supposed to shelter children from difficult ideas. And to me, it’s a disservice to not talk to them about the realities of the world. Part of this book was to remind myself of the power and the value and the pleasure of doing this work. Because when I’m not overwhelmed, when I can share the load, when I don’t want to feel like I’m taking care of myself, and I am a whole person that I can show up to my children. And really, and participate in this work, knowing like I am doing something to make the world a better place, even if it’s just in a small way, even if it’s just for these few people who are in my community who I directly interact with. That means something that has to mean something. And I do also think if we make those changes, if many of us do those things, it does add up.
Gloria Riviera 42:37
I do want to ask you, we are in a threadbare childcare system, right? It is bursting at the seams. How do you think the overturning of Roe versus Wade will further stress that system?
Angela Garbes 42:52
I’ve actually I’ve had a really hard time I’ve seen like I’ve known that the end of Roe is coming, right? I think logically, I’ve understood that for the better part of a year. But I’ve been really thrown off by its official end, because I wasn’t ready for the thing that I associated with. It’s like it’s a very violent end. Right? I think about the blood, the death of like people are really, people are going to die because of this. And people being forced into childbirth and into motherhood. Like it’s really, it’s so upsetting to me. And so I’m a little raw about it, to be totally honest. But the thing that I think about a lot is, there’s so many ways to talk about reproductive justice and to talk about Roe. But one of the ways that I find the most clarifying is to talk about it as an issue of economic justice and opportunity. And so the people who have not been able to access abortion, because they have not been able to for years now are people who are, you know, low income, mostly people of color in the Midwest, and in the south. The majority of people who have abortions in America every year are already parents. So these are people who are very familiar with the emotional but also the financial cost of having children. And so when we force people into motherhood, I think we are really forcing them into economic hardship and poverty. And that will only strain the system even more. And, you know, we’re gonna see children not tended to people are working and trying to make ends meet and if they can’t afford childcare, I think people will rely on community as they always have, you know, oppressed people, marginalized people and people of color in America have always been good at making community and taking care of each other and, you know, making kin and family in different ways. So we’ll see more of that. But we will also see I mean, I’m scared for what we’ll see, we’ll see more parents under stress, more parents stretched to their limit, and children will suffer for that.
Gloria Riviera 45:10
It makes me think of the stat that, you know, in all these other industries across the country, employment numbers have come back to just about pre-Covid levels, except in child care, like people are not going back to those roles, which are so important in this country. I’ve said it a million times, we will educate you, you can, you can have lots of letters behind your name to make you very qualified to care for young children. But you cannot enter an industry that is paying poverty level wages. Angela, I just have to say thank you so much for your work, I have so many more excerpts from your book, essential labor, mothering of social change, because there’s so many times I was just stopped, and I just had to reread sentences. You’re so talented, and I’m so grateful that you’re out there and that you choose to write about these issues that we all need to understand. So thank you so, so much.
Angela Garbes 46:06
Oh, thank you, Gloria, thank you for reading with such care and for having me on. This has been such a great conversation. I appreciate it.
Gloria Riviera 46:17
Wow. I mean, that was amazing. I love that she talks to herself in the mirror, have you guys ever done that I have, it feels really silly for a split second. And then it kind of feels like someone is about to put a gold medal around your neck at the Olympics. Seriously, highly recommend it. Get in there and look at yourself and tell yourself you are essential, and then get moving to change the status quo. Because the status quo is truly awful. Angela’s book is essential labor, mothering, as social change, go get it, read it. She is a beautiful writer; it will fire you up. And one more very important thing before we go. You may have noticed we took a little break over the last few weeks from featuring your voices at the end of each show. We had been hearing from you and it was fantastic. And one of my favorite parts of the show. They were snapshot reminders of how Nolan is alone in this caregiving, this parenting role. But then the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. And we felt like we needed to talk about that too. So we scrambled. But the thing is, I have missed your voices. So, we want to invite you back but in a slightly different way. There are all of these overlapping crises that accompany being a parent in America today. The end of Roe, a child care crisis, a never ending pandemic, the list goes on. And it’s really got me wondering about the future, and how this no one is coming to save us community is thinking about it. So here’s what I want you to answer. In light of the decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. And the high cost and inaccessibility of childcare in this country. Would you want or would you want someone you care about to become pregnant in the next year? Why or why not? So talk to me. It’s super simple to do. I promise. Just open the Voice Memo app on your phone and record a quick message. then email it to me at email@example.com. I cannot wait to hear what you send in. It makes me feel less alone. Just inviting you back to this space. Okay, love you guys. That’s it from me. I’ll see you back here next week.
Gloria Riviera 48:48
NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US is a Lemonada Media original presented by and created with Neighborhood Villages. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen. Veronica Rodriguez is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, and me Gloria Riviera. If you like the show, and you believe what we’re doing is important. Please help others find us by leaving us a rating and writing us a review. Do you have your own experiences and frustrations with the childcare system? Do you have ideas for what we could do to make it better? Join the No One Is Coming To Save Us Facebook group where we can continue the conversation together. You can also follow us and other Lemonada podcasts at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. Thank you so much for listening. We will be back next week. Until then hang in there. You can do it.