Parenting is tough no matter what, and all parenting requires sacrifices of some kind. However, depending on how you choose to parent, some of the specific things you end up dealing with will be different than if you’d chosen a different path. There are definitely some specific sacrifices you make as a progressive parent that are totally worth it, even though they might feel tiring or uncomfortable in the moment.
Being a progressive parent means something slightly different to different people. Overall, progressive parents are simply people who are trying to raise our kids to be open-minded and accepting of difference, and who actively oppose injustice in the world. We want our kids to respect their own boundaries and those set by others; we believe freedom should be everyone's birthright, rather than a privilege enjoyed only by those with a certain skin tone, social class, gender expressions and so forth. We aren’t necessarily instilling certain political party identifications in our kids, so much as we want to make sure they have the kinds of values and understandings about the world that allow them to live peacefully and respectfully with others, and contribute to a more just society.
Sadly, and because we currently live in a society organized by the logic of systemic oppression, progressive parents are still very much going against the grain. We have our work cut out for us, for sure, but that’s the cost of leaving the world better than we found it. If you’re a progressive parent, you’ll likely make the following sacrifices, and more, but raising kids who make the world safer and freer for all of us is a pretty awesome payoff.
Having More Awkward Conversations With Your Kids...
If you wanted to kick it old school, you could cut off all conversations that were heading down a potentially awkward path without feeling the need to explain. Instead of having ongoing, sex-positive conversations about human bodies and reproduction, you could use cutesy names for genitalia and have "the talk" once. Instead of reckoning with trending topics on race or gender-based violence, you could pretend to be colorblind, or pretend everyone fits into one of two neat categories for gender, and all of that jazz. However, you know that wouldn’t prepare your kids for the world we live in, so you’re armed with tips for dealing with tough stuff in age-appropriate ways, even and especially if it means explaining to your preschooler where it is and isn’t OK to touch yourself during dinner.
...And With Their Teachers...
Perhaps it’s because your kid came home with a story about their teacher gave out racist word problems during math class, or they’re trying to punish your child because your family has decided to opt out of high-stakes testing, or because they’re enforcing a sexist dress code designed to prevent the girls clothes from “distracting” the boys. Regardless of the specific reason, there’s probably going to be more than a few times in your lives where other adults in charge do something that necessitates not only unpacking it with your child, but having a potentially tense conversation with their teachers and principals (or camp counselors, or whomever) so they know what they’re doing isn’t OK, and so that your kids learn that it’s OK to speak out when you see something wrong, and that you’ve got their back no matter what.
...And With Other Parents
Playdates and sleepovers are all fun and games until you notice the parent who’s hosting the next one ranting about sending those people “back where they came from” and bragging about their extensive (and visibly unsecured) home arsenal on Facebook. Then you have to decide whether to let your kid go, or to say something to the parent, and just, well, sigh. So many potential pitfalls to navigate.
Basically, You Accept The Role of Being “That Parent”
From now until at least college, if something pops off at school, or during Scouts, or on the playground, you will be the one who says something, because as tough as it can be to do that, you know that it’s unsafe for all the kids who aren’t straight, white, able-bodied, and/or cis boys to be in an environment that doesn’t account for their physical, social, and emotional needs. You understand that even those boys who aren’t directly hurt in the moment will probably grow up to be emotionally bereft and violent if no one interrupts the oppressive socialization happening in that moment. So you suck it up and speak out, because even if you get some eye rolls, you know you’re doing the right thing. You know that you're a hero to everyone else who felt some kinda way about what was going down, but didn’t have the words (or the nerve) to say so.
You’ll Put Up With Folks Who Just Don’t Get It
It ain’t easy being "that parent." Lots of folks will wonder, aloud, why you’re trying to “turn your kid gay” (not what’s happening, and what’s wrong with being gay?) or why you let your kid be a “little smartass” (also known as “cultivating critical thinking”), or why you “make everything about race” (wasn’t me, actually, but the folks way back when who decided to build this country on a foundation of genocide and slavery). When you insist that your child be treated with the same respect that anyone else gets for being human, some will accuse you of “coddling” them or “failing to teach them their place.” (Where is this place, by the way? No one ever says!) Still, you will deal, and model how to speak up despite the haters, even when your voice shakes, because your kids and community will be better for it.
You’ll Spend More Time Vetting Toys And Media
There’s probably no idle channel surfing in your house, if you even have a TV at all. You know how people learn stereotypes via the media, so you want to make sure they’re watching, listening to, and reading quality media, or at least have someone by their side to help them reality-check and question the less ideal stuff. You’ll spend extra time picking out books and other media that reflect a wide variety of characters, so your kids know that the world isn’t just made up of “white boys and dogs.” You’ll try to see if there are dolls that actually look like your kids, or video games that don’t revolve around shooting people or mistreating women. Sure, you could spend that time on something else, but you don’t even want to think about what your kids would be internalizing if you didn’t.
You'll Forfeit The Easy Way Out
Basically, being a progressive parent means you’ll often be paddling against the cultural mainstream (though, fortunately, our ranks grow every day so we have a slightly less lonely time, and bigger paddles, than in times past). No, you won’t let as many seemingly “little” things slide, and that can be really tough at times. No one becomes a parent because it’s easy, right? Especially not if you’re trying to be (and beget) the change you want to see in the world.