The landscape of parenting blogs and podcasts on the internet is fairly homogeneous. It is largely white, cisgendered, and heterosexual. But, this is not how the world looks by any means. So, if you don’t fit into these binaries, then where do you fit into the landscape of parenting, especially on the internet? You don’t. After finding that they couldn’t find a corner of the internet where they could see even part of their identity reflected, Mo Tester decided to take matters into their own hands. Mo, a non-binary, queer parent, created the podcast Parenting is Political, for other parents who also don’t fit into the typical internet parenting landscape.
Mo isn’t a unique parent, but because we don’t see many other parents like them, it may seem that way. They are in an interracial relationship with a black woman, Jasmine, and have four children, who range in age from 11 to four months. Their three older kids are all Jasmine’s from a previous relationship. Mo felt like they had “missed out” on all of the early days of parenting, so the couple decided to have a baby together. Now Mo is “changing so many diapers,” and is a stay at home parent. The family lives in Arkansas, which isn’t exactly the most progressive place and Mo explained that they had been fired from several jobs due to being non-binary, so it just made more sense for them to be the stay-at-home parent.
Mo, who became an “insta-parent,” when they entered a relationship with their now wife Jasmine, was searching for a parenting podcast that went beyond the typical parenting conversations. Everything was very binary in terms of gender and sexuality but also, they focused on topics like “how to get your kids to nap when you say it’s naptime,” and not on much else. That’s one of the best things about today’s internet landscape, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, more often than not, you can create a space where you can deliver.
Thus, Parenting is Political was born, to give Mo an outlet where they could talk about not only the things that affect them as a parent, but things that other parents, especially those of us who are more interested in parenting beyond the stuff that everyone is always talking about.
The concept of politically aware parenting can be a turnoff for some parents. But the term “political” is very broad, and when it comes to the things we need to be aware of as parents, it goes far beyond politics like the government. It is how we view sexuality, gender, race, and socioeconomic status, and how we allow our way of thinking on the subjects to be passed on to our children.
“It’s important for parents to be politically minded because we are the ones who are raising the next generation,” Mo explains. Our children are coming up in a world that is only getting more diverse, and to not acknowledge that shift, or to actively push against it is going to create another generation of people who lack cultural understanding and empathy. “If we fail to educate our children on how to be culturally aware, we are the ones responsible for a society that disregards basic human dignity,” they added.
Living in Arkansas, which is deep in the heart of the bible belt and uber conservative, Mo and Jasmine definitely have their work cut out for them. Their kids are old enough to understand that they come from a family that doesn’t look like the families of their peers. The kids have no problem explaining to their friends concepts like sexuality and gender binaries. While the kids are generally accepting and understanding, parents are often a completely different story. Mo explained that sometimes after playdates “kids will say their parents won’t let them come over again,” but their children have a group of friends who are supportive.
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When you refuse to apologize, make excuses for why you were hurtful, and don’t hold yourself accountable to measurable change toward your child- you demonstrate that those with power are allowed to hurt them and not be held accountable. You are modeling dynamics that make your young people vulnerable to habitual abusers in adulthood. Stop thinking that because you are the parent you don’t have to apologize, model contrition, and be accountable. Stop saying “because I said so.” Stop taking advantage of your child’s attachment to you. 🏃🏼♂️ Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
Naturally, after hearing about where they live, the question had to be asked: have they ever thought about leaving Arkansas for someplace more accepting? Mo said they “think about it all the time” but ultimately they decide to stay. Even after they had a less than desirable interaction with a bigoted man who was a prominent business owner that forced them to move to a different town. The move was a decision to protect the family’s safety. In spite of this, they have created a supportive community and while living in a more progressive place would probably be easier, they take trips around the country to show their kids what life looks like in other places.
All of these experiences had a hand in what lead to the creation of Parenting is Political. “I want folks who listen to the podcast to start actively engaging in unlearning the harmful thought processes and ideas we were taught by our parents so that we don’t pass those same ideologies on to our children,” they explained. As we see the way things are playing out in the news, families who don’t fit the stereotypical mold of what a family should look like are constantly under threat.
We as adults have the power to begin to shift the tide, but we have the unique ability to teach our children to be more open and empathetic to people who don’t live the same life they’re living. If parents are actively teaching their kids to reject systems of oppression like capitalism, the patriarchy and racism, then we can begin to create a more level playing field for all people to be accepted.
Mo recommends “An easy way for parents to become more socially conscious is to follow social media accounts that are consistently posting about ways in which we can resist systems of harm.” The Instagram account for Parenting is Political posts daily suggestions and ways to change your thinking. Talking to more socially conscious friends and seeing who they follow on social media is always a good way to begin your journey of being informed. You have to be willing to get uncomfortable to unlearn all of the oppressive ways of thinking we’ve been taught, but ultimately it will make us and our children better people.
If you want to learn more about Mo, check out their website: Parenting is Political.