Vodka Yonic features a rotating cast of women and nonbinary writers from around the world sharing stories that are alternately humorous, sobering, intellectual, erotic, religious or painfully personal. You never know what you’ll find in this column, but we hope this potent mix of stories encourages conversation.
On Jan. 6, I watched the insurrection play out in the U.S. Capitol in horror, shock and fear. Footage of broken windows, destroyed federal property and thousands of protestors fueled by hatred was, to say the least, overwhelming.
That same day, one of my friends from high school announced her pregnancy on social media. As I enlarged the photo of my friend standing with her husband, his arm posed sweetly over her growing baby bump and their golden retriever beaming in the background, I wondered: What type of mother will I be?
We are living in uncertain and contentious times. Every day, news networks broadcast heartbreaking stories about how our world is plagued by raging political tensions, a global pandemic, increasing unemployment rates, social and racial injustice, and the climate crisis — and that’s just the beginning. I don’t know what will remain for future generations.
My partner and I want to have children of our own one day. At the beginning of our relationship, we watched Michelle Obama’s Today show appearance on the International Day of the Girl in 2018. Fierce in her power suit and with a determined expression on her face, the former first lady asked: “If you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of your neighbors? Do you want them angry? Do you want them vengeful? We think of the values that we try to promote to our children.”
Her words touched me. I looked at my partner with renewed positivity and commitment to giving our future children all the right guidance, training and knowledge we possibly could for them to live safe and trouble-free lives. I aspired to be the type of role model Michelle is to her two daughters. I was empowered back then.
Now I feel jaded. I worry that I will be unable to shield my future children from the disorder and disruption that currently exists in the world. I fear that I won’t be able to teach them that words are more powerful than fists, that we can disagree in nonviolent ways. I wonder how they will use their privilege to uplift others and have the power to speak up on behalf of those without. I am terrified that they will be embarrassed by their Indian heritage and only recognize their cultural roots when it might be trendy. How will I teach them to be kind and accepting of their bodies and identities if they do not conform to society’s version of “normal”? I struggle with how I will protect them from social media addiction and online bullying while still recognizing the benefits of technology and staying connected.
I think back to my childhood, one that was not stifled by technology, when I was free to play with other kids and allowed just one hour of television a day. Those times felt simpler, more innocent. Danger and evil felt imaginary. How could I give my future children that modest life in light of current world events?
I shared my premature concerns with my best friend, wondering if these thoughts crossed her mind.
“We’ll figure it out,” she said. “Everyone does.”
Maybe she’s right.
Our parents somehow did. My dad came to this country with a $20 bill and a change of clothes. My mom gave up her accounting career to raise me and my brother because child care was too expensive. My parents, like countless others, selflessly sacrificed their dreams and health for the betterment of their children. And they’re still learning, because parenting never stops.
As much as I want to prepare for what hopefully one day will happen, the truth is I don’t think anyone can truly ever be ready. I can only hope that I follow in the footsteps of all those parents before me who instilled in their kids an unshakable moral compass with which they can distinguish between right and wrong. I could probably read every parenting book available in the library, but only gain that experience once I assume the role of Mom.
On that same episode of the Today show, Michelle also said: “Fear is not a proper motivator. Hope wins out.”
I was reminded of that quote last week as I watched 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman recite a powerful poem at the presidential inauguration. My faith is renewed when strangers on the internet stick up for each other against bullies. Recently, the man in front of me at the coffee shop bought me a cup on an especially bad day.
These moments, as fleeting as they may be, give me the comfort that I too will raise children who will be good human beings. I’m giving myself permission to view motherhood as a blank canvas that I will paint with my own principles for my children: a stroke of dignity here, a brush of kindness there, a belt of gratitude in the middle. It may take me a while to fully feel that confidence, but I’ll get there eventually — and if you share these same concerns, so will you.