On Balance

Published on December 14th, 2016 | by Mutha Magazine


ASK A MUTHA: How Do You Take Care of Yourself in These Traumatic Times—While Taking Care of Kids?

MUTHA asked Muthas:

What’s getting you through the day (through any given moment) since the disaster of the U.S. election?

I am asking this because, honestly, I am not there yet, and have no answers—except that I know that we need self-care to keep on fighting, and especially as parents to help our children feel safe. – Meg Lemke

P.S. Making MUTHA does help me, day by day. Especially photo research:


Yes, I looked up “Garbage Fire.” Look at these little guys hanging in there. Photo by Curtis Perry / Flickr Creative Commons License

On November 9th, I:

A) adopted a gay couple to donate breast milk to who had just adopted a child (this is how we build family mo-f*cker!)

B) encouraged all my students to do something concrete and immediate that reminded them of their power, which for me included

C) loosely wrote a few little poems that were accurate and small and reinforced the loveliness of my peculiar way of being in the world

Samantha Barrow


Poetry by Marc Biarnès / Flickr Creative Commons

The thing getting me through has been engaging in and enjoying fierce, dark art. I want nothing cute around me, aesthetically. I’ve been listening to brutal, abrasive music—stuff I liked a long time ago, like Live Skull and Big Black, bands I never stopped listening to, like the Birthday Party and Einstürzende Neubauten, and people I recently discovered but should have been listening to all along, like Crime and the City Solution, and a very ugly, fabulous band called The Body I’m just starting to dip into. I also recently rekindled my love for all things Thalia Zedek, whose music ranges from the brutally loud (Come) to her more recent, thoughtful and fierce solo work. Blasting any of these bands while sitting in my studio and trying to work, or more likely, staring at the wall and crying, has been my coping mechanism. The volume and intensity of the music is cleansing, and the music concentrates my attention and keeps me sane. And, I spent all day yesterday traveling, and reading the great Bryan Doerries’ translations of Sophocles. They are brutal, and brutally relevant, in their lessons of trauma, wounding, and the perversions of leadership. – Leela Corman


Watching really bad TV; limiting daily time on news sites and social media; diving into work and my to-do list; focusing on my kids and being silly with them. – Tahneer Oksman

Hanging out with smart ass people I love.

Setting the goal of not saying anything bad or self-deprecating about myself.

Giving support to those acting in resistance.

Dance parties with my toddler. More people will dance with you when a toddler is involved. – Jade Sanchez-Ventura


from THE PORCH: When Women Join Together by Jade Sanchez-Ventura

On election night, I avoided TV & social media because I hoped to avoid the tension I would feel in observing who had the most votes. I preferred to believe that I would wake up in the morning and everything would be fine.

I was in a state of disbelief, shock, & denial when I woke up.

The primary thing getting me through this time is the rekindled friendship of my earliest best friend, who I met in daycare around three years of age. Reconnecting with him has allowed me to reveal my deepest secrets in the safest place I have ever known and face all of the ugly in the world with a confidence that I would not have otherwise.  – Kezia Willingham

Cooking (J and I made granola bars for his class the day after the election.) Art making with others as often as possible. Lighting candles for Advent. Adding as often as I can to my list of “ways I can currently work to resist fascism.” – Kristen Stone



This is the philosophy that’s getting me through the day, now and in the past. Each person should use their own individual personalities and capabilities to be of service to other people and the world. I know a lot of artists feel like what they do is insignificant at times like these, but art can be emotionally very soothing or cathartic. We all need health care, but we all need art (all the arts) too. Many years ago I became vegetarian in order to help the environment. It’s not a big sacrifice for me to do that, but it would be for other people. I would not give up caffeine, even if it were for a noble cause. If people have enough money, they should donate it. It they don’t, they should feel ok that they’re not in the position to do that. I won’t go to a rally because I’m afraid of crowds, and having a panic attack is not going to help any cause. The good things we do shouldn’t deplete us. – Keiler Roberts

My self care in national trauma can be summed up in two words: pot cookies. That’s all I got… This society is unbearable. – Juniper Fitzgerald


Well this does look delicious

After an ER visit in March 2016, the doctor prescribed fun and I realized that self-care could no longer be one of those things I do after all the work is done or whenever I have extra time, but self-care had to be integrated into my daily routine, like vitamins.   The way I’ve been thinking about it lately is that considering how hard I work and how much harder I’ve been working since election day, it is important for me to show my body and mind a little gratitude. This is what works for me:

  • Sitting in the hot tub or taking a warm bath
  • Massage (full body, foot massage, etc.)
  • Pedicure
  • Facial
  • Swimming
  • Walk along the beach
  • Hike in the woods
  • Journaling
  • Meditating (Headspace app makes this real convenient)
  • Quiet time at coffeeshop without my phone
  • Bikram yoga
  • listening to/reading/writing daily affirmations

Lastly, considering the reality of how many of POC/LGBT/Women/Disabled are targets for hate incidents and hate crimes since election day, try your best to not engage in acts out of fear. For example, one might be afraid to leave the house, so they stay home because they fear what might happen to them outdoors. Another example is how some don’t want to stay home because the fear sinking into a depression if they stay home; so they make sure they are out all day, staying busy, often spending money they don’t have. Whatever the case, try your best to be intentional and make you motivation for action come from a place of joy—seeking out the things that genuinely make you happy. It makes a difference. – Janet Stickmon


“Forest Walk” by Holly Victoria Norval / Flickr Creative Commons License

My life since the election is much the same since before the election. I’m still on disability for anxiety and depression. I’m still living in the guest bedroom of my ex-husband’s home. My ex-husband watched all the debates and the circus that led up to the election…and the aftermath. I could only stomach the first debate. It always comforted me watching Bill Maher. But whenever I see Trump’s face on the rather large television I have to leave the room. Just seeing his face is a trigger. My son turned nine on November ninth. He went to my mom’s for Thanksgiving. Everyone there talked about how they voted for Trump. It’s hard for me to leave the house. I get stressed driving in San Antonio. But I do intend to get involved in the local art scene as I’m returning to UTSA in January as an art major (I finally received my bachelor’s of art in English at UTSA last May). And I want to get involved with local nonprofits, especially any that help women and children.On a day to day basis I just draw and write and drink green tea and devour books, same as always. I take at least two bubble baths a day. I try not to think of the future. I try to stay married to the now. It’s more than enough. – Misti Rainwater-Lites


by Misti Rainwater-Lites

Watching Bob Ross with my kid on Netflix is helping keep the fear at bay. – Sacha Mardou

Being active on my campus with other like-minded individuals, as well as attending any kind of creative/intellectual gathering such as poetry readings has helped me to cope with both personal and national traumatic events. I am also spending less time on Facebook and taking the extra time to talk more with my daughter about how we can best show support and empathy for others. – Victoria Petron


It can help. Photo by Felix E. Guerrero / Flickr Creative Commons License

I left teaching a writing residency at Cleveland HS in Portland on Election Day, seeing a black cat cross my path. No big deal. I have a black cat. That night I put on my Rodham t-shirt in a faux black metal font to watch the results next door. Anything for good luck. But soon in I called my dad — a long-time reporter — in Virginia. I was panicking, then distraught. On a napkin I kept writing the odds of Hillary winning, based on states my dad named, but the map kept turning red. I sobbed at the end of the evening. Not only was my marriage ending and my husband of 23 years moving overseas for a year, but a man I despised was becoming president. My 12-year-old son, born in China, recognized Trump’s racism. He has been a target of racism, too.

The next time I went to Cleveland HS the halls were full of posters saying things like “Everyone is Welcome” or listing all the languages spoken. I felt safe(r). Not truly safe. I taught a mini lesson based on a Grant HS video called “Let’s Talk About Race.” I put up a google slide with a photo of my son and the words: Why Does Race Matter to You? I let the students talk among table groups and write one idea per person on a large Post-it, which were put on the bulletin board. It was simple, but it wasn’t nothing. And nothing is what Trump wants us to feel: unimportant, disposable, vehicles to be grabbed and sucked dry.


Photo by Alex Behr

What ninth graders can teach us:

Why does race matter?

We’re all born into a society built around racial prejudice, regardless of how we choose to act. We all reap the benefits and feel the consequences whether we want to or not.

The history of Portland was involved with segregation of race. 

Our country just elected a racist and sexist bully.

Oregon was created to be for white people.

America is a haven for immigrants. We must be accepting. 

Race makes people unique. So it’s relevant in that sense, but it should never by the deciding factor in how people are treated.

People are immediately first seen as their race and we don’t want them to feel isolated. 

Back in my 7th grade computer class, these 8th graders would harass me for having the fastest typing speed because I’m Asian. For the whole year there were three other Asians in the class and they’d refer to us by our # and not name because to them, we all looked the same. Alex Behr


Photo by Alex Behr

What is getting me through the day? I’m an anarchist, I did not vote (and that is based on a very thoughtful internal dialogue and external dialogue), and I disliked both candidates very much. My daughter and I talked a lot about the election before and after. With that, I have actually participated in protests and action meetings since the election and that was inspiring. I am selective who I do activism work with, but I loved seeing people come to meetings and protests that had never been. I’ve become more creative in my music, writing, and art since the election. So I think it’s really important to keep doing the things you love to do. But I am also very aware of how my privileges, beliefs, and oppressions fit into my response. As far as parenting goes, I’ve encouraged my daughter (who is now 15 and in high school) to join the protests and talk about it at school (which she has). We have talked about the worry and anxiety we feel for my stepdad because he is Muslim. We also want to make sure we are allies in a way that is appropriate. However, the state is awful no matter who is President. It’s an oppressive entity in our lives.  – Heather Jackson


Self care photo of child and me. We got our noses pierced in NYC over the weekend of Thanksgiving. A fun coping, bonding moment! – Heather Jackson

This is mildly embarrassing, but my favorite way to zone out is to make fashion collages on Polyvore.com, which as far as I can tell is largely inhabited by 14-year-old girls from around the world. The “comments section” consists entirely of “Fabulous, dear.” – Cheryl Klein


Fashion – by Jessie Lynn McMains / Flickr Creative Commons

I’ve been forcing myself to practice a small bit of yoga almost every day so I don’t freeze up, so I breathe. Reading bits of warrior-woman sci-fi & fantasy, connecting to friends. When I can channel it into drawing, it helps, too. Also, an honest conversation with the kid around the fact that mommy and daddy have gotten a whole lot more serious recently. – Tyler Cohen


Warrior Woman by Kid Acne, Photo by MsSaraKelly / Flickr Creative Commons License

After witnessing my groovy-idealist-progressive friends going into complete panic in the last month, I began to personally adopt a method based on Harm Reduction.  Borrowing from the recovery community, harm reduction basically means minimizing the effects of said drug of choice, ie…The Media and to not ignore or condemn its use. In other words, you don’t have to go completely dark, but you might want to consider ingesting only what won’t give you cardiac arrest.  Those rascals that live in our homes are overly sensitive to our nervous systems and no amount of Ayurvedic turmeric milk will be able to heal the intense traumas that continue to blow up our screens.  I don’t ignore, I just filter.  I try to reduce the harm. – Frances Badalamenti

Getting involved, listening to Hamilton and making art with my kids! – Carolina Rubio Macwright


Photo by atsukosmith / Flickr Creative Commons License

Actual yoga.  Maybe it sounds obvious.  I’ve found a teacher who is a millennial and even so speaks very precisely, wisely, slowly, has a sense of humor, and makes me happy.

Also:  Music and bellydance. When I get cold when I’m working—I put on this music and shimmy.

British political comedies and commentaries help, too, because it’s great to have another perspective on how dire/ridiculous our word is. – Glynnis Fawkes


Belly Dance by Krisztina Konczos / Flickr Creative Commons License

Action – Justice – Love – Anne Watkins

What about you? What’s getting you through? Keep the conversation going in the comments… Solidarity, MUTHA


Feature illustration by Misti Rainwater-Lites, all rights reserved.

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Exploring real-life motherhood, from every angle, at every stage.

3 Responses to ASK A MUTHA: How Do You Take Care of Yourself in These Traumatic Times—While Taking Care of Kids?

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