This blog you’re reading right now has taken on many lives. I started out writing about my birthday and what I hope to achieve in this last year of my 40s. Then life took a sharp turn as the announcement of the school reopening plan emerged and overrode the birthday narrative. And then 2020 flipped the blog-script yet again – and well, it’s the best fucking story that has come out of this dreadful year yet. It’s a story based on the power of the collective. It’s a story reaffirming the voice we all have when we’re motivated to use it. It’s a story of a mom who felt voiceless and knew if she built her case, more moms like her would band together and demand to be heard. This is a story about doing all the mom-things to protect our children from a potentially harmful situation. This is a story about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Let me start from the beginning. In my last blog, I wrote about my hesitancy to send my son back to school. I laid out the pros and cons, and I was leaning towards not sending him. However, before I made that decision, I was patiently waiting to see what the school reopening plan looked like. On July 27th, I got word of those plans. That same day, I sat at my computer and wrote a letter of concern to the district’s Superintendent. I received a response back, pacifying my unease, assuring me they are doing what is best for the kids, which is to have them back in school. Two days later, I attended the three-hour BOE meeting, where they further detailed out the plan. Whereas I was impressed at all the work they did over the summer to get to this point, their plan didn’t reflect mine. My plan was to keep my son home and continue remote learning. Their plan consisted of a hybrid model for gen ed students, where half the school would attend two days a week, and the other half on the alternating days. Special needs students (ie. my son) would attend school 5-days a week. Which means they would be exposed to both sets of gen ed students. More exposure=more risk. As I dug through more of the details, I also was made aware that masks were optional for special ed kids (which I understand, believe me, but fu%k, they are then completely unprotected). So, as you could imagine, no amount of red wine would lessen the anxiety I was feeling at this point. That’s when i started to research independent homeschools.
As much as I try to avoid the town community pages on Facebook, I couldn’t help but notice anxious parents posting their concerns about the upcoming school year. There seemed to be a clear divide – those that wanted their kids in school and those who did not. I usually try not to engage in any divisive conversations, because it is none of my business what people decide to do or believe. But on this particular day, I did. I made my choice clear, without judgement of any others, and I am grateful for that. My choice was noticed by another Mom, who simply responded: “me too”.
The following day, I received a private message from that mom, showing her support and toplining her plan of action. She was gathering other moms who wanted the remote option but were never given the choice. She asked if I wanted to be apart of that group and help advocate for full-time virtual learning. I cautiously agreed. This mom started a private group message thread with me and the four other moms. Within three days, that quintet grew to fifty, with the sole intent of getting our voices heard, and our choice to be considered. This is when the mom-magic happened. Let me explain.
I have never been apart of a “mom group”. Mainly because some of these “groups” come with unnecessary drama and gossip. So, when I was invited to this group, I didn’t know what to expect. I sat back and observed at first because if it was just going to be bitch-fest, I would probably politely bail. But, no, this was definitely not that type of group…not even close. These moms showed up on purpose, for a purpose – and they weren’t going to let any drama or gossip get in the way. So, we instantly got to work, as time was of the essence.
(Sidenote: as I mentioned above, this was all done over a private message thread. 1,041 messages in total, over the course of a week, corresponding with each other on what we were doing, who we spoke to, where we were running into roadblocks and small daily victories).
+ A handful of moms started to call local congressmen/congresswomen
+ Another group took on writing a petition
+ One mom, who was a lawyer, explained to us our rights, and started to piece together the legal guidance needed to plead our case
+ Other moms spent their day calling/writing/hounding school officials
+ There were moms who reached out to other districts to see how they handled their re-opening plan. As it seemed most to all at that point were offering full remote learning as an option.
+ A handful of moms spent hours/days researching NYSED guidelines, to see if there were any holes in our districts plan
+ There was a mom who decided to broaden our reach and call every news station who would listen (Westchester News 12 and NBC did). This was a last-ditch effort to be heard, and guess what? It worked. Three moms were interviewed and so was the district. We all feel THIS was the effort that sealed the homeschool deal. No less than three hours from this piece being aired, we got word that Harrison was going to offer a full remote option.
The woman who started this band of mothers delivered the good news. You could feel the collective vibration of virtual high-fives and victory hugs. Our group chat lit up with animated gifs and a celebratory collection of emojis. I sat there feeling like an invigorating storm just blew through the room, impressed by its vital force. In its aftermath, unnecessary remnants were cleared away and what was left was the foundation to build anew. A new outlook. New opportunities. New learnings. New plans. New friends.
Fifty women, over the course of three days, did all the things, to make shit happen. Each and every one of them made a difference. We collectively vowed to stick together, support each other, and not go down without a fight. And in the end, this band of mothers did a well-deserved victory march.
It’s close to a month now since we got the good news. All fifty women are now preparing for their remote learning journey, taking on the role of teacher, career woman, decision-maker, nurse, therapist, and all the other positions we as mom’s serve. We still keep in touch from time to time, whether it’s to check-in on any latest school news, updates on the virus or just to say hi. One of the greatest takeaways from this experience, with these amazing moms and courageous women, is that we truly become better, together.
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths, and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 9-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.