It was November of 2016 and the election was upon us. Donald Trump had not yet been elected. CAN’T WE GO BACK TO THEN?
Anyway, at that time, I’d say I was laser-focused on the presidential election. Local? Not nearly as engaged as I should have been. Deciding on how to vote for props was like shooting fish in a barrel — just seeing which ones the bullets hit in terms of whether I went yay or nay. And school board candidate elections? I had no clue. I was uninformed, or — at the very least — not engaged. And that was a problem.
Months prior to the election, someone had reached out to me and asked me to research and post about the school board candidates. At that time I was traveling for work and figured… yeah, I’d get around to it.
Oh, excuse me. I’ve been rude. I should mention, I run a blog by the name of Anonymous Mommy. We’ll get to that.
Well, I didn’t actually get around to it until days before the election. Welp, time to see what my blog followers were thinking about the election — maybe get a comment or two. I still wasn’t all that concerned.
Comment after comment flooded in… everyone wanted to know who they were supposed to be voting for to take a seat on the Board of Education. No one felt they had the information they wanted about the candidates. I googled names, came back with nothing substantial. I mean, sure, I came across the standard Q&As, but nothing that felt genuine in responses in an un-canned way. Endorsements — everyone had an endorsement so that didn’t really help me. The thing is, so I’ve come to learn, is that the information, at least a lot of it, is out there. You just have to know what you’re looking for — and when you don’t know to be looking for anything, you won’t find it.
I was fumbling. At that time, I had just one young daughter, about two years old. I hadn’t given a thought to our school district at all. I was raised in the community and went to school here. I knew it was great! Did the makeup of our board really affect the public schools in the district? I mean, isn’t the general structure of public school all the same, funding aside? They all get the same direction and have the same standards to implement, right? It’s not like they were going to challenge the curriculum or anything. Education isn’t political. It’s school!
That was November 2016. I thought to myself that if there was this much interest in my local school board election, something was up. As it turns out a lot was going on, a lot which centered on where to relocate the local continuation high school, an ordeal that had been weighed down in controversy, not to mention causing large budget concerns. Hot-button issues had parents enraged at board members. There was blame to spread around. People were angry.
At that time in my life I had just taken a new job. Fresh off of 10 years of casting reality TV, I felt like I had finally found an ideal job for the place I was in in my life. It was a writing job, it was close to home and close to daycare. Everyone was so welcoming, and genuinely seemed excited to have me on the team. It felt like a real job — a stable job. I had been there all but a month when a woman first called my work —on election day — hoping to have me fired.
You’re wondering why someone would call someone’s work to have them fired, right? What must I have done for an individual to react so extremely? A few months prior to this, the woman who took such measure hadreached out to me via my personal Facebook profile and asked, “Do we have a problem?” to which I replied that I didn’t know her, and that there must be some sort of mistake. She was under the impression, from what I would soon learn, that because she posted right-leaning political opinions on her personal page, and because I posted left-leaning political opinions on my public blog page, that in effect, my entire blog page was about her. She wanted my phone number, I declined. We went through a couple posts she was just absolutely sure were “about” her, and I shared my source material. I actually thought we ended the conversation on a rational, “come to Jesus” level for her.
On election day I learned we had a mutual Facebook friend. I learned this because she went to this friend’s Facebook thread — this friend who has a child with mental impairment — and belittled this person’s child’s circumstances while claiming that the video in which Trump physically mocked a reporter (you all know the one), was doctored. I said, NOT TODAY SATAN (ok not really, but I called her out) and she blocked me. She headed over to my blog page and did some of that “mwahah ahahaha” cackling-type nonsense and said she was calling the police on me.
It was around 2 p.m. on election day. We had just gotten back from team lunch when I was called into my boss’ office. They both sat there for a minute before one said: “So we heard you’re Anonymous Mommy.”
Oooooooooh, wonderful. There goes my job, I instantly thought. They relayed what
had happened. Apparently this woman started calling every phone number she could find attached to my place of employment. None of us picked up because we were all at lunch, so she landed on our senior vice president’s number, and gave her a ring. From what I understand, she went on for nearly 15 minutes about how my page was a conspiracy about her, that it was harassing her and that she had filed a police report and so on.
My work was terrified — for me. They requested that perhaps I don’t walk to my car alone. They weren’t aware of my blog, but they said then, and they’ve said it again, they support my right to free speech. It was a relief to not have to delete my blog — something I had offered — as writing is an outlet for me.
Now, I think for many, having someone call your work would really intimidate future writing, but I wasn’t a stranger to incidents like this happening in the past, when people would call various production companies I worked at. You just get used to it, I suppose.
My blog, well, it’s one of those blogs you label controversial if you don’t agree with it, right? I mean, nothing I say is way out of line, we just live in a two-party country, and that means that basically half of the country disagrees with my way of thinking. While we’re taught to “not talk politics” for politeness’ sake, I don’t believe in that nonsense. I believe we should be talking about politics, we should be informing ourselves and we should open ourselves up to conversation with those who have opposing views. How else do you learn?
I was a Republican until I was 27/28 years old. I didn’t such switch to registering “Democrat” on a whim. It was a natural reaction after having listened to stories from individuals all over the U.S., even when my holier-than-thou Catholic, Republican mentality wanted to scream: “you’re wrong!” … I still had to listen. Because, when you’re interviewing reality TV candidates, no one cares about what I, the producer, thinks. They care about the interviewee. And so, I asked a lot of questions and then I was forced to just really listen.
Listening can be a bitch, right? But that’s really just what happened. I listened to people and it ultimately reshaped how I prioritize my views on social issues. And my blog saw the tail end of me “finding myself” as a newer liberal, snowflake, libtard, whatever-the-fuck you want to label me.
But, in order to understand my blog, is to understand its history. It didn’t originate under, erm, noble pretenses. It started after I had made a joke post about what I considered a bonkers post in a mom group. What’s a mom group? Let me share with you, my friends.
Within a week of being a new mom, a message in my Facebook inbox appeared from an old friend. "I hope you don't mind that I added you to a mom group I'm a part of. All of the women are so supportive and loving. It's a really great community." (Sometimes I look back at this and cry from laughing so hard.)
I was so green then, it's kind of adorable now how naive I was. Like a fresh doe prancing in fields of flowers, completely unaware that I was being hunted from just yonder the hills. What was just past those hills you ask? Lots of tired, hormonal women who thought their main purpose on this earth was to tell you that if you aren't raising your child the way they raise theirs, well you might as well just off the kid. And they all unite together in Mommy Facebook Groups! I feel like, in the early days of Mom Groups, there must have been an initiation where you swear an oath to make another mom feel bad for her parenting choices.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I get it. Sometimes you just need a safe place to vent. You can’t scream at your kids (well, you can), so you save all of your built-up frustration for a vent in an online mom group. I guess I can’t really say I see anything wrong with it. It’s just not my cup of tea. If I’m going to complain about the hubs, it’s certainly not going to be to a “closed” group of 15,000 women in my community, but maybe that’s just me.
To get a sense of my experience with mom groups, let me demonstrate a typical post.
A post asking for advice on baby bottles popped up in my newsfeed one day. Perfect! I registered for only one kind, got a zillion of them, and my baby was over them after a few days. This would be so helpful! The comment chain started out innocently enough. Some moms chimed in suggesting Doc Brown or Tommee Tippee. Some women suggested different nipples for the bottle (standard versus slow flow versus faucet drip). Ok, I made that last one up, but seriously, what did women do when there was only one type of bottle? We have it so “easy.” You'd think that'd make us less stressed. Instead, the choices make me more stressed — apparently all of us more stressed.
Then a mom wrote in: "How old is your baby?" Ahem. If you're new to the game, you wouldn't think twice about this question. Perhaps you'd even think how nice of this woman to take an interest in the baby. Silly, sweet you. The poster replied: "3 months."
You know where this is going, right? "Why does your baby need a bottle at three months? Are you not breastfeeding? There could be nipple confusion if you try giving them a bottle and you should be breastfeeding for at least a year."
Ah, the “breast is best” crowd. They’ll leave every mom who has struggled with breastfeeding and supplementing, crying in their rooms feeling like failures.
If you've been around long enough, you've heard the common "breast is best" brag that babies who are breastfed have higher IQ's than babies who received formula). Formula baby here. It's totally miraculous I can put together a sentence isn't it? It's like I somehow defied all the odds.
Comment after comment poured in.
"Sometimes the milk supply just dries up and you have to supplement," one gal chimed in. Oh honey, I wish I could have warned you... don't ever say, "supplement," in a mommy group. Blood hath been shed over such crimes.
"You shouldn't need to supplement. Your body knows what your baby needs and your baby knows how to get what she needs from you." Oh, thank God. Finally, a woman who knows my jugs and my baby better than me! Maybe she can let me know when I'm ovulating next.
"Well I'm just saying blah blah blah recommends breastfeeding for 2 years. Why wouldn't you provide the best for your baby?"
And see, you'd think this might be like a one-time thread. All groups have a few resident bitches, right? But no. It happens all the time. It was actually the only predictable thing in my life when I had a new babe. I wasn’t able to predict when my baby would wake up at 3 a.m. having shit herself all the way up her back, but I can sure as shit could predict that if I come across a post with a picture of a bottle, shit was going to go down.
But, the post that really killed me, as a mimosa-loving gal, was a post from a woman who was complaining that her husband had had the audacity to take her to brunch for Mother’s Day, and boy what a jerk he was for not having read her mind enough to know that she didn’t want brunch. The thread quickly devolved into women complaining about all of the ways their husbands had failed them that day. One poor sap, for example, had only bought his wife a card at 8:17 p.m. the night before, so obviously he should die.
It wasn’t long thereafter, that my first blog would be born. The blog that would then lead to “Anonymous Mommy.” And in the early days, that’s what I talked about: mom posts in mom groups. Naturally, there’s only so many times you can talk about a woman asking if she could get pregnant after the pullout method, before you move on to writing other content. Plus, while it was funny at times, ultimately, someone is a target of that joke, and it’s just something that — no matter how much positive attention I was getting for my blog — never really sat well with me on a personal level. It’s one of those, “I’m not mean, people are laughing!” mentalities, until you really examine it on a deeper level, and I did. And when I did, I decided I needed to shift my blog’s content.
Years into being a mom, the need for forcing myself to be in mom groups to feel included was gone. It just wasn’t the supportive place I needed for me, personally. And as I discovered that, I discovered I had a passion for getting more involved in politics… having a say in the future we are building out for our children.
This made people even angrier than when I just made fun of mom group posts.
Anyway, we can talk about all of that, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Donald Trump was elected. I cried for a week. And then I said: like hell we’re calling it a day. Time to start local. January 2017 I attended my first two school board meetings. It was intimidating. When I was younger I had gone with my Dad to city council when he was helping Linda Parks, now county supervisor, with her first campaign, but that was a long time ago. As an adult, my activism wasn’t yet “activism,” — it was talk. I had never gone to a meeting. I didn’t know what to expect. Was I required to speak? What was parking like? Would I stand out for looking lost? I’d be sitting by myself, would there be enough seats?
The issue up for debate then was how the board planned to implement the FAIR Act into its curriculum. In a conservative town with a board majority that now leaned further than right thanks to the past election, updating curriculum to be inclusive of Black people, LGBTQ+ individuals and those with handicaps who had made significant contributions to history but who had otherwise been excluded because of these identifiers, was apparently controversial.
I’m not going to dig my heels on that here, but I wrote a blog about it. I published my first blog about a school board meeting and… within two meetings, a woman showed up at my place of work, blog printed out, to meet with my boss and question my employment.
Two meetings. One month of my first actual attempt at civic engagement and someone was already trying to have me fired for my advocacy of an inclusive curriculum.
It’s been a year and half since then. In that time, this same woman who first attempted to have me punished for my opinions on school board policy, would follow up with my work a second time, by phone, to insist my removal. Further, she would call every place I had come into contact with, and threaten them. My favorite local beer place, check. Schools I had done volunteer work or mentoring for, check. Restaurants I was hosting fundraisers at, check. Organizations I raised money for, check. This woman, in the past year and a half has alleged that I have stolen money for the American Cancer Society. Further, she has called those within the district to suggest that I am an alcoholic and that my family needs to stage an intervention. Did I mention she gave an interview about me to a local publication?
This wasn’t all that had happened as a direct response to my new dedication in becoming an engaged member in my community. After speaking during public comments at a school board meeting, board member Mike Dunn wrote to my employer and threatened him if he didn’t silence me from speaking. As a result of that, and the press I received from that fiasco, a group of women united to create multiple hate pages about me, parroting the same false narratives about stealing funds, or, in a real low, suggesting that I created a nonprofit to act as a cover to embezzle funds to fund my alcoholism.
Ladies, I work fulltime. Surely I can buy my own beer. It comes full circle when you learn that one of the women involved in this is the woman who first called my work far before I started transforming myself into a doer, instead of just a talker.
So, I’m not sharing all of this to complain.
I’m writing this because all of that, all of it, is still worth what I’ve learned about myself and my passion for community and civic (and civil) engagement. I’m just one person — a private citizen — and yet I’m shaking things up. I’m learning that you, as one individual, can actually make a difference. You just have to do it. You have to start somewhere.