Parents of the US: Ashia Ray
PARENTS OF THE U.S.
This interview is part of The Breeding Ground’s Parents of the U.S. initiative to create awareness of the need to change workplace policies, laws, and values by interviewing parents across the United States about their lives and work-life integration.
Personal Stats: 34-year-old mom of two boys under 5. Married to husband, Nathan.
Corner of the World: Newton, Massachusetts.
Occupation: Documentary Family Photographer and Social Advocacy Photographer.
Child care for us: “My kids are in full-time day care now. I want my kids to see a mom who is making a difference in the world, and to see their parents doing what they’re good at. I’m not good at being a full-time parent and that is hard to admit to the world, but I know I’m not alone in feeling that. And you know what? The teachers who spend all day with my kids are absolutely amazing! They love what they do so much they chose it as a career! My kids are happy, we’re happy. This works better for us to keep our sanity and be the best parents we can be to our kids.”
The mismatch between school day and work day: “Before having kids, I didn’t realize it wouldn’t be feasible to be home alone with them full-time until they went off to elementary school. I also didn’t realize kindergarten gets out crazy early! The school days don’t match work days, and it’s impossible to get a 9–5 job without putting your child in another day care after kindergarten lets out. So, do you just stop working or pay for more child care? We’re trying to figure that out right now, but it’s kind of scary.”
My postpartum work story:
The importance of visibility: “I think if more people — those who don’t have kids, employers, co-workers, and friends — understood the difficulties that face parents, and not what sitcoms perpetuate, they would be kinder and less judgmental. If I had known how hard parenting was, how difficult it is to ask for help, I would have been a better friend and helper to my new-parent friends. I think the people giving me nasty looks in the grocery store for my spirited toddler would stop and help if they knew what was really going on.
“Seeing the reality of that first year of infancy is vital for expecting parents. I read over 60 parenting guides and baby-care manuals while I was pregnant — they were worthless. Parenthood hit me like a truck — I wish I had seen the real experience of parenthood instead of the media version so I could have gotten the right support system in place.”
On making the invisible visible: “In my photography work, I show the invisible work that goes into caring for a family. All those dirty oatmeal bowls and piles of laundry, we parents see them as a never-ending mountain of things getting in the way. The truth is that’s where the beauty is, we’re just too stuck in the moment to see it. The hard and boring moments of our life together are extremely valuable — that’s when we see how our lives tie together. It’s when we’re struggling to get the toddler into a clean pair of underpants with our special underpants-song, that’s where the magic is, and that’s where our favorite memories come from.
“My hope for my work is two-fold: First, it’s for parents to know they are not alone and to know their work is vital and meaningful. Second, I want to combat judgment and foster compassion by helping people reflect on what the back-story might be when they see a parent struggling in public with their child. Those invisible obstacles that come with raising children with disabilities, food allergies, traumatic pasts, etc. — the more we know about the daily obstacles facing parents, the more we can reach out a hand to help.”
Kind and compassionate children: “My primary life goal is to raise kind and compassionate boys. I want them to be cognizant of their privilege, and why it matters that they actively make space for others. One of the things I do is run Books for Littles, a Facebook group, where people share great books for kids that they find on diversity, social awareness, and that have equal amounts of gender and race representation. Books that focus on compassion, kindness, and getting through failure.”
Originally published at The Breeding Ground, a new social network of parents advocating for family supportive workplace policies, laws, and values in the U.S. Join our growing community of parents and access great resources. Register for The Breeding Ground here (it’s free)!