Mainstreaming the Care Conversation with Angela Garbes

"I think a lot of white women enter into spaces of organizing community and they're like, ‘I'm gonna do this right!’ So I’m out here being like, ‘pay your nanny more, if you can. Support paid leave. Support domestic workers.’"

Mainstreaming the Care Conversation with Angela Garbes
via Twitter/Angela Garbes

For long time fans of The Double Shift in podcast form, I have a special treat for you today. I had a lovely, winding, encouraging, real, hopeful, relatable conversation with Double Shift co-host and friend, Angela Garbes. If you are a member of The Double Shift, you are in for a double treat because the extended audio version of this conversation is like a warm hug – a satisfying reconnection that will make you long to call up your own cross-country bestie. If you are a member and haven't set up your audio newsletter yet, email as and we'll resend instructions.

In today’s newsletter, Angela shares her experiences of getting conversations about care in mainstream and male dominated spaces. We commiserate about the failures of federal care policies and without offering meaningless platitudes, and we talk about how we are both staying grounded and coping in the day-to-day of our post-Roe world.

Don’t miss out on the audio of this! It’s weird for me to say, but it’s... honestly better in audio format than written in a newsletter. Becoming a member of The Double Shift supports this work and you get other great perks, like delightful members-only threads. Tomorrow's will be on parenting books that don't suck. It starts at $7/mo. If you want in and can’t afford it right now, email me and I’ll hook you up.

Angela Garbes:. Before we dive in, How are you? That's a big question, but answer it in the way that you feel like answering....

Katherine Goldstein: I feel like I'm doing really well. I feel like not doing the podcast is a huge weight off my shoulders in a positive way. It has freed me up to be creative in other ways, which I've really enjoyed.

Angela Garbes: I'm really happy to hear that. From an outside perspective, getting the newsletter, it just feels like you're having more fun.

Katherine Goldstein: I definitely am. So I’m not going to make you go over what your book is about for the millionth time, but for people who haven't read it, (and seriously, what are you waiting for, order it now.) It's really about reframing the idea of mothering as part of challenging society to rethink the value of care. And it explains how transformative the power of care is.

It is so wonderful to see you get these well deserved accolades for the book, but also it's really amazing for me to see these conversations about care and mothering in so many mainstream spaces and male dominated spaces, and spaces with people who don't have children who are engaging with you intellectually. What is the range of feedback you're getting from the people who are brand new to these ideas?

Angela Garbes: When I was going on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, I didn't know what to expect. He actually read the book and he was really engaging in its ideas. He was like, ‘I don't understand... it's so obvious that investing in the work of mothering and care would be a public health benefit. It goes such a long way. Like this is really foundational!' I was totally surprised and totally delighted by that. So that's really exciting and I felt grateful to him that some tens of thousands of people saw that. It left me feeling hopeful, you know? There are people who wanna have these conversations.

I knew in my heart that the book would be timely and had the potential to resonate with a lot of people.  It’s been deeply validating and affirms my belief so solidly that this is the conversation we need to be having. We need to be talking about care. Everyone has a story about care work.

And I realize people are hungry for this conversation, but I do also think that people aren't sure how to talk about it. The thing that has come up over and over and over again is that people are like, “what can I do to be a better community member?” I think people are desperate for answers. But my book is a cultural and personal exploration of care. It's not like bullet points.

We need help on every single level. We need evaluation of care in our daily lives, at the federal level, at the local governmental level. All of it. The way that I feel, like I have been asked to give that answer to people, has been really strange for me.

Katherine Goldstein: That's so interesting. I feel like that really showcases how addicted as a culture we are to prescriptive things. Everyone wants, “what are the five must-do takeaways?”

Angela Garbes: It's all about the speed at which our culture moves, the way that we receive media now. A lot more people want to be told, instead of spending time developing their thoughts and being in conversation. This, like all care work, which was one of my big arguments, is inefficient. You don't know where it's gonna lead.  I will also say that the majority of people who ask me these questions are white women. Women in general are trained and raised to please other people, right? I think a lot of white women enter into spaces of organizing community and they're like, “I'm gonna do this right! So tell me what I need to do!” When really like the first step is showing up and doing a lot of listening and questioning yourself and all of that. I think it's really hard. So I’m out here being like, “pay your nanny more, if you can. Support paid leave. Support domestic workers.”

Katherine Goldstein: I wanna talk a little bit about how you are feeling about some of our current political situations. We're at this moment where student debt, forgiveness does feel like some step in a positive direction. The climate bill gives me some flutters of hope of their being a vaguely habitable planet for my children to live on. This stuff is good, but I feel like the care policies that were part of Build Back Better, and that really were finally getting some really big national attention, like paid family leave and childcare were so close so passing are now gone. And once again, mothers and children come last. Our turn doesn't feel like it's coming. How much worse are things gonna be allowed to get? The daycare industry is decimated and less people have access to paid leave than in 2020. You could make a very, very, very compelling argument that a woman's life and people with uterus's lives are far worse now than they were four years ago. So, I mean, like, how are YOU feeling?

Angela Garbes: It's just so clear, like this country does not care about us. And that's the hard truth that I'm sitting with. People say budgets are moral documents. They show what we value. We don't value care and I feel so disheartened by that. So then I think, “what am I out here doing?”

But then I also know we have to keep going. It's just a longer fight. So what am I gonna do? Stop talking about this? Stop insisting on the importance of care? So I have doubled, tripled, quadrupled down, like in my belief that if we could actually put care at the center of our institutions and policies, the world would be different. That's what it really comes down to is “who deserves a decent life?” That feels right. Sometimes it feels impossible. Sometimes it kind of feels pointless, but those are moments where I decide there's no other fight that I'd rather be in. I'm still as committed as ever, but I feel sad.

Sometimes it kind of feels pointless, but those are moments where I decide there's no other fight that I'd rather be in. I'm still as committed as ever, but I feel sad.

Katherine Goldstein: I feel like you've summed up so much of how I feel. Maybe we thought it was gonna be different, but that doesn't invalidate what we do, because it just means it's more important and we're not in it for the short-term wins.

In terms of long term vision, on the issue of Roe, I think we just have to flat out say, this is a disaster. But I'm curious, how do you cope in your daily life, in terms of how you're thinking about it, actions you're taking, or the ways you are sort of living or trying to live outside those systems that have declared abortion illegal and are really curtailing reproductive freedom?

Angela Garbes: Yeah. I reject the Supreme Court. It's not a legitimate court and I will never obey it. I love that you did a thing for Double Shift members on training about abortion pills, right? That's what we need to be doing. We are not gonna stop having abortions. What's gonna happen is that they're gonna be riskier. Hopefully not, if we can  get people abortion pills. But you know, pregnancy is way riskier for women because it’s so violent. I just think about encouraging people to say, 'you made this ruling, but we are ungovernable in this sense.'

I am blessed to have several of my close friends or abortion activists. So what I'm doing is supporting them. Asking, “what can I do? How can I take care of you? Because we need you whole.” I don't know. I’m not in a great place about it, mentally. I've been so much angrier and upset about it than I anticipated.

I rationally knew it was coming, but then it hit me in a different way. I'm just gonna take my directives from the people who have been preparing for this for years.

Katherine Goldstein: I think rightfully we are calling on people who have any economic privilege to donate, and I feel like people know that that's really important. The idea of also supporting people who are on the front lines in whatever way, that means as a personal friend or directly supporting local abortion clinics. I've learned more about that in my different trainings and research how important it is to donate to local abortion funds.

Angela Garbes: Yes, if you give to a local abortion fund. You're paying for someone's travel and for their abortion.

Angela Garbes: I love what you're talking about educating yourself. Like, we all feel like we are familiar with this issue. The real work in this moment of crisis is different. Dani McClain wrote a great piece about SisterSong, which is a black woman-led collective.  Black midwives were our first abortion providers. They were like, “this is nothing new. This is what we have been doing all the time. Communities of color have been leading on this and preparing for this and I think it's about paying attention. Yes, you can give money and like, that's great. But also, what about listening? Asking “what can I do?" And sometimes they may not tell you right away what they need you to do, but then be ready when you get the directive. Follow that leadership that's already in existence.

Katherine Goldstein: There are more resources than ever on educating yourself about all the different things going on. Like I did with a group here in Durham, we did an Abortion Access Front training webinar and a participant, and Double Shift member, who knew a lot about North Carolina politics, did a great breakdown for us about the North Carolina issues. It was very helpful, because local politics is confusing.

Angela Garbes: I think that's so important. Instead of despairing, it's a chance to go deep and to learn and to see what it’s like on the ground. We are gonna take care of each other. That's where I'm at with it.

What I’m Reading: This is a fantastic resource from my friend Lauren Smith Brody about What Changes to Pandemic Support Mean for Parents, published in Charter.

Take a Break: Enjoy this delightful adult puppet musical, Advanced Maternal Rage. I think my favorite song is “Hiding in the Bathroom at SkyZone.”

Sink into and Listen: Travis and I binged on the Serial podcast series, The Trojan Horse Affair while driving around Iceland. Download it if you are in the mood for an engrossing, expansive story.

I’ve taken a great course from Dorie Clark this year which talks about being in “heads up” mode, which is investing time networking, putting yourself out there, and promoting stuff. “Heads down” mode, which is intensive work on a project like a book or podcast, which means saying no to things and protecting your uninterrupted time. Right now I’m “heads up” on booking speaking and consulting gigs for 2023, so I wanted to share this amazing feedback I got on my two-part speaking engagement I did recently with RTI International.

“Katherine's keynote presentation was universally well-received, with one attendee saying that 'every slide and discussion point resonated' with them and another commenting that they were 'engaged throughout her presentation.' She also attracted record turnout for the interactive workshop which followed one week later. One attendee noted that they 'felt safe enough to share information about their experience,' and another said that the workshop 'addressed underlying, unresolved trauma that working caregivers have from balancing busy professional lives with caregiving responsibilities.' Several attendees at each event went so far as to suggest they'd like to see Katherine at a future event because they enjoyed her presentation so much. We loved having Katherine join us and would recommend her as a speaker to any organization ready to discuss the reality of being a caregiver in America -- and how to make it better!" -Monica Dongre, RTI

I’d love to come speak to your company, and I especially enjoy getting to know thoughtful ERG leaders. I do workshops, keynotes, and more informal “fireside chats.” where I talk about gender equality, caregivers and work, anti-mom bias and plenty more. Reach out if you’d like to talk,

If you appreciate this newsletter and want to support this work, become a member of The Double Shift. You get members-only threads, an audio newsletter and virtual and IRL hangouts. It starts at $7/mo.


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