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Move over, Mommy and Daddy. There’s a new smart mommy out there and her name is Hannah Barton.
The granddaughter of famous feminist and journalist bell hooks, 30-year-old Barton is an educator and progressive political activist who writes the blog Hannah Barton Matters, where she encourages women to rethink the traditional roles of breadwinner and homemaker. In her latest book, the soon-to-be millennial observes how women and children benefit from supportive caregivers. And as a full-time PhD student, this mom has the academic credentials to back up her bold conclusions.
“A mother’s unique role is to focus energy and give support, but allow children to carve their own paths,” Barton tells me on the phone. She is a London-based writer who left her permanent residence in New York in early 2017 to move back to her native London. Since then, she has traveled extensively in her role as Queen of the North, and keeps busy running classes to host other moms who find the role of the stay-at-home parent boring and draining.
“Moms are leaving the domestic sphere, but we’re not leaving our children. And we’re not leaving the ideas around childrearing. As we grow older, we tend to talk about being hands-on with our children, but we’re still the ones to do the work,” says Barton. “This has lots of implications.”
And her story is one of hardship, sacrifice, and resilience. (Years ago, when she was a 25-year-old academic student on a list of the 4 percent gifted children who get into Harvard, Barton lived at home with her mother and went without an iPhone to save money.)
“I only got to college because my mother took on two jobs to give me the support I needed to reach my potential. My mom was my proxy parenting. I call on her for support. But when she eventually says, ‘I’m no longer a stay-at-home mom,’ I can’t help but be sad. Because it’s my mother I’m saying goodbye to.”
Recruiting others to follow in her lead, she launched her new curriculum center in September called Berman House How To.
The coursework includes parents and children-themed workshops, and also teaches parents to be more resilient. “Motherhood can be an incredible source of strength and possibility. But when it comes down to balancing the daily grind, doing the dishes and taking care of the kids, life can become exhausting. There’s a lot to be said for moms not worrying about how much makeup they wear to the office or the choices they make as they get older about who they want to date.”
And Barton—who not only teaches the course material but also blogs at Hannah Barton Matters—is ahead of the curve in promoting a more inclusive view of who moms are.
“I want to go to brunch as a man. I want to serve in the kitchen. I want to listen to my kids’ playlists. I want to play Dungeons and Dragons with my male friends,” she notes. “I want to listen to music that doesn’t appeal to boys at all,” suggests a veteran mother who Barton interviewed on Berman House How To. “It has a lot to do with the fact that having a friend who will bring a different perspective is important. This kind of education makes a real difference.”
Barton is also very vocal about how she avoids the trap of teaching to the audience, so she attracts an audience of women. “You’re teaching from a safe place—women. So women have the ability to listen to each other, and also come in with an open mind. The women I teach are inspiring, self-motivated, and smart.”