| REAL LIFE: Maaria Mozaffar |

The Pursuit of Empowerment

FIRST PRINTED IN THE JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISSUE

Some people might see obstacles and wish someone would do something. That’s not Maaria Mozaffar. She is the someone who gets right to work on solutions, changing laws and empowering others, particularly for children and women.

The trailblazing advocate, attorney, author and suburban mom of three points to two new laws she pushed that she holds close to her heart: the Cross-Cultural Mediation in Bullying for Students Act (SB 673) creating an option for mediation for children bullied because of their ethnicity, race, religion or disability, and the Inclusive Athletic Attire Act (HB 120) — making Illinois the first state in the nation to pass such a law — that gives children the right to participate in sports in modest attire.

“I realized in my life that you can never pass the buck to anybody and when you make an observation and you wish things were different, that observation has happened for a reason and that is an indication that we’ve got to move,” Mozaffar says.

On SB 673, working with the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, she says parents of a bullied child can request mediation meant to empower the victim and educate the bully to change relationships. “I feel like we’re giving opportunities for children to learn how to embrace and appreciate a diverse community. …  I want every child to feel they have the ability to not be scarred by words that have been said.” The law “gives children the ability to own their space and articulate their power.”

There’s too many stories about kids being bullied, she says. She says parents have a role in the solution. “There was something said around some dinner table, on some couch, at a party, that parents didn’t realize kids would internalize and take seriously. We just can’t pass the buck on that,” she says. “I think it’s so important that learning and embracing diversity in this rich world that we live in, kids can only get the most of it if it’s introduced at home.”

HB 120 arose out of girls of different faiths who choose to dress modestly but were unable to participate in sports because of it. “Athletics is a place where children really feel part of a community, for them to be shut out because of a uniform is just so sad and unnecessary,” she says.

What inspires you to push forward?

“I’m inspired to be exactly what my kids can look at and be inspired by. … Children follow by example. They perceive and they absorb the world based on what they see around them and how it’s presented to them. I think parents are the first line of introducing what the world is to you; you can either make it a cynical place where you have to be really, really careful, where everyone is out to get you and you can’t trust anybody, or it’s an abundant place of opportunities and people who are going to cross your path and make your life great. So I’m inspired to continually have experiences and do things to show them what’s possible. I want them walking around as conscious human beings who are members of a community and recognizing that we are dependent on each other.”

FAST TALK

MOST HATED HOUSEHOLD CHORE:

Loading the dishwasher. It’s a chore now assigned to her 12-year-old.

GUILTY PLEASURE:

Though she’s normally very health conscious, she says she can’t say no to chocolate chip cookies.

Parenting Motto:

“Even the difficulties
are a gift.” 

Favorite thing to do with the kids:

On weekend mornings, snuggling in bed with all of the kids before the day begins. “I get to emotionally and physically put them in a cocoon for a while. I’m a big snuggler.”

What do you hope your kids will say about you?

“I hope they say that ‘she did everything she could to make us feel loved.’ I want them to love. I want them to take everything I give them and give it to somebody else.”

Why is Mom Empowerment so vital?

“So many of the times, women are the foundation of families and homes and communities. … Whatever we can do to empower women and remind them how amazing they are, despite all the messages that they are hearing that they are not skinny enough or not pretty enough or not smart enough, they’re not qualified enough, their resume is never full enough, that’s a message women are always internalizing. I think we lose out on so much.”

That’s one of the reasons she’s turning her book, More Than Pretty, How to Live a Life of Substance in An Artificial World, into a course to help people, especially women, make decisions from a place of power and purpose.

What is your hardest parenting lesson?

“Forgiving myself. I have to forgive myself and that’s why I’m so passionate for people learning how to do that and moving forward. I think we get in the space where we make mistakes as parents, we all do, and if I don’t forgive myself and have the ability to apologize for my actions or my missteps, I am not teaching (my kids) to be OK with making a mistake and humbly asking for an apology.” 

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