– by The Shitty Activist
I don’t have kids, but many of my friends, family, and colleagues do. Over the years, I’ve tried to pay attention to how having children affects one’s activism.
Based on my observations, I’ve drawn a few conclusions…
It’s undeniable that being a parent is time consuming, which can mean less hours spent waving signs at rallies, pretending to listen at public hearings, and struggling to stay awake at organizing meetings. With some exceptions, the most involved activists I’ve known have either been college students who have yet to reproduce, or middle-aged folks whose offspring have long since left the house.
Then there’s the money issue. Kids are expensive, which means volunteering for an activist causes isn’t always in the cards for a parent. Sometimes, even paid activists have to seek other work to pay the bills, as nonprofit work doesn’t exactly bring in the big bucks.
Time and money aside, activist parents I’ve known have worried about their reputation. Once they had children, they began taking their perceived standing in the community more seriously, nervous that any strikes against them could negatively impact opportunities for their little one.
If an activist has a serious career, they might be afraid of losing their job after being accused of law breaking, or being associated with some sort of controversy. Of course, no one wants to lose their job, but with a kid, unemployment can be tragic, and I think that fear can force some activist parents to sit on the sidelines.
So, needless to say, there are plenty of things than can take an activist parent out of the game. On the flip side, however, reproducing can also encourage an activist to stand their ground, up the ante, or even turn a formerly disengaged citizen into a kick-ass activist, once they understand who they’re fighting for.
There’s another phenomenon associated with activist parents that’s interesting to note. I have watched staunch defenders of a cause take weaker stances on an issue after a baby, for reasons unrelated to social standing or job security.
Pretty much every activist parent becomes increasingly concerned about the world’s problems, knowing how it might affect their offspring. While some activists respond to this threat by getting more engaged, others respond through denial. When acknowledging the difficulties that might be facing their little’uns in the uncertain future becomes too painful, they begin telling themselves that things really aren’t as bad as they had once thought, as a psychological self defense mechanism.
Of course, while this mindset might avoid the short-term pain of accepting that the world we’re leaving the next generation is a bit of a mess, in the long run this refusal to fight the good fight for a better world will actually harm your children.
In summation, as long as you’re courageous, well-organized, and honest with yourself, there’s no reason parenthood should force you to retire from activism. In fact, as discussed, it might actually take your activism to the next level.
Now, if you happen to be an activist with kids, yourself, The Shitty Activist would love to hear how you’ve managed, what advice you have for other activist parents, and any suggestions for how the activist community can better support those who are breeding the next generation of activists.