How To Be An Activist And A Mom

What would that mean for my ability to nurse, and who will watch my daughter, if I’m incarcerated?

Being both a mother and an activist can be tricky sometimes. Often, they seem to be at odds with each other. I can’t drop everything to show up for a protest or meeting because I have to find childcare, and my kid goes to bed at 6:30 p.m. I have to consider my child’s safety when I make the decision to engage in a protest, or a direct action, even if she isn’t in attendance with me.

Could I get arrested?

What would that mean for my ability to nurse, and who will watch my daughter if I’m incarcerated?

If my name and face are publicly associated with activism, could my family be targeted by threats of violence?

Since having my daughter, my priorities have shifted. I decided what causes are most important to me, and redefined what activism means to me. I used to think that activism meant showing up to everything, and being physically present. And that’s still true for some things, but my activism is so much more. In fact, often I think that being a mother and being an activist are two sides of the same coin.

I view the world and my life through a social-justice lens. I also view activism in the same way that Alice Walker does — I see it as the rent I pay for living on this planet. I feel a personal obligation to try to make the world a better place while I’m here, in the hopes that future generations get to live in a world that isn’t as violent, racist, and misogynist. The way I help to bring about positive change in the world happens on both a macro level, as an activist, and on an interpersonal level, as a mother.

In many ways, being a mother is much like being an activist. As a mother, it’s my job to instill values in my child that allow them to go out into the world and do good and be good. It’s up to me to teach my child about consent, diversity, racism, privilege, and sticking up for other people. It’s up to me to show my daughter the social-justice lens in which I view the world.

Of course, though I want her to be her own person, make decisions, and think for herself, I know that the things I teach her and the way I view the world will have an effect on her. In that way, the interpersonal work of raising a child to be a good, decent, and active member of society is just as important as any activism I could do on a larger scale.

If activism is about changing hearts and minds, then it starts at home, with the little person I’m raising. And then she can go into her own world, carrying the values that I’ve given her, and begin to change hearts and minds herself. It grows from there. And it will all come full circle when my daughter and I attend protests together.

Activism and social change are values that I hope to instill in my child because, as a mother and a citizen, it’s my responsibility to try to forge positive change in this world, and I’m going to do that in every way I can.

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