In case you forget: the rest of the world keeps on going even after you have a kid

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I can't claim this, but it's totally the kind of thing I would have toted around. Photo by Dominic, used under Creative Commons license.
One of the things my husband Sean and I have in common is our mutual political activity and rabid interest in social justice. We met as Sociology/Global Studies undergrads and shared a fierce wave of Democracy Now!-induced fever for most of our time in college. We’d wake up in the morning, brew a pot of coffee, and turn on Amy and Juan (because of course we were on a first-name basis with them). We were THOSE super-liberal kids: we brazenly (and somewhat immaturely) ranted and raved about The State of The World, felt smug about the fact that we only watched independent media, and derided anyone who didn’t agree that of course social programs should be available for anyone who needs them, and of course the food we eat is loaded up with a thousand things that are killing us, and of course we were right. About everything.

I became pregnant the last semester of our senior year, and we were totally stoked to be bringing a little activist into the world. We left Alabama for Oregon, joined up with a political group in Portland, and started attending rallies. Every time one of our members would go off on some kind of spiel, Jasper would dance around wildly while in utero, so I just proudly knew it: we were already raising a politically active child. Go. Us.

And then… Jasper was born two months early, and the outside world ceased to exist. My husband biked ten miles to, from, and between his two jobs, and then joined me at the NICU whenever he wasn’t working as we watched our (admittedly very amazing) team of doctors poke and prod our son and try to figure out what was going on with his platelets. Jasper came home after a month in the hospital, and we totally fell off the radar: days were spent at dog parks and libraries, blissfully unaware of words like “economy” and “recession” (this was 2009). Instead of Democracy Now! I mostly spent my time watching episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix while breastfeeding around the clock, and Sean spent most of his time working, since no one had ever hired me while pregnant and I had no job to return to.

I think at one point we talked about going to see Dr. Cornel West speak when he came to our city (at this point we had moved from Portland back to Alabama, so the fact that Dr. West was IN TOWN and we didn’t go is a DISGRACE) and then never looked up the date — when we found out it was really happening, it was already over. While we still occasionally checked in with the news, we started spending thirty minutes each morning watching an episode of Sid the Science Kid before going about our days. We justified it by saying that we were spending time together as a family, that Jasper wanted to watch it, even thought he was around fifteen months old when this started and I’m pretty sure he really didn’t care that much. Granted, it’s way fun to see your kid light up when a super cute cartoon comes on the computer, but… is it really worth it if you’re subconsciously supressing a part of yourself?

The last year has been pretty interesting, politically-speaking: the flurry of protests that have transpired around the globe have slowly pulled us back in. The Egyptian Revolution that started in January has been a huge draw: we were tremendously inspired to see what’s still going on. The execution of Troy Davis was also huge: we live right next door to Georgia, and Alabama is one of the most execution-happy states in the union. We’re also definitely excited about Occupy Wall St., and are participating in demonstrations in two cities in Alabama almost every time they have them.

So now we balance it: there’s totally some Sid action some mornings, but we also watch nature documentaries about deforestation and saving the ocean with Jasper, and we also try to explain some of the current political goings-on in terms he can understand (example: comparing Mubarek to the Emperor totally translated). I’m happy to say that whether it’s in morning or at night Ms. Goodman and Mr. Gonazalez (I’m not quite sure we’re on a first-name basis anymore) are at least weekly regulars in our living room. I again remember what it’s like to drink three cups of coffee in a day (it used to be two pots, but my tolerance is way lower post-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding) and to get truly EXCITED and AGITATED and to FEEL about The State of Things. We’re not always right, and now we realize this, but I do know this: we’re totally those annoying super-liberal kids again, and it feels awesome.

Comments on In case you forget: the rest of the world keeps on going even after you have a kid

  1. I am always on the fence on keeping up with current events. It can be good to know, and it can be bad to know. Some health gurus, like Dr. Weil, suggest taking a break from listening to the news, for the sake of one’s well being. I compromise by listening to NPR sometimes (usually once a day), and turning it off when it’s stressing me out or is just details I don’t need to know. Usually, I switch to Pandora’s Children’s Folk Songs station 😀
    Plus, for most of us, taking in the news is a passive event. Raising a kid is more of a political act.

  2. Having a very young child has helped me understanding better how so many people have stood by as dictatorships take over their societies. For example, I have always been struck by the ordinary people’s complicity with Nazism, and I’ve always thought that much of it was not ideology, but more general apathy, busyness, and self-interest/focus on one’s own family. Having a little one of my own makes me believe this even more strongly, as I see how the immediacy of raising a child can easily drown out bigger picture issues happening in the world around us. I don’t think this is a good thing at all, but I think it is kind of accurate and true.

  3. I like this article a lot. While I don’t relate to the attending rallies part of your interest, I have issues that I am very interested in and choose to explore in my spare time. When my daughter was born I did not have the energy to be passionate about anything but caring for her and sleep. Now that she is older and I am (finally) out of school, I try to juggle what I pay attention to and when I need to shut off the computer and focus on my family right in front of me. I think the comment about complacency is a very accurate and interesting one. A person does not have the time to be passionate about everything happening in the world and a parent has even less energy to do that. It is nice to have an excuse to turn off the news and stop worrying about the world for a little while:)

  4. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” When you have a young child, the political is by necessity very personal. Little kids can’t understand abstract political ideas but they can understand concrete actions like recycling or donating canned goods to a food bank or Mommy knitting hats for the homeless. As your child grows older, you can gradually move away from concrete actions back towards more abstract ones.

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