My daughter is two. She is a lovely, wonderful, vivacious girl. Her new thing is that she comes with me to pro-choice happy hours.
Before she was born, I was going to action/networking/professional-type stuff nearly every night of the week. Happy hours. Panel discussions. Volunteer phone-banks. Impromptu vigil for social justice? My candles were by the door. This is an easy habit to fall into as a young do-gooder, especially when you love what you do.
After she was born, I stopped doing most of these things. It was just too hard, especially when I was still nursing and rocking her to sleep. That’s changed, but babysitters are still costly and hard to find. And yes, after working all day, I like to spend time with her.
Does this make me less driven? Nope.
But yes, I had been missing some of the things I used to do.
I started questioning that. Yes, my responsibilities have changed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find a new way to re-engage with my old interests. So I started bringing my daughter to the pro-choice happy hour. It’s happened twice in the past few weeks.
I think of it as occupying my own life. I can be a parent, and still do things I love with my kid in tow. Even if kids aren’t explicitly invited. I can use my judgement and pick and choose what might work based on the situation and her needs at the moment. Occupying my life even though I’m a mom with a kid to watch isn’t just good for me and the kid, it’s good for everyone. Kids are part of life and we must include them.
I want my daughter to know that she’s welcome to be a part of the interests I hold outside our family. I want her to know it’s okay for women and moms to be part of public life. I want the people at the pro-choice happy hour to see that we can make some of our activist spaces kid-friendly with hardly any work, and I’m happy to share the joy of my daughter with the many, many activists who support abortion rights as a matter of human dignity and also happen to love babies (believe it!).
Yes, we’re only there for 20-30 minutes on the way home from daycare, and we sit to the side with her yogurt or hummus and pretzels, but I get to see my friends and be a part of the social side of a movement I work in.
Occupying my life takes other forms, too. Turns out that having a kid means you get a lot less sleep, and don’t always get a chance to shower and/or get ready. Well, this happens to me regularly now. Just today I did a meeting on Skype video with bed-head from several hours before. I’ve stopped feeling shame about this, and invested in pomade instead. I’d rather do the things I care about than waste time or energy berating myself, or take myself out of the running because I have a kid who doesn’t serve me breakfast in bed and warm my bathrobe.
By watching me, I hope she will see that mothers can be whoever the hell they want to be. I have been enjoying showing myself that, as well.