It’s been a month since my last post, which was definitely not planned, but also probably inevitable. There’s only so many hours in the day, and there seem to be even fewer when you’ve got a little one getting increasingly mobile and able to insist on imposing her will on her poor, hapless parents.
It feels like every year since 2016 (you remember. Him.) we’ve all been telling ourselves things can’t possibly get weirder, or scarier. And that was before the pandemic. And now in New Zealand we’re starting to see Omicron variant cases on the rise (and rise and rise), and there are some very scary people camped out on the front lawn of our Parliament threatening to try and execute (because the trials they have in mind aren’t exactly fair) politicians, journalists, and healthcare workers over the vaccine mandates which have been keeping a lot of us safe.
I can’t remember the last time climate change was the major story of the day. That’s just another ever-present cloud hovering slightly out of sight, swinging back into view every now and then to check you haven’t started to feel hopeful about anything.
In the midst of all that it feels bizarre to be a parent. To have a beautiful, strong little person growing up before my eyes. Someone with literally her entire life ahead of her. A life which I hope – which I just assume – is going to involve a lot of pretty normal things: going to school, learning to swim and ride a bike and knit a wobbly scarf. Even though we live in disastrous times. What else can you hope for? If the future were truly completely hopeless, why would you have a child at all?
I could say that having a baby has opened my eyes and expanded my thinking and really made me care about the kind of world she gets to live in. It didn’t, really. I already cared about these things a hell of a lot, and the inaction of decision-makers on issues like climate, poverty and violence already made me really angry. Besides, I also hated it when people pulled that “well, as a parent of course I understand …” line before I had a child, and I don’t want to become one of them now.
It is different. Now, instead of wanting to somehow save the world for all kids, I have a very specific one in mind. What might have been an abstract idea has become much more concrete. When I see things like our Parliament passing a ban on conversion practices, I’m not just thinking of random queer kids being tortured for who they are, often by their own parents, I’m thinking about my baby, and how unimaginable it is that I could ever reject her for being different, for being herself, for loving who she wants to love.
But it’s not like having a baby made me realise that children are precious and important (or, and this bit is specifically for the men, I didn’t need to have a daughter to realise women are human beings, you get it?). I knew. Now, though, there’s a face on all those issues.
And I feel guilty for it. Guilty and responsible, in that classic progressive activist way of wanting the world to be better but being unable to fix it with a snap of your fingers but also feeling like you should be able to. Why didn’t I end patriarchy, erase every relic of our colonial past and save the planet before I had children? What was I thinking, bringing her into this chaotic nightmare which only seems to be getting worse every second?
Well, for a start because that’s a bit of an unrealistic bar to meet. On a more pragmatic basis, people will tell you that there’s no perfect time to have kids: not financially, career-wise, emotionally, psychologically. There’s different advantages and challenges no matter when you do it. That applies to the big picture political stuff too. You can’t wait for the world to be perfect to have kids. If you want them – and god knows I wanted it so badly it was ruining my brain – you make it work, and you fight every day in whatever way you can to make the world the place they deserve. And when she grows up, she’ll fight too.