Friday, March 19, 2010

Where did I go?

In my 'professional / non-mama' life, I'm the national head of activism for an international NGO. It's a very cool job, a very challenging one, a very frustrating one, and an extremely rewarding one.

I'd spend my days reading breaking news reports, reading case files of people on death row, reading new reports and testimonies from the ground, talking to other charities and activist organisations. I'd be talking to researchers, media workers, victims. I'd reach into my memory to pull out international legal obligations, and pore over domestic legislation to see where the gaps were, so that we could focus our energy on closing them. I'd make decisions about what we needed to do, when, and how. And who needed to be involved.

I was very aware of the awful things that happen in our world. Sometimes too aware probably, given the nightmares I would often have, and how emotionally I would respond to some situations.

What I loved most was the strategy development. You know - we have a problem here. There are a number of solutions available. Which is the one that we should chase. Which one suits our members, our influence, our organisational profile, the resources we have to hand? How can we make it happen. Who is the ultimate person with responsibility to take that decision? Who has their ear? And who has those ears? Let's get moving. Who do we need to mobilise? How can we convince them it's really important that they DO something?

Full steam ahead. All heads down and bums up. We'd turn ideas into campaigns, campaigns into community noise, and it would happen all pretty quickly - especially when it was urgent.

Dynamic, important, critical stuff.

I was convinced that being on maternity leave wouldn't change this. Sure, I wouldn't be going to work everyday, but I would still be keeping up with what's happening in the world, and I'd become a very active e-activist.

But you know what? I haven't. Of course I've been busy, but I literally haven't done anything. I don't even read the paper anymore. I've spent a good while trying to figure out how something that is so intrinsically me - my values, and my beliefs - could so swiftly just fade away.

And I think I've discovered the answer. I just can't bear it. Simple as that. I can't bear that the world my little ones have been born into contains such horror. It makes me cry.

My rational brain instantly says "Yeah, it does, but look at all the pure goodness. You, Jen, of all people, see that goodness all the time. You work with and for people who are shining beacons of hope in this world". And it's true. But I still can't stomach it. It's like I want to erase my memory and create a new one filled with sunshine, butterflies and rainbows. Real head-in-the-sand stuff.

Maybe it will just take a little time. I hope that's all it is. I want to be realistic about this very real world we live in. I want my little ones to know that when they really feel passionately about something then they should stand up. I don't want to wrap them entirely in cotton wool and pretend that everything is roses all the time. I want to show them where the people are who are using every ounce of energy they have to change things.

Maybe I just need to remember what it was that initially ignited that fire.

So this is a plea to the activist inside me. Please come back. You might look slightly different, and that's totally ok. But do come back. I'll love you whatever form you take.


  1. That is an amazingly powerful post! Thank you!

  2. Think of it as a sabbatical from being you, rather than a total change. You WILL re-emerge eventually!

  3. Fantastic post. I used to work in the cancer ward at the kids hospital. Couldn't do it once I had my babies. Changed careers. Life changes forever when you have your angels and it is never the same again. Your passion will be back, but different. It will have another dimension to it that you never thought existed. A-M xx

  4. thanks ladies. a little spark reignited today when I heard that the govt has decided to stop processing sri lankan and afghan asylum claims. Fired a quick letter off to chris evans and stephen smith! Felt good.


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