I went to my hairdresser of 12 years for a cut and colour the other day. We started discussing how things had changed since he first brought life and loveliness to my hair (too much? He is fab, get in touch if you want his number). Back then I was a young newlywed, studying theology completely committed to giving every waking hour to changing the world. My work, the busyness and pressure of trying to end world poverty, gain equality for women and seek justice for the marginalized meant our conversations were interspersed with a few yawns but I was passionate, driven, motivated and making a difference.
Fast-forward to 2014 and my yawns are more frequent and deeper. I sit in front of the mirror a little (lot) wider, wrinklier, a parent of 3, unemployed and living in rural Gloucestershire. No more important meetings, just the school run. No smart clothes, just cleanish ones. No more campaigns to plan, just playground politics. It’s way too easy to look at my life and wonder where I went wrong. Why I sacrificed my dreams for a better world to simply parent.
Not every parent makes the same choices as me. Many of you will have been able to return to work in the same or similar capacity. Yet I know that when I talk to my friends (those who do and don’t work) and look at conversations on twitter or articles in various publications, there is a sense that, to some extent, we feel our world changing lives have been put on hold while we parent.
Yet watching my fellow parent friends, and simply looking at the increasing number of little lives I’m surrounded by, it becomes increasingly clear that this parenting malarkey is in fact world changing. A better thinker than I, Gandhi no less, said, “If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children.”
This isn’t just about taking your kids along to protests (easier before you’re outnumbered and they get fast), helping them be ethical consumers (because they become consumers oh so quickly) or filling Christmas shoeboxes with them (though a great way of helping them think of otherness in the midst of so much stuff). That’s all well and good, but the very act of loving our children, letting them see us love others, showing them our world, talking with them respectfully, encouraging questions, giving them freedom to play and learn, could be enough to change the world all by itself.
As I sit here exhausted, with my sleeves rolled up to hide yesterday’s soup stain and rice crispies covering the floor around me it’s so easy to want for more, to feel like I’m not doing enough. But I am. For me, and maybe you right now, we are doing the best we can for the world we have.
Don’t believe me? How about Mother Theresa? A man once asked her; “You’ve done so much to make the world a better place, what can we do?” He clearly wanted to assist her work. She smiled and said simply “Love your children.” The questioner seemed perplexed and was about to speak again when Mother Theresa raised her hand. “There are other things you can do,” She said, “But that is the best. Love your children as much as you can. Love your children. That is the best.”
Who am I to argue?
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