• Activist Ruth Dawkins is thankful to those who have campaigned before her to make this world a better place for her son. (Supplied)
Limited time and energy means it's hard to be a mother and political campaigner. But perhaps you don’t need to be on a demonstration every weekend to make your mark on the world, says Ruth Dawkins. Sometimes the smaller actions we take can be just as effective.
By
Ruth Dawkins

12 Jan 2016 - 12:26 PM  UPDATED 12 Jan 2016 - 12:29 PM

Ten years ago I was an activist, known jokingly to friends as "Radical Roo". Recently returned from the Arctic, where I’d been studying the effects of climate change, I spent my weekends climbing up lampposts to attach Green Party placards. My lapels were crowded with badges supporting everything from renewable energy to workers' rights, and I was never more comfortable than when standing in front of a crowd with a megaphone in my hand.

These days, things are a bit different. I still list my allegiances in every online profile - green, socialist, feminist – but beyond signing the occasional petition, or writing an angry blog post, my activism is dormant. Radical Roo became Dorky Mum.

Radical Roo researching climate change in the Arctic ten years ago.

There are many people who do an excellent job of combining activism and parenting – some of them at the very highest levels of politics – but I’m not one of those people.

Regardless of whether you’re involved in a political party or a grassroots campaigning organisation, activism is tough. It’s so hard to maintain a high level of energy and enthusiasm for any cause when it feels like you’re getting knocked back all the time.

It’s only when you become a parent that you start to truly appreciate many of the things that have only been made possible by the hard work of people who came before you. 

 

So when it comes to a choice between spending my evenings knocking on doors and delivering leaflets to disinterested householders, or giving my son a bath and reading his bedtime story, then my son, Tom, is always going to win. 

Ironically, though, I’m more aware now of the need for political activism than I’ve ever been.

It’s only when you become a parent that you start to truly appreciate many of the things that have only been made possible by the hard work of people who came before you.

When my son needs to see the doctor for his latest vaccination, or stitches in his chin, I’m so grateful to live in a place where that service is available. When we visit the local library or the state museum together, I’m appreciative of those who place a value on literature and arts. When we send postcards of Tasmania’s wilderness to our friends in the UK, I think of the environmentalists who have fought so hard to protect it.

I’m being political in the only way I can. It may not be a high visibility activity, but I believe that it’s important. I am raising my boy to be a good man.

There may come a time in the future when I’m again able to carry banners at a demo, or run street stalls in the rain. Just because I’m not an active activist doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped caring about refugees, or the pay gap, or nuclear weapons.

But for now, I’m being political in the only way I can. It may not be a high visibility activity, but I believe that it’s important. I am raising my boy to be a good man.

I’m bringing him up to respect others, to believe in equality and social justice.

I’m teaching him that we need to use and share resources in a sustainable way.

I’m helping him find ways to feel connected to the earth and its inhabitants.

My placards may be gathering dust, but I’m sure that the quiet, daily conversations I have with my son about the world have more impact than my megaphone ever did.

 

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @dorkymum, Facebook @dorkymum, Instagram @dorkymumblog.

Raising kids
The case for 'good enough' parenting
Isn't it time we embraced this refreshing take on raising kids?