Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I used to think of myself as an activist. I co-led both the Peace and Social Justice Coalition and the Gay Rights group on my college campus. I marched on Washington to protest war, erosion of women's rights, and the general existence of George W. Bush.

In 2008, I went door to door for Barack Obama, and when he was elected, I felt a sense of pride and ownership of that outcome. I watched the inauguration on the TV in the medical student lounge sitting on the floor in a crowd of other future doctors. We cried, we hugged each other, we took pictures of the TV screen.

I can't claim to be an activist anymore. In the 2012 election, I was proud to vote for Obama and for gay marriage in Maryland. But that was the extent of my participation. I didn't go door to door, I didn't man a booth anywhere, I didn't organize a demonstration. I didn't get a chance to watch a single debate. Between residency and baby, I just haven't had time.

Last night I didn't watch the state of the union; I was busy delivering a baby. Which I would rather do than hear a speech any day.

But I do miss participating in politics, not just reading blogs about politics. And I'm keenly aware of how sharply I've criticized my own mother for saying she was less politically engaged than she wanted to be because of us kids. Firstly because she was still extremely engaged. I was on TV at age 7, marching outside city hall with her, protesting school closures.

My mom is the one who taught me to be an activist. She ran an environmental group for elementary students: we cleaned streams and raised money and wrote our state representatives.

But if she didn't have kids, I think she would have been chaining herself to a redwood somewhere, or getting arrested for vandalizing Exxon headquarters.

It's important to me that Bear learns how to be an activist. It's ok if that ends up not being his thing. But if you never see people doing the envelope stuffing, cold calling, marching, or demonstrating, it's hard to get started later. It's easier to be what I've now become, an interested spectator of politics rather than an active participant. As I tell the partners of my laboring patients, "this is not a spectator sport."

I'm a woman busy having it all, and this is just one small way that still isn't enough. And that's ok. If I'm sidelined for the next three years, that's ok. Bear won't remember it understand marching on Washington before then anyway. But I want to get back to it. I don't want activism to be just something I remember fondly from my college days, I want it to be part of my life and part of the way I parent.

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