This past weekend, I spoke on two panels at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy’s reproductive rights conference. One of my panels, “Bringing Social Justice to the Family Table,” tackled how to combine an activist lifestyle with family life. Along with three other panelists/mothers, I spoke about how to foster awareness of the world around us and how to engage our children in social justice issues from an early age. We spoke about our pre-kid lives as activists and how we wove it all in when we became parents. For many on the panel, including myself, that involved work in the reproductive rights movement.
I’ve written before about how becoming a mother has only strengthened my pro-choice beliefs, and I made sure to reiterate that stance while on the panel. I think there is a fear surrounding motherhood, that the moment you pop out a baby, all other aspects of your identity cease to exist and you become solely “mommy.” While there was certainly a period of transition while I figured out how to connect this new aspect of my identity with what was already there, I eventually found ways to make it all work harmoniously together.
When my son was only a few months old, I placed him snug against my chest in a baby carrier and manned a table for Planned Parenthood during a sidewalk sale event in my town. I handed out condoms and pamphlets on birth control and STI prevention while discreetly nursing my son in his sling. I spoke with people about the best ways to schedule appointments while my gurgling baby babbled happily away. Nobody seemed to bat an eye at the fact that my son was with me as I volunteered.
Only a few months later, I introduced my son to the wonderful world of civic duty, as I strapped him on my back and stood outside a voting station, polling voters for Planned Parenthood. Again, nobody seemed to bat an eye, and I got many encouraging smiles and waves.
Since then, my son has attended various social justice events with me including rallies, benefit concerts and more. With each event I take the time to explain what I’m doing in age-appropriate terms. I find that including my son in these activities has helped not only broaden his understanding of the world at large, but has strengthened his understanding of compassion, kindness, and personal responsibility.
And so, this weekend, when I go bowl for abortion, it feels only natural and expected to bring my son along with me. For the second year in a row, I will be bowling as part of the National Abortion Access bowl-a-thon. The event raises money to cover abortions for patients who couldn’t otherwise afford them. My team, No Wire Hangers, is comprised of mothers, and whichever children want to tag along for a fun afternoon of bowling.
It might seem strange or even wrong to some people, that I’m bringing my son along to this particular event. After all, how do you explain abortion to a six-year-old? But for me, since reproductive justice is an important part of my life, it would feel strange and wrong not to bring him. Just like I’ve explained all the other social justice related events to him in age appropriate terms, I will do the same this weekend.
This isn’t even the first time he’s tagged along to this particular event either. Last year when he came, I explained that we were bowling to raise money for people who couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. He understood that immediately, and as a kid who actually enjoys visiting his doctor, was appalled that anyone wouldn’t be able to do the same. And frankly, I feel the same way, which is why I will be bowling right alongside him on Sunday. I believe that abortion should be as accessible as possible for anyone in need, and if that means raising the funds so women who can’t afford one are able to do so? Then that’s where I’ll be — striking down pins in hopes of helping out somebody in need.
Some families might be going for a hike or playing video games together this weekend. You’ll find me and my family, along with the rest of team No Wire Hangers, bowling to help increase safe and affordable access to abortion.
Avital Norman Nathman blogs for The Mamafesto.
[Image of woman bowling via Shuttershock]