When I was a tiny tike, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d reply “A farmer’s wife!” OH MY DAYS! My hard working feminist mum must have had an absolute CONNIPTION! I can just imagine her response to my seven year old self; “Er, why not just be a farmer, Lu? There was this thing called emancipation?” Mind you, for much of my childhood I also wanted to be called “Girl Eric” so my mum was probably used to my clumsy handling of gender issues.
I soon changed my mind about the farming and began chasing the dream of acting. It was pretty serious; after school I landed a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama. But during my gap year in New Zealand I fell head over heals in love with the country and the people and decided under no circumstances could I possibly leave! I gave up my spot at Central and, in a huge swerve towards the straight and narrow, began studying theology. A life in the ministry wasn’t for me, but I knew with conviction that I wanted to spend my life trying to make the world a bit more loving, beautiful and peaceful. I ended up completing a degree in social policy and even working in that field for a few years. When I moved back to London with a beaut kiwi husband I decided I wanted to work in similar fields of social justice but with a more global theme, so began a post graduate degree whilst doing some part time work for Oxfam.
Graduating from the London School of Economics, I was, along with all the other Bright Young Things in my year, gobsmacked that people weren’t grabbing at our sleeves as we walked along the street to hire us. There followed a few months of soul destroying unemployment; one time that I was absolutely CONVINCED I’d found THE job for me only the silly sausages didn’t know! And they hired someone else! Ooof. All the tears were cried that day.
And then, miraculously, in a dearth of London based social justice-y roles, I landed a full time, open ended role with Oxfam as a campaigner in their London office. Hello, Dream Job!
For four years I trained volunteers, planned awareness raising events, lobbied politicians and generally made as much racket as possible about global poverty. I flipping loved it. There was a real atmosphere of imagination and creativity and, most of all, purpose. One of my favourite projects involved taking a bunch of activists over to Copenhagen on the Climate Train for the climate change talks, we did a load of media and joined in with the protests of this global earth loving movement.
And then I began having kids.
During my pregnancy and the start of my first maternity leave I was all “My important work can just pause while I get this parenting thing out the way” but the more time I spend with my children and the more I read about child development, the more I see it as Important Work.
I am certain now that parenting, and adult-child interaction, plays as much of a crucial role for social justice as campaigning.
I read this quote from Gandhi today, and as always, he nails it:
“If we are to reach real peace is this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children; and if they grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle; we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.”
So, the other week, I resigned from Oxfam. As you know, I’m on maternity leave right now gallivanting around Spain in a camper, but after Christmas we are heading to New Zealand for a few years so I inevitably had to send that email. But it felt pretty big. As if I’m not just resigning from my dream job, but from a whole career.
Because somehow now I want to pour my whole life into this idea of peace and justice beginning in childhood. It’s not that I see it as more important than the work of development agencies but simply newer. We are only just beginning to understand the nature of the relationship between our treatment of children and the well being of society, it’s a massively under-resourced area.
I’m definitely too lazy to become a Professor of Neuro-science but perhaps I could get involved through more writing, even blogging… a different campaigning job… a Forest School… *flies around in a super hero coat trying to fix childhood*
Although if you ever spot a New Post from me with the title “Life as a farmer’s wife” you have permission to comment with a sweary emancipation themed rant.
PS Yes, we made it to Spain! We have pootled down through Longrono and Zaragoza to the coast where we plan on trundling right the way round. The sun is still hot, the people are so warm and the grape vines are turning fiery red along the road side.