Activism Isn't One-Dimensional: It Is Possible To Care About More Than One Cause At A Time

by Christine Organ

As parents, we have a million different things on our mind at any given moment. We supervise homework while planning dinner. We research venues for one kid’s birthday party while waiting on hold with the pediatrician’s office to talk about another child’s ear infection. We fight for changes to a child’s IEP and vent to other parents about a possible speech delay. We care — deeply — about many things. We advocate for different and changing needs of our different and changing children. And we stay up late worrying about, well, everything.

This is a given with parenthood. It’s understood, universal, and irrefutable.

Which is why it’s bang-my-head-against-the-wall frustrating when people can’t understand how a person can care about multiple — and intersecting — social causes at the same time.

Bring up refugees and people will talk about taking care of “our own,” whatever the hell that means. Advocate for women’s health rights and someone will scream, but what about the unborn babies. Mention the injustice in deporting undocumented children, and people will accuse you of not caring about veterans, the homeless, and their Uncle Bob who “works really hard” but still can’t afford health insurance.

Stop. Just stop. Cut that shit out right now.

Newsflash: The human heart is capable of caring about more than one thing at a time. We can weep for more than one sad story. We can want good things for all people, not just “our own.” And talking about one thing, and channeling our passion, doesn’t mean we don’t care about that other thing.

You can care about refugees and the homeless. You can support compassionate immigration policies and quality public education. You can advocate for veteran benefits and women’s rights. A person might donate to a food bank and a women’s shelter and a global humanitarian organization. Sounds wild, I know, but it’s true. Trust me.

Heck, a person might even care about people in other parts of the world along with people in our own country. Mind-blowing, right?

Newsflash: It’s possible to care about more than one thing.

And brace yourself, but it is actually possible to care about parenting and social issues. You can immerse yourself in breast pump research and sleep training while also caring deeply about things like intersectional feminism and immigration policies. Moms are multifaceted and skilled like that. Shocking, I know.

This is not a time for tip-toeing around issues. We need to have the hard conversations, educate ourselves, fund causes that support equality, protest and advocate, and then we need to do it all some more. We need to show up again and again and again and again to say, “This matters.”

But saying this matters doesn’t mean that doesn’t matter.

Resistance takes many forms, and so does love. We love our children the same, but sometimes the struggles of one child need more attention that those of our other children. Talking to a teacher about our son’s IEP doesn’t mean we don’t also care about our daughter’s peanut allergy — just like advocating for gender equality or wanting to help refugees doesn’t mean we don’t also care about veterans or the homeless. This is a parenting truth, yet somehow we have a harder time wrapping our heads around it when it comes to social justice issues.

It isn’t an either-or situation, and speaking up about one cause doesn’t mean a person doesn’t care about other causes. So just stop it, people. Don’t diminish the good work and humanitarian efforts of someone else because they aren’t focusing on the issues you prioritize. Because, quite frankly, the inability to understand the both-and aspect of humanity says a lot more about the size of the critic’s heart than the person being criticized.