In human rights work, it’s called the “moment of obligation” – the moment when some story, some person’s pain, some injustice strikes your heart in a way that defines it as your own. Immediately thereafter comes the realization that you simply must do something about it.
My mom jokes that my first moment of obligation came in preschool when I took up the case of a classmate who was being sent home for a minor potty training infraction. The ensuing decades found me serially and passionately linked to one cause or another – from urban poverty to African children’s rights to sustainable agriculture to special education law. It was a great surprise to everyone then (including me) when I decided to step out of the fray when my first daughter was born. Despite the chorus of admonitions that I was committing career suicide, I was enormously confident in my decision to stay home. Looking back, I love that I treasured those early years. I remember how good it felt to feed my girls beautiful, fresh organic food, to lay them to bed on a chemical-free mattress, to color their room with milky VOC-free paint. I found a fun and supportive community of like-minded moms with whom I split cases of natural diapers and shared information about glass bottles, PVC-free toys and cleaner cleaning supplies. Money was definitely tight without the second income, but my husband and I made sacrifices and drew strength from the fact that our informed and thoughtful decisions had created a peaceful and healthy home for our little girls.
And then they went to school . . . blue juice, carpet glue and ant spray . . . donuts, nutty buddies, and uncrustables . . . How could it be? I just had to do something.