I recently cam across an article by Bryan Welch called Parenting Makes Environmentalism Personal. In it he writes -
Before I had children, I felt I had engineered a secure little world for myself. I lived in a nice place. I had a few nice hobbies. My work was interesting. I could avoid, for the most part, the parts of our world I found unpleasant. I could ignore people whose lives were not as privileged as mine. I could ignore any problem that wouldn’t reach global proportions for, say, the next 70 years or so. I could insulate my little corner of the universe.
Then, suddenly, I was connected to every part of the world, both present and future.
This was, for me, the big wake-up call. Our children — all the children we love, not only our own — connect us to the future. The world is no longer bounded by our awareness. The future is of immediate concern. Not just the future our children will experience, but the future their children will experience, and so on, and so on.
It gets personal all of a sudden.
My initial reaction was to simply agree with him. Of course caring for our kids means we care about the world they will be living in. But then as I thought about it, I realized that it isn’t always that clear cut. Often when we have kids we get so consumed in the moment that we put up blinders to anything outside of ourselves. We stop caring about others and focus on the needs on the moment. This may mean we stop volunteering or donating to charity because we just don’t have the time or money. It may mean we dump more trash into the environment because, let’s face it, it’s easier to use paper plates than to wash dishes. Or we save money by buying sweatshop produced clothing. Our response to having kids can go both ways – increased compassion or increased (necessary) selfishness.
I know I struggle with looking outside of my own family. It is easy to just focus on us and forget the needs of others. Intellectually, I want the better world, but in the rush to make it out the door on time in the mornings, it’s hard to keep in all in balance.
Is this just me? Do others struggle with this? Has having kids changed the way you view things like environmentalism and changed the way you live?