Posts Tagged ‘community’

I’m a Better Parent Than You Are ………….Aren’t I?

I don’t hear mothers and fathers actually saying this with the classic and timeless “nah nah na boo boo” voice, but the competition that exists among parents and mothers in particular is significant. It is enough that people throw around the term “mommy wars” to describe tension that exists between and among women in playgroups or online groups. Most of this intensity comes from the sharing of experiences and parenting beliefs or styles.

Since every family is a unique combination of needs, characteristics and personalities, loving parents and healthy children will take many forms. On top of that are the all choices we have and the constraints we live under in the day to day. I don’t want to judge others or be judged. I want to build strong, positive community that supports all parents in finding and following their intuition when it comes to their children and their lives.

Bring Birth Home wrote this post that provides an entertaining overview of Attachment Parenting (AP) and Natural Living and Parenting (NLP), as well as some great discussion about mommy wars. The post and comments had me thinking. I wrote the following comment.

I am sure as the owner of the blog and this FB group you experience more of this negativity than I do, and for that I am both sorry and grateful.

1. thank you for working to make this a safe space, and a respectful space. it is good and good learning for us all.

2. as you may know from my own recent blogpost on humility and togetherness, these things are at the forefront of my mind currently. i am striving to have people actually feel what i intend when i speak and act — the space i want to create for them to come into the discussion. http://alivingfamily.com/2011/04/03/on-humility-and-togetherness/

HERE IS MY PROBLEM: no matter how much effort i take to keep my opinions to myself about what other people do as parents and to find the right words to say what i believe and do, no matter how hard i try to be respectful, sometimes i get the feeling (or can tell) that simply by saying my own personal truth people the person i am talking to is hurt, offended, defensive or even angry. it feels as though my sharing is bad but their sharing is acceptable. the only difference i can see is in the greater social acceptance and knowledge about their parenting practices and beliefs versus mine. this leads to the next….

3. now that i have been thinking about things for a while and you added your two cents to the mix, i am having some other thoughts. i am thinking about the way that even with a mix of AP and NLP and whatever feels right and good to us, that i have to fight the urge to shut down sometimes when someone shares about a tough hospital birth or shares their cry it out success story. i don’t feel immediately comfortable and welcomed to say that i had a phenomenal homebirth or that i am a little tired because we cosleep and my little one was nursing a lot or restless. maybe this lack of welcome is what others are feeling when i share my experience.

i am now wondering if the real problem is that it is not ok to share…..for some reason. is that possible? why would that be? because it definitely seems true. there is not a generally accepted and expected way of sharing mother stories or parenting ideas in open and honest ways, both about the hard and the wonderful experiences we are having. it does seem the expectation is that there’s an answer and some of us are supposed to have it. which one of us is it? ….. obviously no one has it. that is the point.

OR, last thing — is it the classic wondering if we are “good (enough)” mothers? and we can prove that if we somehow know something or did something “right?” i hope not, but seeing how own my mother’s good enough guilt continues to touch us both into the next stage of both of our lives i better dig deep on that one…..

i don’t know, but it’s too dizzying. i just want some honest conversation so we can all learn from and grow with and support each other. i think at some point we are going to have to consider an intellectual debate/conversation as separate from a personal conversation, though. otherwise, it seems difficult and emotionally challenging to have both at the same time. perhaps parenting is just too personal to not consciously separate the philosophical discussion. is that even possible or desireable?

Sharing Is Caring….Not Forced Politeness

I watch my daughter with awe as she walks and talks and makes decisions and communicates her thoughts. She is such a perfect learning machine. I have struggled to stay out of the way and let her grow and learn through play and life. There are certain things that are harder for me than others. Sharing is one of the things that is hardest for me.

Sharing public space when we are out can be tough. Like Mama Eve, I get the feeling I am stepping on people’s toes or frustrating others when I allow her to explore as an independent person. Having someone shush my child is not an easy moment, and it makes me think that staying home is a better option.

Even harder than sharing public space, though, is sharing with other children. My strong reaction is to step in and make sharing happen. If my child takes a toy, I want to take it from her and give it back. I somehow think saying “It’s Olivia’s turn” will make my thievery more meaningful.

There are two problems I have with my interference with the process of learning about sharing:

  1. It’s all about me, the adult. Often I’m not convinced that either child cares about sharing as the adults do. My adult motivation and perspective is generally not a place I want to start from when I am trying to effectively help my child learn something I think is important.
  2. I’m not sure how the children involved really understand and learn from me doing exactly what I told them not to do. It seems hypocritical, or, at the very least, it seems a confusing double-standard.

I want my daughter to share out of a true sense of empathy.

I don’t think my past actions have been leading in that direction. It always feels wrong and awkward stepping in and over my child. I feel pressure to do something in the moment to show people that I am teaching my child to share. Perhaps I am trying not to be “one of those moms” that lets their kid do anything they want? Sometimes people force my kid to share, or, somehow worse, force their child to share even if my daughter doesn’t care and their child really does. (I read about just one such scenario that happened to Mama Eve.)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how I don’t want to follow my first reaction, but I haven’t figured out why, really. Then, came across Mama Eve’s posts on How to Teach Sharing by Giving up Control, How I’m Learning to Let My Children Go, and 5 Playground Lessons I Never Knew I Was Teaching. She is trying to embrace the RIE philosophy (Resources for Infant Educarers) which is founded in the respect for children as active agents in their lives, as opposed to the passive observers our society often encourages them to be.

Reading about her reflections on letting children develop their own sense of empathy and caring for others has inspired me. I don’t want to do something because I think other people expect me to do it. Now that I calmed that voice, I can hear my instincts telling me to treat these situations like everything else. If I can trust her to learn to chop vegetables and other tasks by doing, then I should trust her to learn to share by doing.

I hope that my trust allows her the space to learn that sharing truly is caring and not something I forced her to do out of politeness.

Another Living Family Experience

I feel so happy and whole when we go as a family to my husband’s gigs. My daughter loves the music. I like that she gets experience being there while he is performing. This latest one was family friendly, and the art in the gallery was thought-provoking.

Let your children see you cry

Heavy with Milk?


Living in Truth

I have been thinking a great deal today about what it means to write and have this blog. So much of what I say is expression of what I am thinking and feeling in the moment. This blog is an expression of me. Anyone who knows me has most likely glimpsed the insanity of thoughts that exist in my tiny brain. They also know that I learn through dialogue.

I am not afraid to actually disagree, nor am I afraid to change my opinion and say so if I truly believe differently. I am an open and honest person, so I try to be so in this endeavor as well. This leaves me vulnerable at times and puts me dangerously close to judgment at other times.

I say dangerously close because the last thing I intend to do is judge, disrespect, disregard, demean or alienate anyone. I don’t wish to offend, and I hope never to condescend. However, I have chosen topics that go right to the core of many a human’s feeling center. People have opinions on how to birth and raise their children, how to eat and live. They have strong opinions and strong experiences and strong feelings. I am no exception.

Yet I want to enter in to the waters of dialogue with other folks. I want them (yes, you!) to feel safe enough to post a comment or send me an email. I want how I express myself to be digestible and ideally somewhat palatable, as if, metaphorically, we are breaking the bread of understanding together because we all need nourishment. I am on this journey to learn, and I love learning, even the hard, uncomfortable lessons and moments.

The Truth….

Recently I wrote a post that my husband’s poem and support inspired me to write. I struggled the whole time to be true to my inspiration: home birth. The truth is, though, that I am more in full support of women birthing naturally wherever they feel safest. Then again, the truth is that I want women to be surrounded, from childhood, with positive stories of birth and information on home and hospital birth and access to this kind of healthcare. Yet the real truth is that the society I am choosing to live in doesn’t support women/families having full disclosure on or full access to a true range of options.

I wanted to express all this and more. Unfortunately, I think I feel short of that. Though not my intention, my post could imply, from some angles, to be a judgment on women who don’t birth at home. Indeed, almost everything I want to express could be construed as an argument against all the other alternatives. I feel keenly the need to recognize how my words can be taken and the contrast therein to what my intention and meaning is.

However, I write about what I believe. I believe in home birth. I believe in breastfeeding. I believe in babywearing and co-sleeping and baby-led weaning.

I write from my heart in the true spirit of dialogue. I speak strongly, loudly, sometimes. I know I speak too loudly sometimes. If I do so, it is out of a desire for another voice to be heard, one that is most often drowned out in the mainstream discussion.

So, please, join me in open and honest dialogue and debate. Let me know your thoughts and experiences. Help me grow and learn to live in truth.

Sharing a Living

Darla passed along this book title to me: The Sharing Solution by Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow. Here’s all the other catchphrases on the cover:

How to save money, Simplify your life, and Build Community

  • Share ownership of a house, car, garden or boat
  • Own less and have more
  • Live more sustainably through sharing

I have been talking about sharing the garden ever since we thought about it. We don’t know much about gardening and working with the earth, but we have land enough for the four big beds and neither of us minds getting dirty. (I grew up in Kansas literally playing in the dirt.) Gardening is a lot of work, and it is an art. There are so many ways I have thought people could help share a garden. Really, I had an idea for a whole neighborhood to come together and decide who has the best land/space/skills for what or what each person can contribute to a shared community garden that wouldn’t require people sharing one space. I know now that other people have had both of these ideas, and there are people in the world living my vision.

I got a bookstore gift card from the parents at the school. Methinks I will have to put this on the “Consider Buying” list…..

A Living Family

Creating and maintaining a Living Family can be an exhausting, but thoroughly rewarding enterprise.

Thursday night I went to a concert with my daughter, a one-year old. I worked a long, pre-winterbreak day in a classroom of newly hormonal adolescents, came home (in carpool — luckily, or I would feel guilty for the gas) and got stuff together for Gopinath’s concert with Allyn Miner and Thomas because he was stuck in traffic. We all drove down together to the beautiful Twelve Gates Art Gallery on 3rd and Cherry. Uma nooked about a bit while he set up the sound and everyone tuned. We listened to the first song, Uma singing along and chatting *loudly* during the enchanting melodies. I decided to take her outside so she could walk around since she was in the car for so long twice. It was wonderful to get to see her walk around and experience her outside so independently for the first time, on the sidewalk walking as her own person beside me.

I will be honest here. It is difficult being a working and breastfeeding mother who believes herself an attachment parent. One word: GUILT. It must be the nature of motherhood to feel this emotion because I haven’t met a mother who hasn’t felt guilt. I am blessed in innumerous ways, but one of them is that Gopinath is home with our one-year old all day every day. As a result, though, he knows her better than me. I miss so much of this period of rapid growth and development of my own child while I’m helping other people’s older children grow and develop through a particularly challenging life transition. I come home emotionally and mentally drained to my amazing, loving, need-filled daughter. What do I have left to give? ………… Here comes guilt.

The reality is that since I’m still breastfeeding this was my chance to have her nurse and stave off the threat of diminishing supply any time I am not at work I’m still “on,” so my choices are thereby my daughter’s in a real sense. My daughter and I live together by nature and necessity because of breastfeeding. This was an easy decision because as a rule I support my husband’s life as a musician. Whenever we fit so naturally into my husband’s musician life, I count it a blessing to stay out late and try (and fail) to get Uma to sleep in the Ergo.

Anyway, due to the hectic nature of this period before winter break, I wondered if I should even go to the concert. My daughter had already had a busy day of car travel and hanging out with friends, and I still had to make it through Friday. Without much second guessing, I decided to go. My whole family derives pleasure from listening to music, and here my husband was playing music with such a talented master musician. It seemed important to make room the possibility of this family event in my life.

It wasn’t the perfect fit, but this was a vital step towards the three of us being a Living Family. Each parent needs to see the child before them. My daughter has proven herself to be easy going with most change and transitions. She loves music and rhythm period; to hear and see her daddy play music is just joy on top of joy. It felt sweet and supportive walking/dancing/swaying/bouncing to the music together. I had intended to have her sleep while we both listened; she wanted to walk around and exclaim about her newfound discoveries. After a while, I took her outside to nook about, and I got a chance to spend time with her and see what she is working on and excited about. Eventually, because it was freezing outside, I took Uma to grab dinner for ourselves, came back just in time for the last notes, broke down the sound equipment so Gopinath and Uma could connect with and build community. It was hustle and bustle and felt literally like a Living Family, working and living together quite easily, if not traditionally.

Living Together is not always what I expect, but it is good and I think I can get used to it.

Initial Reflection: On Starting Out

Domestic Infrastructure

Through December: Weatherproofing

  • Insulation in attic and basement
  • Door replacement (in motion already)
  • Windows — something on some of them at least

This house is drafty. I can’t wait for some of these doors to actually keep cold air out. All of these things will make use heat, which we keep low anyway, more efficiently. This will help us keep our costs and energy usage down. Win-win!


Household Economy:

Through December: Reduce discretionary spending on food

  • Eat out less
    • Take lunches to school
    • Make meals/food in bigger batches
    • Use less canned foods and more dry goods
  • Buy fewer goodies
  • Waste less food
  • Get to Bryn Athyn Organic Produce Cooperative for groceries and bulk items at least once a month

This always seems easier for my husband than me. Food is the thing we like to spend money on. Being more conscious and frugal here will make a big overall difference I believe.

Resource Consumption:

Through December:  Use Less

  • Above goals apply to this — more motivation to focus on those
  • Gasoline and Oil
    • Seal A/C vents
    • Drive less by being conscious of consolidating trips

This seems kind of vague and small, but I want to focus on some of the other bigger, broader goals and intentionally kept this doable for us.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:

Through December:  Homestead Preparation

  • Clear garden beds
  • Begin stocking goods
    • Decide on and clean a space for food storage
    • Look into companies to order from through Coop
    • Order beans, chickpeas, quinoa, rice

I am guessing we will be up to the December deadline on this one, for the garden clearing mostly. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was out there New Year’s Day getting something done just to not feel guilty for not having completed this garden goal to some small degree before going back to teaching.

Family and Community:

Through December:  Consciously Create Family

  • More face-to-face time (See Time and Happiness)
  • Organize monthly Family Fest with Darla and Jen
    • at our house — food and sleepover
    • one couple each month goes on a date at some point in the sleepover

Needless to say, as a working, breastfeeding attachment parenting mother this one goes straight to my heart. These are my feeble attempts to assuage my Mother’s Guilt and help us all remember who we are as adults and who we married.

Outside Work:

Through December

  • Sheila: Put together Life Restructuring Plan
  • Radha: Winter House Concert

It felt more realistic to have separate goals on this one.

The plan, this plan and other currently (somewhat) secret parts of my future plans, require time and energy. I felt it was important to acknowledge that time within the plan. Another part of Living Family is to not make my life and work so separate or my time so compartmentalized or vague. These blog posts, the discussions I have and notes I take are important to me and my family. I need to recognize the role they play and the time they take in my life.

Gopinath has had the idea of a seasonal concerts at our house. This winter I hope to have an “expanded family” gathering/concert with his group ONE.

Time and Happiness: Those things without which there’s really no point.

Through December: More face to face time

  • Sheila — Take one night a week completely off from work
  • Radha Gopinath — Less computer time

I thought I’d start with something I thought would be difficult enough but significant. One night a week off from work means I have to try to control the wandering and wheel turns of my mind as well. So far, if I was trying to make myself feel better, I could focus on how well I’ve done with this goal. I took the whole Thanksgiving break off from work to a large degree.

Gopinath’s goal of less computer time will surely rub off on me…..

Health and Fitness:

Through December:

  • Sheila — Drink as much water as humanly possible to support breastfeeding as long as possible and winter health and immunity
  • Radha Gopinath — Walk each day with the dogs.
  • Family — Walk with whole family, including dogs, once a week

I added this category, but my husband readily agreed and instantly thought of his goal. I think my goal is doable but illogically difficult for me in general. Water is vital for life, health and breastfeeding. Gopinath’s goal is actually necessary, but it is a past goal that has eluded us so I’m waiting to see what my role will be in that.

That’s it for now. I feel excited, even in the face of these somewhat daunting goals. Go Living Family!

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