Posts Tagged ‘work’

Back to Reality Blog Break

I have totally been having funky fussy feelings.

I want to blog and hang on A Living Family Facebook page since I’m feeling momentum . However, I need to create another life for myself (financially), and part of that is becoming a childbirth educator. Instead of reading and researching and writing to finish my certification, which hopefully will get me some income in the future, I’m doing the same things for free. I love doing them, but I’ve only been given two years to finish my certification and over a year has passed. EEK!

Step in Christine of The Aums and her Blog and Laundry Break post.

Seriously, other than the fact that I have no idea what a meme is, this woman was speaking directly to me! I need to take a blog break. This is hard because I love writing and have so much I am thinking about, so much that seems worth sharing (I hope). I also feel eager to start building a new life  around all these things that I am passionate about: childbirth, breastfeeding, home/unschooling, and all kinds of parenting topics from babywearing to baby-led solids, from signing with children to gentle discipline.

Christine’s taking a week off, but here’s my plan.

I like feeling community on Facebook with all the mamas out there, so I’m going to keep doing that but limit my computer time to an hour a day. On the blog, after I finish the book club post that is late, I’m going to run the posts I have scheduled. I will keep up the Unconditional Parenting posts every week and the Sunday Surf every other week. I’ll also share my Mamatography blog each week. Then I will take the month of February and see what I can get done when I get serious with this birth educator work.

As Christine requested, here’s what I’ll be doing instead of blogging:

  • Reading Birth Reborn (Michel Odent), The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth Birth (Henci Goer), Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding …. and finishing Unconditional Parenting….but I don’t have to write a book report on that.
  • Tour a hospital or birth center (need two, but I’m aiming for one) and interview a medical professional there.
  • Interview my homebirth midwife.
  • Spend time with and create activities for my two year old daughter.
  • Stare at, smell, cuddle and kiss as well as marvel at my baby boy.
  • Try to get some sort of routine/regularity/rhythm in our family life.
  • Keep my house (and myself?) cleaner.
  • Write my birth story for my second homebirth.
  • Get outside daily. (Carnival post with the rest of my first time ever New Year’s resolutions coming next week….)
  • Sleep a bit more…..?

So folks…..

Birth of a Mama

One of my Project goals for Outside Work was to start the process of becoming a childbirth educator. I was to have the 3-day training this month and two years to finish the reading and writing requirements. The training was postponed to April, and I found out I needed to submit one last piece to my application. Below is my response to the following prompt:

In light of the following expectations, please comment on your ability to effectively teach the BirthWorks course:

Profile of a BirthWorks Childbirth Educator

Participants come to childbirth classes at an exceptionally emotional, exciting and changing time in their lives.  They are certain to be influenced by their educator’s beliefs, attitudes, lifestyle and how she has given birth.  A BirthWorks childbirth educator should exemplify the importance of respecting one’s body, and taking care of one’s self, family and home.

A BirthWorks childbirth educator…

  • Strives to be a good listener
  • Is non-judgmental and open minded
  • Seeks personal growth through her experiences in life
  • Supports the safety of VBAC over scheduled repeat cesarean section in most cases
  • Promotes the nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding
  • Respects the instinctive knowledge of birth within mothers and babies
  • Keeps her class environment clean and inviting so class participants feel welcomed

Continue reading

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!

Family Restructuring Plan

Recently, my friend Jen told me about The Anyway Project she read about on a blog she follows called The Chatelaine’s Keys. Her family decided to do the project along with blogger Sharon Astyk. My husband and I, along with Darla and her family whom we met through the same homebirth class (which I highly suggest), have decided to undertake this venture with Jen’s family.  To me, this project basically helps focus energy on areas of life that usually get away from us in the workaday, parenting world by taking small bites and creating realistic goals. Though my family’s objectives for this first month are small, they already feel momentous in the positive structures they would create for my family. I am grateful for the support and companionship of Jen and her blog Suburban Salmon and Darla and her blog Darlahood along on this journey. Reading Sharon Astyk’s descriptions of categories made my life aspirations seem at once more urgent and more doable:

Domestic Infrastructure – these are the realities of home life, including making your home work better with less, getting organized, dealing with domestic life, etc…

Household Economy: Financial goals, making ends meet, saving, barter etc…

Resource Consumption : in which we use less of stuff, and strive to live in a way that has an actual future.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:: The things we do that prevent us from needing to buy things, and the things we produce that go out into the world and provide for others. Not everyone will do both, but it is worth encouraging.

Family and Community: Pretty much what it sounds like. How do we enable those to take the place of collapsing infrastructure?

Outside Work: Finding a balance, doing good work, serving the larger community as much as we can, within our need to make a living.

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

The project technically started in November, but my family’s first goals are through December. I figured that would give us time to actually do this and start out right with clear goals. It actually wasn’t that difficult to make goals. Having read Darla’s Anyway Project goals and realizing ours were so similar, my husband and I had a conversation about tweaks here and there and any goals that feel pressing and pertinent to our family in particular. So, without much editing or explanation, here are my family’s goals for the year-long implementation of what I am calling The Family Restructuring Plan.

Domestic Infrastructure

Through December: Weatherproofing

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

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

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

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

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

Outside Work:

Through December

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

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

See what I mean? Lofty but doable. Now that I’ve told everyone the goal, I feel more motivated (through imagined peer pressure) to follow through. Here we go!

The Nature of Family

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of family and what family means in our modern world and in the United States in particular. This questioning arises most naturally when the way I have chosen to live, how I have given birth to and am raising my child and what I believe and hope for seems, at times, radically different or even diametrically opposed to the vast majority of the people around me and society at large. What does family mean to a first generation East Indian who grew up in rural Kansas but now lives outside a major city? What does family mean to a homebirth, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, EC-practicing mama?

We are born into our families, rather than choosing them, as we might our friends, based on similar personalities, interests or belief systems. Every family is different, but each family must navigate the waters of relationship. More than ever, now that I have my daughter, I believe that family is created intentionally. This is clear even from the fact that some children are given up for adoption; in those cases, family is intentionally not created at birth for whatever reason but, hopefully, is created with great intent later in life.

What does it mean to create family? As a mother of a one-year old whose parenting choices alone often relegate her to minorities within minorities of society, I find myself thinking about this often. In India, both of my parents had time in their lives where they lived in a more universally traditional way, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and distant relatives all packed in under one roof in a family compound, so to speak. Understandably, family was whoever lived in the “house.” Though extensive, it was indeed immediate family, and, by the nature of life, often included neighbors or other non-blood relatives. Stories of huge groups of children and adults literally gathered around light in the darkness listening to stories made up on the whim of my own grandfather or singing bhajans led by my mother’s cousin’s cousin’s wife, stories that seem out of some version of a book called Laura Ingalls Wilder Goes to India where everyone’s working by candlelight and going hungry.

Here in the United States at this time, immediate family often means the parent(s) and child(ren). What a fraction of the people that family once was! Those few people surely would spend all their time together, more than their counterparts of the past, would they not? No! It somehow means fewer people to share the load of living. Granted, the sea of societal structures and self-destructive sloganism brutally bombard these tiny rafts of familial relationship. In fact, many of us feel ourselves floating alone through the trials of life. What happened to family?

Creating family requires conscious intention. How do I do this when my small, immediate family of four is strewn across three states and thousands of miles? Then again, today’s technology allows me to blog, Skype, Facebook, email, scan, fax, and phone my child’s grandparents as well as mail them things next day or even same day! My mother raised me in Kansas while my Indian grandparents, eight times more distant had to have someone go down the block to the corner store to get on the phone call list so they could call us. Logic and reason suggest that creating loving and close family bonds with access so many methods of connection should be relatively easy, a matter of effort rather than intention.

Family for me has felt both immediate and elusive. Barriers of culture, communication, emotion, and perception pop up to block connections I intend to make. Hurt feelings and confusion abound, but perhaps this is part of my parents having raised me in a country and culture with such opposing values to the ones of their own upbringing. Respect, seeming simple and singular in definition, somehow contradictorily means hearing out ideas and agreeing to disagree versus doing whatever I say or letting me do whatever I want in the face of disagreement. Vertical and horizontal hierarchies create very different feelings of family.

For me, creating family for my daughter has meant that I have intentionally explored and chosen to implement a number of independent ideas that work together cooperatively to create a community around my little raft of a family despite differences and difficulties with my immediate family. Indeed, creating a family, even within the intimacy of our three-piece immediate family, requires all my intention and spirit when I find myself having to give the very energy I would devote to creating family with my loving husband, who is a wonderful father to my precious daughter, while I am, essentially, a mother to other people’s children. In the environment and structure of this country and culture, driven by time and money, it is actually more efficient for me to think about Living Family rather than creating family.

Living Family means many things to me, but all help me stay focused on the goal of creating a  sea of family and a community in which to live and ideally thrive. Living Family means:

  1. being in and living from the present moment
  2. creating structures and routines that support family bonds
  3. expanding the limits of family to other families that support the family life I intend to create ….. in essence, creating a community of others who want to consciously create family in a vein similar to ours
  4. make a living…as opposed to making “it,” whatever “it” is…in a way that allows my “selves” to not be so separate from each other and/or from family
  5. living our family life in such a way that allows us, others as well as the natural world to live and thrive while being mindful of resources and relationships

Having this goal feels lofty to me. It requires that I shift my whole focus and think broadly and creatively. It also feels vital, however, if I want to reach any semblance of traditional family connections and experiences of shared living. My daughter has just turned one. Now, with this intention, we begin the journey towards a Living Family….

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