Outsourcing the Family

So, I stumbled across this very articulate article, which pretty much sums up my thoughts on the subject of daycare/preschool (really, any school). This, as I am researching preschool for Maya:

Here is another take on the lessons our day care center child may absorb: Her learning and play, her growth and development, need to be structured and facilitated by professionals. There are no mentors for her, nor are there any young ones that she can in turn help usher through the months and years. She will not get a sense of her intrinsic worth as a member of a community that has a reason for being and a set of daily tasks that have varying degrees of meaningfulness, and that incorporates her at whatever developmental stage she might be, provides a variety of models for her, and invests her with a sense of the rhythms of everyday life. Instead, she gets the rather profound message that her role is to be entertained (educated, enriched, etc.) until someone picks her up and takes her home for some quality time. The lesson is an early one in consumption: She may be missing out on finding meaning in organic relationships but she can always come into the day care to consume some stimulation and entertainment instead.

Furthermore, she learns about class position and hierarchy. Rather than absorb the needs and values and cultural norms of her community, she integrates herself into an institution—learning to please the caregivers, compete with her peers for attention, divvy her day into structured activities, accept the rules and guidance of the authority figures, and mark time by her movement from the infant room to the toddler room and on to the pre-school room. Just as the U.S. educational system produces young adults schooled to take their place among the powerful, or in the office, the factory, the service sector, or the permanent underclass, so early childhood education will help produce the workers we need. Yes, some day cares promote cognitive development, teach positive social skills, and empower young minds, but you can be sure that class position is a key determinant of who learns what.

The author suggests the alternative of home-based care, not exclusively by mom’s: but dad, extended family and friends too. You know, COMMUNITY care. Until now, I’ve been blessed with home based care for Maya between myself, her grandma, and a friend with a four-year old boy. Now, I am called to return to more hands on work at Dandelion and other special projects while my friend heads off on a year-long adventure in November. Grandma is out of town indefinitely.

I can’t do it by myself, and I don’t beat myself up for that. Yet I do worry about outsourcing Maya’s care away from the home while also recognizing that bringing Maya to work with me as a three year old is not the best solution either. At least not in this paradigm where she is the only kid being brought to work (and I am lucky to have a business that is very vibrant and diverse and a great example of the kind of place I would be proud of her to work someday, unlike, say in an office on Wall Street or god forbid a BigAg lobbyist or something twisted like that). If most people brought their kids to work in our community, and children were more integrated into the workplace, that might work better as we would create space for them. While she would have many chances to interact with adults at the cafe, she needs and desires relationships with babies, kids, teens and elders too. You know, the VILLAGE, the one it takes to raise a kid, the one that has been dismantled, right along with families and tribes in this long slide from a creative existence (by that I mean, each person creates/produces food, clothing, household goods, equipment, art, music) to a consumer existence where all those things are “outsourced” to other people, like childcare.

But it’s not about just mom staying at home in isolation from the rest of society either in order to raise my child. Where’s dad? At the office. Where’s grandma? In the nursing home. Where are all the people, for goodness sake? Everybody is busy earning money to afford someone else to take care of each other.

First, men were enticed to leave their homes for war, then jobs “in town.”

Then, women said, “Hey you can’t leave me here, I want in on that too!”

For a time grandparents took over the role of parents, but now everyone has scattered across the country in pursuit of a better opportunity and grandma is no longer next door.  Now that mom and dad are at work, and grandma is in a nursing home, children as early as six weeks are forced to leave their homes and families as well.

Okay, it’s past two in the morning and I must end rant which is only half thought through. Sigh.

The Story I Haven’t Told

Don’t let that smile fool you, I’m totally exhausted and overwhelmed.

There was a time when I was in serious need of rescuing. Holy smokes, did I. Drowning in a sea of overwhelm from being a new business owner, I was collapsing from burnout and paralyzed with indecision. To say I felt crushed under the burden of responsibility and demands for my time and attention is an understatement. In the first few months of opening the cafe, I lost nearly one third of my body weight, falling below 100 pounds and going-going-going so fast and furious that my entire body was locked in pain from all the stress. I had zero appetite, even as I made some of the best organic food around for patrons. I remember sitting on the front porch with my business partner on our one year anniversary and recognizing it was the first time I had sat deliberately with the intention of savoring the moment in more than a year. In this moment, I recognized that I had never worked harder for anything in my entire life and could see no end in sight. Facing the second year of business, I knew I was on the precipice of totally and completely losing my shit.

And lose it, I did. The entire ethos of our cafe was to weave community and foster authentic relationships by inviting folks to slow down their lives and bring it into balance. Our business philosophy was underlined by Gandhi’s wisdom: “Be the change you wish to see.” I strongly believe in this sage advice, and as I took stock of the condition opening a business had rendered me, I knew this was NOT anything I would wish on another human being. Of course, I could see the massive amount of positive impact our little teahouse did have on our community and was grateful for the many people who supported me personally and the cafe itself in countless big and little ways. Our cafe stood for sustainability though and I realized how intimately my sanity and health were tied to the cafe’s long-term viability. I needed to PULL IT TOGETHER, but knew not how.

My magic wand was missing and I did not believe I could do it anymore. There were many successes, but those were hard to see through daily cash flow crises and I allowed the small failures inevitable in any endeavor to cast too much of a shadow on my confidence. Our staff watched me falter, hide my head in the computer, and make erratic decisions in efforts to do something, anything! to keep paying their paychecks while the economy tanked. My business partner didn’t have context for what I was going through and couldn’t know how to support me along with his own responsibilities at his own very busy job. There was more than a lot of static in our exchanges that served to exasperate us both.

The majority of my friendships skimmed the surface, and there was no space for going deeper beyond “business” related functions and strategy sessions. I dated several men, and my heart was broken open in the process. I realized there wasn’t enough of me to even be present for the authentic connection required for a healthy relationship. This was not okay. This is not the life I wanted for myself. If I had known the toll it would take, I don’t think I ever would have gone through with it. Thankfully, I was a fool because the impact the cafe has had on people’s lives is magical. My own included – the countless positive contributions to my life are well documented and deeply felt – the good parts shine as bright as the challenging parts were dark.

My broken heart and a mishandled termination of one of our staff were big time wakeup calls that significant changes had to be made. I started with chiropractic care at Simply Well to unlock my body and bartered organic food for massage and energy work on a regular basis. I started painting, something I was never trained in or imagined myself doing. There was a strange experience with the spirit world where my heart was worked on by ethereal hands and I started to have super interesting dreams that were direct communication from beyond. Many intuitive / psychic folk patronize the cafe and I was told by three of them (unsolicited) that I had a little baby spirit wanting to come in and join me. The series of paintings were all vaginas, eggs and womb like images, singing a song of babies to come.

And I dreamed of him. This future lover of mine, Maya’s father. With the spiritual awakening I was experiencing, I started to “just know” the future and something significant was about to happen. So when I walked into the cafe and ran right into the man in my dreams, I recognized him immediately.  As I got his story, he was in the middle of moving to Pennsylvania when something made him switch mid-course and he decided to move to Orlando, even as all of his possessions were already en route to Pennsylvania. The timing of this switch lined up exactly with one of my declarations to the universe that I had enough of going it alone and demanded it send my husband, now, complete with a list of qualities and characteristics this guy should have. Ahh, well, be careful what you ask for…or what you leave off the list….

After a brief conversation, I left the cafe and called my best friend and told her, for the record, I just met my husband. I had dreamed of him multiple times and the story he told about growing food, intentional communities and wanting to live near his three children from a previous marriage sounded good to me. We exchanged numbers about him working on the garden for the cafe and not even a week later we were having an initial meeting about the garden. I took my glasses off for a minute and when I looked up at him, he looked like he was struck and exclaimed: “There you are! I’ve been looking for you my entire life! Get over here!” I wrote at the time: “It was like being reunited with you very bestest friend after millennia apart and we were both so excited to see each other again and we had so much to talk about and catch up on and all that excitement.” That was the first full moon, and the beginning of the craziest experience of my life.

If you’ve ever heard of a twin flame, he was mine, close as I can figure. Our spirits were madly in love with one another and we both were radiantly luminous. In photos, we are glowing in the shade. We both flung our hearts open wide and next thing you know faces were morphing, minds were being read, everything else in the universe just melted away as we discussed marriage and talked about the baby we knew we were meant to create together. On the second full moon we went into a spontaneous sacred ceremony without words and woke up knowing we had just been spiritual joined. Yet, that afternoon I was overcome with a knowing that I was going to raise our child alone and expressed my concern that he was going to die or leave me. Bothersome little things started to crop up in the course of getting to know the human being attached to this spirit I was in love with over the next month.

This is me on the second full moon. Smack in the middle of crazy.

On the third full moon, Maya was conceived. I felt something come from the stars and enter my body but woke forgetting that. Instead, I looked at this human being asleep next to me and wondered who the hell this guy was and what the hell I was doing. In retrospect, it was like I had been under a spell and as soon as Maya was created, it was lifted. It took a few weeks to untangle the relationship, as I could now clearly see that his integrity was off with regard to being responsible for his existing children, amongst other things. By the next full moon, I had broken it off a week before I discovered I was to be a mama, an occasion on which I giggled and felt nothing but joy, which made no rational sense.

The following month, I explored returning to a relationship with him, but every fiber of my being was saying hell no. A friend of mine who knew the situation well counseled me to follow my instincts and wisely said that he would prove himself as a man of integrity or not in short order. That’s where crazy ends and I started to rescue myself. Babies do that – they either make you rise to the occasion or send you running the other way. He ran, I rose. Everything came into such sharp focus after that…when you are pregnant, you are literally ONE with your child. What you do to yourself, you do to your baby. It’s cut and dry, as simple as it gets.

What followed was a pregnancy where I put myself back together. My cultural conditioning was revealed. I had met my other half – no one told me he was going to show up poorly in this lifetime, and I would chose not to be with him. Happily ever after? Not with him, thank you very much. In fact, I didn’t even need him to rescue me on a white horse like the fairy tales all told me I would need. Nope, the only person who could save me from all the drama and chaos was myself. On behalf of my child and the next seven generations, at least.

Strange to be telling this story now. I haven’t written about, or even spoken about that period to many people. It’s embarrassing, and I don’t get embarrassed. Plus, it’s more than a lot far out for most people. Faces morphing? Seriously? Yeah, I don’t get it either.

I got this. No damsel in distress here.

What I am realizing is that I am no longer a damsel in distress. I don’t need to be rescued. I cancelled that program and deleted it when I chose to be a single parent and take responsibility for the delightful human being that calls me mommy. I got this. It’s handled. It’s not always easy, and my community pitches in a great deal, but at the end of the day, it’s me making this life for us. I know what is best for me now, and I am much better at listening when my intuition speaks. That goes for business, romance, community and family.

There it is. The story I haven’t told.

Birthing While Black. There, I said it.

I am disgusted by the systemic racism in maternal care after reading this shocking report just released by Amnesty International. Not only does this report describe how broken our birthing industry is, it describes a dark side that my look-at-me-birth-so-ecstatically white self is embarrassed by.

“The awful truth behind the shocking numbers is that at least half of these deaths could have been prevented.

Women in the United States are more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than in 40 other countries. More than half of these deaths occur within 42 days of giving the birth because of issues like accessibility, affordability and lack of oversight in maternal health matters. The story only gets worse when you look at the rates of pregnancy-related deaths among minority women. African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.

But in a country that spends far more on health care than any other country in the world, we should be able to guarantee every woman’s right to a safe childbirth.”

Read the Summary or the Full Report and TAKE ACTION


The article below appears in the March/April edition of Velocity Magazine which was dedicated to the topic of the Divine Feminine. I had a dickens of a time writing it, as alluded to here and this post helped validate and clear-up my thoughts on the whole domestic issue. Anywho, here’s the article in full. I recommend you grab a copy around Central Florida as there is lots of good insight on this topic! (Or read it online, should be up soonish).

Photo by Cristy Nielsen

I flicker between realities, between times, between belief systems. I am immersed, surrounded, confounded by the Divine Feminine. The elusive lady finally allowed me to slip into her divinity in the timeless moment my daughter slipped into the birthing waters beneath my gaze this past summer. The metamorphosis of me has gone unexplored by my thinking brain as I’ve simply just allowed myself “to be.” Observing my daughter’s awakening into being has been fascinating enough without taking a moment to observe my own self emerge anew. As I watch her come into her body, I integrate the resonance with which all parts of myself came together in order to bring her into this world. I finally understand through this experience what it means to be the embodiment of the divine feminine and it is really turning my perspective of what it means to be female on end.

My thoughts on being female are so tied up with myths of feminism in my learning, I’m really having to reshuffle and review all that I have assumed to be true. Lets start with the first thing I learned about being a woman, direct from the Bible: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16) In the past, I certainly questioned almost every aspect of this statement, but I never questioned if childbirth hurt. Everyone knows it does. Except… it didn’t, not really (read this for the full story). And a small minority of women in the United States have a similar experiences. Along with a lot of women who belong to cultures which do not fear birth. And every animal I’ve ever seen has quietly, calmly, matter-of-factly done the same. Interesting.

My mind sorts through feminist theory rejecting parts of it I never questioned, dives into indigenous cultures and their stories about the goddesses, stomps around American workplaces and mass media, peeks into natural childbirth culture and finds myself agreeing that a woman’s place is with her child, should she choose to have one. I’ve always been a radical conservative, and now I’ve got the sewing machine to bear witness to the revolutionary epiphany that being “domestic” is not a bad word, as I’ve always gotten the sense. It’s so closely associated with the phrase “domestic violence” and is synonymous with being a servant, and everyone knows servitude is THE WORST. Except for those who understand true service, of course. Very few present domesticity through the lens of nurturing and tending to the home for the health and well being of the self, families and into the community. I am shocked this is so revolutionary and wonder how the heck I bought this most basic myth of all. The result of being a child of the 80’s, I wonder?

But none of that stuff has anything to do with the divine feminine, I suspect. It just keeps interfering with the practice of being divine. I’ve been writing this article for six weeks as all that and more wanders through my head. And yet, I have no words to define or discuss what this new reality of mine is like. My old reality finds it egotistical to claim direct knowledge and experience with the divine feminine. The new me knows better. In fact, the new me just knows. I am more: sensual, graceful, present, playful, appreciative, purposeful, cunning, nurturing, loving, intuitive, grounded, neutral, sure. I am less: fearful, doubtful, confused, hesitant, victimized, self-deceptive, self-depreciating, manipulative, controlling, overly-apologetic. I am less concerned with what other people think and more concerned with what my own counsel tells me. I know when to speak my truth & when to hold my tongue. I’m even beginning to practice discipline.

Yes, I’ve met Lady Divinity. She’s empowering & inspiring & authentic. And she’s rising up all around these parts, big time. Chances are, she’s the lady in the mirror, looking back at you.

Meet the Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes — YES! Magazine

Yes!!!! The article I’ve been waiting for, from my most favoritest magazine – aptly titled, “Yes!” I had no idea there was a name for the movement I yearned for. Radical Homemakers. I like it!

“Long before we could pronounce Betty Friedan’s last name, Americans from my generation felt her impact. Many of us born in the mid-1970s learned from our parents and our teachers that women no longer needed to stay home, that there were professional opportunities awaiting us. In my own school experience, homemaking, like farming, gained a reputation as a vocation for the scholastically impaired. Those of us with academic promise learned that we could do whatever we put our minds to, whether it was conquering the world or saving the world. I was personally interested in saving the world. That path eventually led me to conclude that homemaking would play a major role toward achieving that goal.”

Read the whole article:  Meet the Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes — YES! Magazine.

‘Motherhood Politics’ Hijacked Healthcare Debate | RHRealityCheck.org

‘Motherhood Politics’ Hijacked Healthcare Debate | RHRealityCheck.org

I was just thinking this: “I don’t think it’s a “who” but a how many of us are willing to say this. Motherhood is sacred. How many of us are willing to get out and say this is not at all about abortion. This is about whether we’re going to be mothers. For men to understand this all of us need to join in on it. Too much of the rhetoric is about abortion and not enough about women and our roles in this country. And we better get off of it or we’re not going to have a country left.”

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