Guest Post: Considering the Leap

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! Today I’m sharing a guest post from Audra Costello, about standing on the diving board and being afraid to leap. If you’d like to share a story from your own Crafting my Life journey, drop me a line and let me know!

The summer I was five, my parents said I had to take swimming lessons until I passed “Beginners”. It took me awhile, but I didn’t mind the lessons on the first, second or third time through. I enjoyed splashing around in the water and the teachers were nice. The part of every trip to the local pool I dreaded was the moment when the lesson was over. My class was taken to the diving board and, one at a time, we took turns jumping off. I watched as each child in front of me stepped onto the low board, walked or ran to the edge and pushed themselves into the water. Some bicycled their legs for the fraction of a second they were in the air while others made their bodies go completely stiff as they sliced through the water. The instructors were waiting nearby to help anyone who struggled in their swim to the safety of the ladder. It was foolproof and I knew this. In my head. Try as I might, I couldn’t make my feet jump off the diving board. I was paralyzed by my own fear.

Taking the Leap

With my daughter

This is the first time I felt this way, but not the last. My life has been full of these moments where, despite my extreme desire, I just can’t move myself to action. I can see the disconnect between where I am and where I want to go, but I can’t push myself to get there. I’m on the board and I can see the ladder, but the uncertainty that lies between is just too scary.The worst part is knowing that I am the only one holding me back.

The experiment that evolved into my blog, Little Tiger and the Milk Belly Princess, afforded me more opportunities than I could have imagined back on that day in August of 2010 when I decided to see what would happen if I stopped buying toys for my children. I learned about sourcing craft materials at Zero Landfill and began a really rewarding teaching experience at a local arts center. Every week I work with a fantastic group of six-to-eight year old girls who are excited about what I have to teach them. Yet, those opportunities have raised difficult questions. The things I look forward to only make up a small fraction of my time and lately that has me questioning the choices I’ve made and continue to make.

Intrepid Audra taking the leap

I wish I was as intrepid as I look in this picture

Why is the part of the day I’m most excited about only an hour or two at the very end? Why is it that all I find fulfilling in my life–raising my children, crafting, blogging–pushed to the margins? I’ve been teaching high school English full-time for 14 years. I’ve never done anything this long before and lately I’ve been thinking that this part of my life has run its course. For a lot of reasons that I won’t get into here, I can’t muster the enthusiasm I once had.

I can see where I want to go, but I’m back on the diving board again and I can’t jump. What am I afraid of? Disappointment? Failure? That I can’t even comprehend the extent to which I might experience these? That my dad will yell at me?

Growing up I was repeatedly told to “keep [my] options open,” but it was simultaneously communicated to me that playing it safe was the way to go. At the end of my senior year at The College of Wooster, I was offered an opportunity to stay on campus for an extra year to run the college’s writing center. When I called home and told my parents about this, they pretty much said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s flattering and all, but it’s really not going to get you anywhere.” Despite what they said about options, they both believed in playing it safe. To this day they still believe if you don’t know precisely what you’re doing, jumping will make you very, very sorry.

My word for 2012 is authenticity and I want to embrace living an authentic life. I know that this is not achieved by playing it safe. I can see where I want to go, but I need to make the jump. And I’m terrified. What’s the next step?

Audra Costello began blogging at Little Tiger and the Milk Belly Princess in 2010 when she decided to see what would happen if she stopped buying her two young daughters toys for 16 months and made them instead. It turns out that only good things became of that little adventure as she and her children grew more creative together.

Guest Post: Realizing my Life’s Purpose

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! Today I’m sharing a guest post from Amy Lee, about a conversation she had with a stranger. If you’d like to share a story from your own Crafting my Life journey, drop me a line and let me know!

Have you ever had a conversation with a complete stranger that helped you realize your life purpose? This happened to me.

Four months ago, I had the greatest conversation with a practicing counsellor from Los Angeles. For two hours, we talked about the emotional consequences of our jobs.

This lady counsels troubled children. All of them grew up in neglected and abusive environments. She finds it emotionally challenging to counsel them because most of their stories break her heart.

Since ‘the system’ only allows her to help the children until they improve in school, usually a few months, she doesn’t have enough time to help them work through the issues and move on with their lives. She knows most of them will eventually join gangs, use drugs to cope, or use their sexuality to find acceptance.

This counsellor reminded me that we humans are social beings. One of our basic needs is to want to be connected with other people. The connection with the ones who created us (mother and father) is the primary connection we seek. When this basic need isn’t satisfied, we will seek it else where, even if it’s self destructive to our being.

I thought about this afterwards. A lot.

During our conversation, I felt so lucky. Lucky that I was born into a family that cared about me. Lucky that I chose a profession that allows me to witness and feel love in its most elemental form. That conversation made me realize how important my job is. I provide mothers and each of their children the experience of feeling loved and being loved. I create a space for them to connect with their hearts and strengthen their relationship.

Connection we Share Amy Lee Guest Post Crafting my life Mothers and Children Photographer

During a photography session, I feel the love the mother has for her child. I feel her joy, her pride, and their shared happiness. I see truth in them and they move me. Every mother and child I work with, whether the child is young or grown, inspires me to be a better mother, and a better daughter.

My conversation with the counsellor also made me realize how important my job is as a mother. I want the best for my children and I want them to live meaningful and purposeful lives. My duty is to love, nurture and guide them. My job is to help give them opportunities to find their strengths to realize their full potential. I want my children to live the life I envisioned for them because when they do, they will change the world.

This is my dream for my daughter. This is also my dream for all children and so this is my promise:

I will provide mothers with experiences, tools and resources to inspire us to love, nurture and guide our children to live meaningful and purposeful lives.

Photography is one of the tools to get to this bigger place.

With photography, I document the love between a mother and each of her children. I provide children doors back to the memories and the emotions of the relationship they have with their mother. These children will grow up knowing why they are loved, why their mother is proud of them and what dreams are bestowed upon them. I believe this is food for their souls.

I know what I’m doing is changing my world. It is also changing the world of the people I touch.

Amy Lee is the founder of The Connection We Share. She is in the process of building a blog to inspire mothers to raise children who will change the world. In the mean time, you can visit her Facebook page for her photography work. Amy has an 18 month daughter, Elle. She is proud of her daughter for being a fearless explorer. Her favourite memory with her daughter is hanging out in their backyard picking strawberries and smelling flowers.

Do Colors Help Inspire Your Kids’ Creativity?

I have two budding artists, and I love seeing what they create. I’m always looking for ways to inspire their creativity. To that end, today I’m sharing a guest post by Stephanie Corfee, artist and designer.

Stephanie Corfee guest post inspiring creativityIf you have small or school-aged children, you’ll know that the winter can be a tedious time. It’s cold out, and playing outside isn’t an option. With winter break and snow days home from school, you are likely to have some very bored children on your hands. If you want to inspire their creativity and imagination, why not turn to color?

I encourage my five year old to explore color when he’s being creative. We paint together all the time. He never tires of the “surprise” when he mixes two paint colors, or adds a few drops of white or black to his palette.

It’s also really fun to take direction from him. He’ll tell me to make a “blue” painting and then watch and marvel at the many shades of blue I can come up with. It has made him want to learn the names of all the “blue” crayons in his Crayola box. He’s proud when he can call out those colors when he encounters them again.

I’ve also noticed that his imagination is developing quite nicely when it comes to coloring. He’s not afraid to cheerfully create a yellow elephant or blue dog. Maybe that’s the glimmer of a kid who is learning to think outside the box? And i always encourage that!

Stephanie Corfee guest post inspiring creativityHere are a few ideas on how you can encourage your child’s creativity with color:

  • Color of the Day – Decide on a color of the day and ask your child to find things in that color. Make a game out of it by keeping track of how many objects they find. If they find 10 items, give them a small treat.
  • Grab a Book – Grab one of your child’s favorite stories. Instead of reading it, flip the pages and talk about the colors that are used. How many different colors are there? Do the colors signify things – such as happiness, sadness, etc within the story?
  • Make up a Color Story – Have your child make up a story about a color – verbally, or by drawing the story out onto paper. For example, if the color was Yellow, what would Yellow like to do? What would Yellow like to eat? Who would Yellow be friends with?

How do you inspire your child’s creativity on bleak winter days?

Stephanie Corfee is an artist and designer who creates intricate, vibrant artwork from her home studio in Pennsylvania. You can find tutorials, see new work, and get more advice from Stephanie on her blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Guest Post: Eileen Valazza Shares her Plant-Based Diet

I first came across Eileen Valazza a couple of years ago, and it was love at first blog post. She has an uncanny knack for expressing just what I’m thinking, only way more eloquently. When she offered to write a guest post, I jumped at it. She’ll be discussing her decision to adopt a plant-based – or vegan – diet. While I’m not vegan, I did recently go gluten-free, so I was very interested to hear more about what drove her decisions around diet. Here’s what she had to say.

If you had told me at the beginning of 2011 that I was going to become vegan by the end of the year, I would have laughed outright. While eating cheese. And bacon. And is there such a thing as bacon-wrapped cheese? Yes, I would have liked me some of that.

There I was, with a newborn that couldn’t breastfeed without a lot of interventions, and not exclusively. He had a tongue tie, and I spent all-told five months feeding him through a supplemental nursing system. (If you know what that is, then you know that five months of using an SNS at every feeding is a freaking long time. If you don’t know what that is, then just imagine a tube attached to…well actually, don’t imagine that. Let’s just say it was not fun.)

I was heartbroken that I couldn’t breastfeed as easily as other mothers seemed to be able to. And I was totally stressed out, since feeding my baby took hours and hours of the day. My husband and I ate pepperoni pizza almost every night for dinner because we were too tired to cook anything else.

Eileen Valazza vegan plant-based diet Seattle Halloween
This year it was pretty easy to prevent Z from going on a candy binge, the whole not-walking-yet thing definitely worked in my favor!

A blip.

One day during this hazy “underwater time” (as I call my son’s first six months) I downloaded Crazy Sexy Diet on my kindle while I was breastfeeding. And…I couldn’t finish it. Because she had just too much energy. I was like, OMG calm down you are making me tired with all this talk about juicing! and health! and energy! and, and…I can barely get my clothes on in the morning.

It was so overwhelming. So far from where we were. And yet I heard truth in there somewhere, and I was inspired in spite of myself.

Surfacing.

A couple months later, around the time my son was starting to eat solid foods, I finally finished the book. And I wanted more of that energy. So back to the kindle I went, and this time I got even more scientific. I wanted to answer the question how should our family eat?

The China Study, The Kind Diet, The New Food Revolution, Disease-Proof Your Child…I read all of these in the palm of my hand, as I sat feeding my baby. All of them pointed me toward a whole foods diet with little or no animal products.

Eileen Valazza vegan plant-based diet juice
The whole family about to get a massive hit of micronutrients!

Is a vegan diet absolutely the healthiest there is? No, since it’s possible to be vegan and still eat a diet low in nutrients. [Amber: After all, potato chips are vegan – and gluten-free, to boot.] Is it possible to be super-healthy while still occasionally eating meat? Yes, absolutely. But for myself, when I combined the health considerations with my values in regards to animals and the environment, I decided to strive for vegan.

Which was all well and good, but I needed to know…

OMG what do I eeeeat!?

I didn’t want some ridiculously restrictive 21-day meal plan full of foods I had never heard of. I knew I wouldn’t like nine-tenths of the stuff on there, and I wasn’t going to make the transformation that quickly anyway.

I knew I had to do this my way. But what was “my way”?

It certainly didn’t involve a detox (shudder) or willpower or anything like that. Been there, done that, went back to eating pizza.

Eileen Valazza vegan plant-based diet baby eating avocado
Plant-based baby.

Here are a few things that helped me:

Taking it slow.
I tried to take a long view of the whole thing. If I was going to feed our family healthy food for our entire lives, then I couldn’t get burned out in the first month, or even the first year. Conserving my energy and enthusiasm was vital.

Denying denial!
I adopted a policy of never denying myself. If I wanted something, I ate it. I might try to reflect on why I wanted it in that moment (was I stressed out? no healthy food in the kitchen? could I replace that treat with a healthier, vegan version?) but only afterward.

A spirit of exploration!
Becoming vegan meant altering a lot of recipes I loved, and also experimenting with all sorts of new foods. The bulk food section at Whole Foods was my friend. Beans and grains are so cheap! I could buy a little bit, and explore new things without too much of a commitment.

Not telling anyone.
I’m not a major pronouncements kind of person anyway, but even more so when it comes to talking about diet. If I was going to be in a situation where it was relevant, I would hedge by saying “I’m trying not to eat cheese” or something like that. Even mentioning I was eating vegan often meant people would try to defend their food choices to me, or to challenge my decision. All of which was awkward and made me cringe.

These days, I’m more comfortable talking about my values and why we eat the way we do, but I just opted out of those conversations at the beginning of my journey.

Eileen Valazza vegan plant-based diet kitchen shelving
I admit, my pretty shelves are no small part of why I love the plant-based lifestyle.

Okay, so really, what DO we eat?

Today, as my son approaches his first birthday we’re eating an all whole foods plant-based diet. It includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. No animal products, and very little refined foods.

That translates to lots of green smoothies, juice, salads, nut butter sandwiches, and main dishes like bean burritos, veggie burgers, lentil tacos, and all sorts of other things I’m still exploring! Surprisingly, cutting out whole categories of food has broadened my repertoire among the types of food that we do eat.

And, miraculously, we have kept up the breastfeeding. Now that my son eats more solid whole foods, he no longer needs supplementing. From “failure to thrive” at the worst of our breastfeeding struggles, to the 50th percentile for weight. Woo hoo! (That’s my favorite part of our story.)

Thanks Amber for inviting me to your online home!

If you or any of your readers have any questions about a plant-based diet, do let me know in comments. And if any of your readers live in Seattle and are interested in connecting with other parents exploring a plant-based diet, they might like to join Plant-based Parents, a group I’m starting on Facebook for information-sharing and support.

Eileen Valazza is a life coach and mama. After reading every book she possibly could about nutrition, she went on to receive a certification in plant-based nutrition from eCornell. She now helps people make peace with what they eat, starting with love and compassion for themselves. You can also find her on Twitter where she’s @evalazza.

Guest Post: Swimming in the Bliss of Natural Birth

A guest post by Allie Chee on choosing home birth as a first-time 42-year old mother.

I’d always imagined a natural birth. In our 20’s my cousin, Christina, and I would joke and laugh about squatting in the shade of a tree to have our babies – and we were just joking…but not completely.

Allie Chee Guest Post Woman Swimming PaintingThrough my 30’s I watched not one or two, but almost all my friends enthusiastically enter the hospital in labor, having claimed for nine months that they would have a natural birth, and saw them come out 2-10 days later having been induced, forced to labor on their back, drugged, cut, observed by countless strangers, having had their babies taken from them immediately after birth, having nursing problems, and having been given food I would call toxic.

If you’d asked them ahead of time if that would have been their story, none of them would have said yes. And these were fit, health conscious women. I wondered what was going on after they entered those doors of the L&D that all of them were checking out with dramatically changed birth stories. That question led me to do a lot of research and I discovered many things I’d never known.

Growing up in the States, we are hardly surrounded by the images of natural motherhood such as: home birth, breast-only feeding until weaning on homemade solids, mothers cared for and nurtured for a traditional 40 days postpartum. And we definitely don’t see many examples of women over 35 choosing home birth. If we desire to have an experience out of what is now the norm (as outlined above), we have to figure it out for ourselves. And so I did.

I read dozens of books, studied birthing and postpartum care methods from around the world, watched every DVD produced on home birth, went through several doctors and midwives until I found my match, and I came to the conclusion that so many other home birth mothers do:

Birth is completely natural. My body and my baby know what to do. We will do our best to prepare, to have strength, and then we will let nature do her thing!

Ah, Mother Nature. Just because she knows what to do and will take charge doesn’t mean that it won’t be incredibly difficult. My throat (among other things) was so sore from grunting and growling in labor that I could barely speak the next day. However, in the big picture, that was over in the blink of an eye, and the reward for my baby and me will last for a lifetime.

If it had just been for me, perhaps I would have been tempted to use painkillers despite knowing the multiple benefits of natural birth for the mother. But I also wanted my baby to experience her birth and first few days out of the womb with bright eyes and a clear mind.

I’d watched the movie Orgasmic Birth a dozen times for fun and inspiration, and though I did actually believe that it could happen that way, no, crowning did not feel like an orgasm. But I was prepared ahead of time for the fact that it must be incredibly painful – otherwise how could all of my strong friends have chosen drugs and surgery when they were so opposed originally?

There was only one way to make my dream of a blissful, sacred birth happen…and that was to give myself no choice. If I stayed at home, when push came to shove (!), I would have no way to do it but go through it. Just like swimming in the surf.

All lovers of the ocean know that to reach the open water, you need the courage to leave the shore and swim through the breakwater. And in using this metaphor, we should not let our minds drift to the warm ankle-slapping waves of the Caribbean. We’re talking about Mavericks and Waimea Bay here! When the waves between the shore and the open water are huge, you must dive right into them and let them roll over you. It can be terrifying, but with solid resolve, you reap the reward of an experience few people have.

My original reason for pursuing home birth was just to be able to preserve my goal for a natural, drug-free birth. As I studied more and more, I found that a home birth in every way offered the opportunity for a deeply sacred experience, which it was.

When I first spoke to my midwife, I asked if she thought I were “high-risk” for home birth. She looked surprised.

“High-risk? Why? Are you sick? Do you have a problem?”

“No,” I answered. “But I had two first-trimester miscarriages.”

“So?” she replied. “That is a terribly painful experience, but there are millions of miscarriages before babies are born. If it were three or four, we’d have to do further consideration, but two doesn’t necessarily make you high-risk.”

“And I have fibroids, but my OB-GYN said they were small and not positioned in a way that would cause a problem.”

“OK, that’s good. What else?”

“Well, I’m 42 years old.”

“Women have always had babies in their 40s. Nothing new there. Are you fit?”, she asked.

“Yes.”

“Do you eat well?”

“Yes.”

“Is this what you want?”

“Yes.”

“Then of course you can have a home birth,” was her conclusion.

I asked her to explain the differences in experience and risk for a home birth vs. a birthing center.

She said that the only difference was that (given my home was equal distance from an excellent hospital as the birth center) at the birth center, I would not be alone with my husband in my own peaceful environment, and four hours after delivery I would have to pack up, walk to the car with my baby and drive home. If at home, four hours after delivery she and her team would have tucked my husband, baby, and me warmly in our bed, would have fed us, cleaned up , and would leave quietly.

My husband and I looked at each other, smiled, and both shouted, “Home birth!”

And so it happened. Eight hours after we realized I was in labor, my baby was born in a tub in our family room. The lights were dim; the room was warm; my husband had a fire going in our wood burning oven; he put on a traditional Japanese flute CD I love; and he served as my “squat chair” in the tub. Surrounded by our midwife and three doulas who stood back until they knew they were needed, my husband and I joked, kissed, and played together right until the intense pushing started. One hour later my baby was born, and I was lying on my yoga mat, pushing out the placenta while my baby crawled her way from my abdomen to my breast and started nursing.

And just as they’d said, four hours later we were tucked in bed, the midwives had cleaned the house, and the three of us fell asleep in an ocean of bliss.

[This is not intended to encourage women who want a hospital birth to change their minds. Women need to give birth where they feel the most comfortable and safe. This is intended to be a story that a woman committed to her home birth decision can enjoy, as I enjoyed so many home birth stories before my baby arrived.]

Allie Chee is a Certified Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutritionist. Read more about her on her blog at texanesemama.blogspot.com. Listen for her podcast coming up in the next few weeks here on Strocel.com.

Sharing a Story: Jolene Galbreath

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! I’m hard at work editing the Crafting my Life e-book, so today I am welcoming guest blogger Jolene Galbreath, who shares her personal and professional journey. If you would like to chime in and share your own story, please drop me a line – I’d love to have you!

I have lived with passion, enthusiasm, integrity, joy, depression, exuberance, painstaking organisation and wilful spontaneity. My highs have always been high, my lows have been unexpected and mean and all of it has been accompanied by the sense that I may be a fraud and that at any moment I could lose it all. Lose myself, even. It was not until I stumbled across Amber’s blog that something clicked into place. I realised that I was not living with intention.

Jolene Galbreath of White Coat, Blue StockingAs the daughter of a serial entrepreneur, I am inclined to believe that the drive to reach for the next big thing, to have a wandering eye for opportunity and the desire to try all things is partially genetic. I also feel that we, particularly women, receive a lot of messages telling us that we should be grateful for what we have and to just ‘be a bit more realistic.’ I think that phrase can be safely interpreted as a directive to lower your expectations and stop making waves. I’ve railed against such directives for as long as I can remember. I railed. Railing is exhausting–even when done well. Fundamentally, railing is reactive, it stems from a place of frustration and disenfranchisement. You have to plan so many contingencies when your life is a responsive one and even with good planning it can feel as though you are falling from one calamity into the next. What could I possibly gain from carrying myself as though I was lurching through life? I can see, now, that the drive to do as much, see as much, give as much and live as fully as possible was leaving me feeling like I was just hanging on, instead. My life was not so much crafting as it was a toddler’s attempt at collage.

Something had to give before I gave.

Finding Amber’s blog was important in giving words and focus to what I was trying to do in my life. It was such a relief to find that I wasn’t the only one going through these transformations; that it wasn’t all handwringing, navel gazing and self indulgence. Looking through the posts, it was clear that Amber wasn’t treading water like I felt I was. My husband would tell me that he couldn’t work out what I really wanted to do. He couldn’t see why I was spending the energy holding onto Plan C, Plan D or Plan E when it had to be Plan A or Plan B. It felt like treading water to both of us and I had been doing it for so long that it threatened to take me under.

During this time, I was already training as a breastfeeding counsellor with the National Childbirth Trust (UK). A large part of the course is about reflective practice and being congruent. It was this process that prepared me to think about living with intention and crafting my life. I have always wanted to be a doctor. Well, except for the year when I was seven when I wanted to be a stewardess (as they were called then). The calling has always been there and as a student I had prepared accordingly. At seventeen, I was certain that I would be a physician working with the most vulnerable. The world was black and white and I was prepared to fix the problems of those who came to me. At university, I quickly realised that I knew very little of the world and I realised that I was in no way ready to be a doctor.

At eighteen I was living with intent. I set about becoming a scientist to learn not just about life’s what’s and how’s but also its why’s. I moved from the US to the UK. I completed a PhD in Biology, taught at a university, took up causes, relearned how to knit and sew, picked berries, canned jam, had children, and moved around. But somewhere along the way, the intent was washed away by the realities of just living. I still held the dream of someday being a doctor but was also keeping as many plates in the air as was possible–some because they were interesting and others because I felt an obligation to them. Each plate seemed important, I could think of none that could be put down. By the time I was a post-doctoral researcher with two children, an allotment and some chickens, my life was a full, sticky decoupage jumble.

Children playing - White Coat, Blue StockingAround this time last year, when we were still living in Aberdeen, Scotland, I knew that the autumn entry round would be my one shot at medical school. In each of the summers prior to it, I had considered whether the time was right, yet. Each time it was clear that I was not ‘there,’ yet. I visited and planned, contacted admissions, checked my qualifications. Plans, I had them. In the end, it was a case of the best laid schemes and all that when my husband accepted a post at the University of Bath. At the end of the summer of 2010 we moved to Bristol, England. A new city with new challenges and opportunities. Time for my one shot. I aimed at the moon, and as they say, I landed among the stars–at King’s College London (about 100 miles from our home in Bristol).

So, here I am. A mature student facing the challenges that so many women face when they have experienced a period of time from work, want to improve their education or attempt a change of field. As a non-traditional student, traditional sources of funding such as tuition loans are not available to me and the high street banks have recently withdrawn professional development loans for medical students. Like many women who have stayed home to care for children of other family members or who have otherwise experienced a career break, I am finding the lack of accessible funding a real barrier to returning to education. To get there, I am pulling out all of the stops and drawing on all of my experiences along the way. Time has become my most precious resource and I am grateful to have had a year of practicing living intentionally. Owning my choices and also my responses to situations beyond my control. Situations ranging from playdates that fall through losing time alone to get things done to coping with discriminatory funding policies. All that I have absorbed about living with intent, making considered choices, prioritising honestly and being congruent is coming together so that I might rise to the biggest challenge and opportunity of my life. I know that the time and energy I have invested in creating a social network over the past year will mean that our children will continue to have a relatively normal life. We will miss the endlessness of time that we have had this year but the quality of our time will not be diminshed.

And all that reflective practice? It will come in very handy when blogging about my experiences. I have been toying with the idea of committing to writing a blog for a few years. However, it has always seemed like a big commitment-it is one thing to generate early posts when you are full of ideas but to sustain it with new and maturing content seemed more than I was quite ready for. Now, I am thrust into a situation where I am hoping that my writing will support and enrich my dream. All of a sudden, I’m telling my story to anyone who will listen. I tell it with a sense of urgency because a dream that has been decades in the making may slip from my grasp if I can’t overcome a the age-old barrier of money. All of the work in reflective practice has helped me learn how to relate my experiences to the experiences of those I am in contact with and to explore their relevance and in the wider context of our lives. In many ways, blogging about my journey will be a great form of reflective practice because there will be opportunities for others to give feedback and I will also regularly be faced with revisiting what I have done.

Now I can see that being a Jolene of all trades is congruent with being someone who lives with intent. I do not have to choose one or the other. It will still be messy and I can choose how I cope with the mess. A well crafted life does not have to be a narrow one. Perhaps best of all, a life lived with intention can be fluid with room for growth and change and, perhaps most importantly, changing your mind. I’m ever so grateful for having stumbled across Amber’s blog and, as a consequence, the other blogs that it has led me to.

Jolene is a student and scientist, mother to TheCollective and wife of TheOtherDoctor. She seeks out gezelligheid and strives to live in a state of hygge. (Also, she made me look up the definitions of gezelligheid and hygge.) Someday, her downfall will be precipitated by her utterance of the phrase, “Hey, I could do that.” Through necessity, she is crowdfunding her way through medical school, relying on the kindness of strangers. She blogs about her experiences at www.whitecoatbluestocking.co.uk.

Mumpreneur

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! I’m hard at work on the second run of the Crafting my Life course, so today I am welcoming guest blogger Melanie Martin, who shares her thoughts on running a business and being a mother. If you would like to chime in and contribute a guest post about your own journey, please drop me a line – I’d love to have you!

I’ve always wanted to have my own business. Ever since I can remember I pictured working for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful jobs that I enjoyed but, simply, I wanted more. Then I became a mother and I was more determined than ever to carve out a business for myself.

I would like to say that when I started my photography business I was full of excitement and anticipation, and yes, those feelings were there but there was also a lot of self-doubt and anxiety, the whole “am I good enough?” spiel that women often like to play…I am no exception. Still, I started and was building a website, while waiting for the laundry to finish – taking phone calls while cooking dinner. It was hard work and it still is hard work. It is also a lot of fun I may add.

My business is just over a year old. And I would like to say that I have seen and done it all. And in many ways I have seen and done a lot. I have taken photos, put myself out there, took some more photos, put myself out there more, keeping a business attitude, because this is a business. My business. I am not doing this as a hobby that I happen to get paid for. No, I want this to succeed. I want “me” to succeed.

Yet, lots of people I know and love don’t take my business seriously. It’s not that they are not supportive. No, they like or even love the photos. But you know, to them I am my daughter’s mother first. And as annoying as I sometimes find this lack of belief in my business acumen (and how often I even lack self-belief) I put this down to the fact that this is the role they know me best in and it’s hard to accept someone has now another also very important role. And yes indeed, I am Dharma’s Mummy but when I am in my business I am Melanie Martin first.

In the past year, I also have on more than one occasion experienced the reaction of strangers to the fact that I am a photographer and a mother. The initial reaction to me being a photographer is always: Oh wow, what a great profession. And next when I mention that I have a child: Oh yes, I guess it fits nicely around caring for a child. The most recent encounter was with a fellow photographer who happens to be male and was a total slap to the face when he stated what I feared that some people may think: “You are a mother who takes pictures.” There were some other remarks but this statement was the one that stung the most. There is no denying it is true, but the words did hurt…I felt that he was saying that because I am a mother I cannot be successful in this business…really?!

The truth is I have come to loathe the word “mumpreneur”. For me this is just another label that is put on us right there with the “Yummy Mummy”, “Slummy Mummy” and all the other ones. It is in my opinion not a label that makes us stronger, it is a label that puts us in a box. And you know: once you are in a box it’s hard to come out of it. And this label doesn’t say “Watch this space here I come with my business”, but instead is a label that shouts “I am a mother.”

And yes, I am a mother. I know I am a mother, as while I am typing this, the wonderful reason for my motherhood is sleeping upstairs. I am super proud to be the mother of this energetic and busy 4 year old. My business is certainly influenced by being a mother. My ability to work hard has increased since having a child. I am better at just grabbing 5 minutes to get something done because I know that another 5 minutes may not happen again soon. I relate to people better which helps in my business and I can definitely relate a lot to parents of young children who want family pictures.

And still I don’t need to carry my motherhood on a badge around with me at all times. Men don’t call themselves dadpreneurs because it sounds silly. Why would they? Even if their business was inspired by their offspring. And to me mumpreneur sounds silly in just the same way. A desperate attempt to blend the different roles women play every day. Mother, wife, business owner, friend, daughter, caretaker, housewife. Blend them if you wish. Be a mumpreneur if you want to be one. But for me, I am a woman in business. Meaning business. And I am a good mother. A proud mother Sometimes I am all at the same time. But I am never and will never be a mumpreneur.

Melanie is a lifestyle photographer based in Birmingham, England who I first met (and was inspired by) when I took the Mondo Beyondo class. She founded her photography business in early 2010 following a passion held for a long time in secret. She now balances motherhood, photography and many other roles she has to fill. Catch up with her at Melanie Martin Photography.

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