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Talk Books: Liberating Motherhood

liberatingmotherhood“Women’s liberation must be mothers’ liberation or it is nothing.”

–Germain Greer, in The Whole Woman, quoted in Liberating Motherhood

Since I have three homeschooled children (ages 6-13) and one toddler (2) who are all home full-time, as well as a home business, I often fell asleep with the book Liberating Motherhood in one hand and december-2016-001my nursing toddler asleep on the other arm. However, the mark of how much I liked a book can be told most reliably, not by my eventual typed review, but by the number of pages whose corners have been turned down. In case you can’t tell in the picture, that means that Liberating Motherhood is a winner. Complex. Witty. Wry. Assertive. Bold. A detailed manifesto of maternal feminism.

Liberating Motherhood is a fairly heavy read, made readable and engaging by Vanessa’s deft way with words, sharp wit, and clear explanations. It covers broad themes and weaves together issues of justice, ecofeminism, politics, and socialization in sections titled A Mother’s Body, A Mother’s Mind, a Mother’s Labour, and a Mother’s Heart. The core of the book is the argument that many mothers wish to actively mother their young children and yet are wholly unsupported in doing so. Patriarchy’s answer is subordination of women into a caregiving role that has no monetary or economic value or respect. Contemporary feminism’s answer is “full female employment” and outsourcing of childcare into a universal daycare system. Olorenshaw is assertive that the answer to the “problem of mothers,” is not more daycare, but rather more social and economic support, including a basic income. She is willing to tackle the classist assumptions that work outside of the home is inherently fulfilling for women, noting that the ability of women in the upper socieconomic status to “lean in” rests fully on the backs of lower paid, overworked women who are doing the work that no one else wants to do. However, she does not glamorize or romanticize the role of a stay-at-home mother either, exploring in-depth the economic and social vulnerability that women are placed in by depending on the income of a partner and exploring the potential for abuse and exploitation that results from this common social model.

I have consciously self-identified as a feminist since I was 13. After giving birth for the first time at september-2016-01124, I became immersed in the writing and world of “mother’s rights,” and at this time, became rebirthed as a maternal feminist. My spiritual path is that of a goddess-feminist and I have been also immersed for years on a goddess path that is firmly feminist in orientation. Since my feminism has been entwined for a long time with my mothering and with goddess-spirituality, I sometimes found that Vanessa was arguing against a type of feminism which I find mostly unrecognizable, or almost more of a caricature of feminism than that which I have found in my work in the world. In fact, one of my favorite quotes from a book of feminist thealogy is feminists make the best mothers. (Charlotte Caron, To Make and Make Again). I also write for the feminist blog, Feminism and Religion, and while there have been a few notable exceptions, the majority of writers there seem to embrace a maternally-inspired/influenced feminism, unlike some of the writers and leaders encountered by Olonrenshaw. I don’t find that as many contemporary feminist thinkers and writers ignore the issues of mothers and maternity as much as she asserts. I would also have liked to see some coverage of the life structures and experiences of women like me who find their solution combining mothering while working for themselves. I have long said that I am not looking for an “or,” but for the “and,” mothering while also working on other tasks!

Published by Womancraft Publishing, Liberating Motherhood takes on not only the patriarchy, but neoliberal capitalism and modern feminism as well in a complex brew of social critique, call to action, values-exploration, and manifesto. Unapologetically assertive and with a large dose of wry wit and candor, Olorenshaw explores the many ways in which an insidious social and cultural web is woven that simultaneously devalues and ignores women’s unpaid work, yet benefits greatly from its fulfillment.

“The problem is, for all the talk of women’s liberation, when it is predicated on liberation from motherhood, it is no liberation at all. When feminism is based on ideas of equality which ignore the actual reality of her life, her deep wish to care for her children, and deny the value of caring, a mother is in chains. We need to get going on liberating motherhood. We can say loud and clear that: ‘I don’t need liberating from motherhood: motherhood needs to be liberated from a system which devalues it, devalues us and devalues our children.”

–Vanessa Olorenshaw, Liberating Motherhood

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Happy Birthday, Tanner!

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I actually got the perfect picture this morning of our birthday boy! Tanner is TWO! He says: “I’m two!” He speaks in 2-3 word sentences and adds words every day. He can basically say anything. He loves tools and fixing stuff and “working” with mom and dad. He watches closely enough that he even blows on the tops of the heads of tiny goddesses when he sits down with them and tries to work on the tops of their heads. He likes cars and trucks. He is the first kid to run to help when someone says, “help,” including trying to be the other side of furniture moving. Loves swings and big boots and running fast. Is observant and attentive and clever. Likes knives (too much!).

Falls asleep in my arms each night, just like he did the day he was born.

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His birth video is here and his birth story is here

We having his birthday party tonight and going to a Halloween party. He has a dinosaur costume as well as a karate kid t-shirt so he can be Johnny, the blond kid from the Karate Kid movie (he was Draco Malfoy last year. Apparently, I can only think of blond-hair-related costumes and bad kids in movies are blond?!) I have made a non-professional-looking pumpkin cake with super yummy pumpkin cream cheese icing.october-2016-076

I can’t image a world without a Tanner in it! He is a powerhouse, a dynamo, and an inextricable part of our family.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

26717489411_9d767fc783_o…See your worth
hear your value
sing your body’s power
and potency
dance your dreams
recognize within yourself
that which you do so well
so invisibly
and with such love…

(via: A Prayer for Mothers)

As I consider mothers, women, and women’s power this weekend, I have some resources and thoughts to share with you:

May you celebrate yourself this week and in the year to come.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Eighteenmonthababy!

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The serious little face. The fishing pole. The lactivist-baby t. The tiny Crocs. The blond hair.

This is what an eighteenmonthababy looks like.

I feel inspired to share a quick update post about our little Tan Tan and his adventures in becoming March 2016 012Boy instead of Baby. He is adding new words constantly. I cannot keep up with them all. We’ve skipped right past the stage at which I can keep a list of the words he knows how to say, because he can say anything (albeit with limited range of enunciation. So, most words are not clear, but you can ask him to say anything or repeat anything and he will do it. He will also follow instructions like, “go find a dinosaur and bring it to me.”) He is also starting to do a few two word combinations: “big car,” “yes, dog,” “Daddy, outside.” We are lucky in that he’s been able to shake his head for yes and no for many months now, which eliminates lots of frustration and confusion in communicating with someone with limited vocabulary. This month he has begun verbally saying, “yeah” as well though.

He adores going outside and would live outside all day long, in whatever weather, if he could. He April 2016 043loves playing on the trampoline and runs around on it in impossibly fast circles with blond hair sticking straight up all around his head. He also runs very fast inside and there his hair flops up and down in an adorable fashion. He has begun using the potty with some regularity on his own accord. Often wakes up with a dry diaper and will even pull at his pants saying, “pee pee, potty,” sometimes.

He has to do a lot of keeping up with everyone in the house and has a tendency to run after me/get left behind while I’m doing whatever it is that needs my attention. Falls asleep for nap each day in Ergo and sleeps by my leg in the bed, waking instantly if I try to get up without him.

Fascinated by the cats and enjoys the fact that we have baby kitties right now for him to study. Stares with delight. Says, “wow!” and “yay!” and “uh oh” liberally and has a most indescribable twinkle in his eye + the most impish grins and expressions of any toddler I’ve ever seen. Climbs on stuff. Jumps off stuff. Uses my body as jungle gym. Is a wrestling act to even keep him in the air while holding him, as he writhes and twists and climbs my body instead of just sitting on my him. Wants to be on counters and tables March 2016 007constantly. Desperate to “help” with all business elements like packing orders and attaching jump rings. It is hard to take good pictures of him because he is constantly in motion. I’m not sure if it is the fact that I’m older than I used to be, or that I have four kids now, or that I have a business to run, but it is extraordinarily tiring to parent this small delightful whirlwind of a person. I feel literally worn out and worn down by him at the end of every day. It is physically exhausting just to hold him. And, even exhausting and a physical strain on my body just to nurse him while wrestling his other hand around from my other nipple and holding myself up as he flops from side to side, kicks and twists his legs, stands up, etc. while also nursing. He has a huge presence in life and in our family. He is good at “rolling with it” in terms of noise and chaos and people suddenly swinging him up into the air. He is funny and clever and a tiny problem solver and “engineer.”

He also loves his shovel.

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I can hardly believe he is one and half already and yet, he is so here with who and how he is, I forgot that he hasn’t always been in our family.

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My Rainbow Girl is FIVE! (plus, pandas)

January 2016 036Five years ago today I was snuggling my new baby girl on my futon nest in the living room. It is hard for me to even describe what joy and healing she brought to me. When I look back at pictures of myself from the days following her birth, I see such radiance. While I have exulted in the births of all my children and they all rank as the most transformative, meaning, joyous, and loving occasions of my life, Alaina’s birth was possibly the most truly, bone-deep sensation of relief and happiness that I have ever experienced.

I feel like I have missed out on a lot of the last year with her after having Tanner. We were a tight-knit little unit until he was born, she would fall asleep with her head on my arm every night, we played and read together every day, we cooked together and did laundry together every day, and I often did little fun and special things with her. I felt like we actually had a “balanced” family in the sense of “mom and Alaina” + “dad and the boys.” Tanner’s birth changed a lot and she had the hardest time adjusting to the “displacement” of a new sibling of anyone. My boys have each other. They give each other attention. They are each other’s best friend. They play and talk and learn together. They have each other’s backs. While it is an adjustment to make room for an additional brother, their tight bond and unity is intact and unchanged, basically impervious to the addition of more siblings. Alaina, fifteen months after Tanner’s birth, still gets upset about whether or not she can go to sleep with her head on my arm (if he’s nursing, she can’t, she has to snuggle by my back and gets sad and dejected. If he isn’t nursing, she can and is happy). She spends a lot of time waiting for me to play with her and often seems very attention “starved,” in a way that makes me feel sad, guilty, and irritated all rolled up in one. In the family structure now, there are the brothers, mama and Tanner, and then Alaina, kind of floating around by herself wishing for someone to play with her or read to her or pour milk for her, etc. (Apparently, Mark is also displaced in my family structure sense right now!)

There never seems to be enough time for me to give her everything she needs and wants and even though she is still pretty little herself she often has to wait for Tanner to be helped, or has to put things away because he is destroying them, and so forth. We are finding Tanner to be a super high-need and pretty destructive toddler and in the “need hierarchy,” he ends up “winning” even when she legitimately needs things too. I find myself feeling a real sense of almost grief at the disappearance of the last year of my other kids’ lives. I have long been frustrated by “you’ll miss this when they’re older”-style commentary, but it has become even more poignantly evident to me lately as Lann rapidly catches up with me in height, that the specters of “missing this,” often seems to be raised only with regard to babies and young children. I rock at the baby-momming. I don’t miss anything. They sleep on me, ride along with me, feed from my body, and are a part of me. I cherish them daily—drawing up long breaths of their hair, admiring their little hands and chubby bodies, cradling them to me, but as I do this very thing, make sure I am not missing out on any tenderness of baby-momming, I am actually, in a very real sense, missing out on what it was like to have a four year old girl in the house. The only four year old girl who is ever going to live in my house as my little daughter is now five instead. I am also missing out on what it is like to have twelve and nine year old sons. They are older and while I’m not dwelling fruitlessly in my memories of their baby selves, I am actually missing their current selves. It is passing me by right now, because I have a one year old December 2015 012who simply needs me more, requires more from me, and is quite literally more in my face. I feel like the people who say to “enjoy it now, it passes so quickly,” when they see me with Tanner, are completely missing out on the fact that I have three other kids who are also passing quickly by. Is it only babies and toddlers that we fear missing out on? Not cherishing enough? Forgetting what it is like to have? I feel like comments like that actually devalue older children—like, aren’t they good enough and interesting enough now that I don’t need to pine back for their babyhood?

Luckily, in the last two months, Alaina and Tanner have started playing together. They push doll strollers around, play with pretend food, play a chasing + laughing game, play in boxes together, build with blocks, and she also likes to bundle him up and pushes him around on an office chair. I Lann's Phone 390hope they are soon going to be on the same “team” and be buddies who can count on each other, rather than obstacles in each other’s path.

While I have managed to scrape up a little bit of time to play with her almost every day since he’s   been born, it has often been distracted, hurried, or halfhearted. However, we have started a new thing just this month in that we have specific playtime together every night after dinner. We are having tons of fun and she seems relieved to have some time to count on getting with me, rather than just waiting and hoping I’ll get to her. She seems charged up afterward and is thrilled to get to that part of the day. The irony of having a home-based life in which we spend almost all day in the company of all family members is that focused time together is rare—it is diffuse, scattered around, fragmented, because everything is always happening at once, in the same space. There are no boundaries between our lives, work, relationships, etc. This saturation factor means it both feels like we all spend “too much” time together, while also not Lann's Phone 423quite having enough time for one another.

Interestingly, this morning she slept until 11:00, just has she has been “programmed” to do since birth. She was born at around 11:00 in the morning, actually, rarely went to sleep before midnight through her entire infancy (often being awake and happy until 1:00 a.m.), and usually sleeps until 10 or 11 in the morning, after falling asleep between 11:30-12:00. Due to this night owl bedtime, Alaina and I have also found some time for us at night after everyone else has gone to bed. After I’ve read to all the kids at bedtime and Tanner has fallen asleep nursing, Alaina and I stay up sitting in my bed, Tanner sleeping next to me, and we color in coloring books or make bookmarks or cards, and chat and talk. She likes to choose an oracle card with me and write a Womanrunes symbol on her arm. I mostly just listen to what she has to say and agree and exclaim at the right places and she colors and colors, content in my finally undivided presence.

So, anyway, this five-year-old girl. She’s tall. We checked her height on the door frame compared to brothers and she is the same size or taller than they were at her age. She wears 6-7 size clothes, but is extremely choosy about them. Pants are an issue because they can be loose at all, so she is fond of pairing size 6 shirts with size 4T pants that are faded and high-water. She has definite ideas about what clothing meets her criteria for comfort and stylishness and we almost always just let her choose and decide her own ensembles for the day, unless we are going to town, and even then, I usually say, “sure, too small striped leggings will be great with that dress!” because, truly, it really doesn’t matter as long as she feels good in what she is wearing. After visiting an exhibit about China at the Magic House last year, she fell in love with pandas. She likes wearing black and white clothes and calls December 2015 035herself Panda Girl. My mom adopted a World Wildlife Fund panda for her for Christmas and she carries the stuffed panda the adoption came with around with her everywhere. My aunt got her a great panda hat that she loves to wear (along with a [non-panda] poncho my mom crocheted for her and a handwoven silk scarf that she helped my mom weave. When I feel guilty about not doing all the special things with her I’d like to do every day, I remember that she also has lots of opportunities, including helping to make and glaze real pottery cups and bowls and weave on full-sized looms using silk yarn with her talented grandma, that many little girls her age never have!).

We planned an epic panda birthday party for her yesterday. I labored over homemade marshmallow fondant icing the day before, even using specially ordered non-artificial black food coloring that cost me $12. I ranted extensively as I kneaded and kneaded the fondant the about how I could instead be one of “those people” eating frozen Taquitos and watching TV and what possesses me to always overperform and overdo. I yelled at the kids, had to have Lann come drag Tanner away of me as he hung from my legs crying while I couldn’t pick him up because my hands were covered in black powdered sugar cement). Why do this to myself and to the household atmosphere?! I’ve said before that I’d rather be the mom that does cool and fun stuff with her kids and sometimes yells while doing it than a mom who doesn’t yell, but who doesn’t do cool stuff because she’s afraid she might yell, or maybe because she doesn’t have ideas to share with her kids. (Of course, an awesomer option, would be to be the mom who does cool stuff and also doesn’t yell, but I’m not holding my breath on that one!)

After I constructed the first tiny panda and saw how cute it was and how excited she was about her cake, I felt such a sense of thrill and triumph. I thought that if I hadn’t decided to do it and make it easier on myself, sure, I wouldn’t have yelled, but I also wouldn’t have felt the empowering sense of having done exactly what I imagined doing and I would have taught my daughter to give up on hard things and new things and trying it anyway. And, isn’t that just like her birth, in the end? I could have done it differently and maybe more easily, but nothing compares to sinking down on my knees in my futon nest holding that rainbow baby girl in my own bloody hands. Those pandas too, while less earth-shaking and life-changing, were birthed from my own love and effort into my black-icing hands, and my willingness to do it myself, for the ones I love.

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Happy birthday, dear one!

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Twelvemonthababy!

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Tanner is ONE! I already shared his birth video in honor of his first birthday, but I also want to wrap up my “monthababy” posts with an update about this twelvemonthababy. Note the photographic continuity between the photo above, taken during his twelfth month for our Women in the Wild inspired photo shoot fundraiser, and this one, taken following my ceremonial bath and sealing ceremony after his birth:

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This baby is full of fire. He accidentally gave Zander a bloody nose. He says, “whoa!” and “wow!” and he empties cabinets, climbs on tables, gets into drawers, climbs on surfaces and does a stomp-dance. He pulls books off the shelf. He throws a ball (and other things). He makes music with many things, some intended for music, others not. A friend with an 18 month old posted on her facebook that her child is kind of like having a pet chimpanzee: it was cute as a baby, but now it is bigger and dangerous and you maybe shouldn’t keep it as a pet after all. I identified with her description of what it is like to have a little person of this age in the house! I remember the boys calling Alaina, “the Destroyer of Worlds,” so I also know (hope) it will pass. There is an oppressive element to taking care of him lately that I also remember from other children and I “joke” that it is like living with an abusive spouse because of how he changes the rules all the time as well as what he likes or what will keep him happy. That said, he gives the best, most gentle hugs in the history of the world–flinging arms around my neck and lightly patting my back while kind of crooning to me. Baby hugs like this make me know I’m doing something right in parenting, as does the way he gently cradles baby dolls and kisses them on the head with a sweet smile. That’s what he knows! He hugs Alaina in greeting every morning, flinging arms around her waist and leaning his head on her stomach and seeming to say, “Lainey.” He will lean in to each brother in turn, patting back and seeming to sing-song their names. Sometimes he walks in the cutest slightly bent over crouch (like he’s sneaking up on something).

This isn’t the crouch, more of the race, but here he is ready to roll!

He likes to be walked to sleep in Ergo most of the time, nap and bed time. He has a different timeline than the rest of the children in our family, wishing to conk out at 8:00 or a little before at night and get up before 8:00 in the morning. This is great for me, who always thrives on fresh morning energy, but less great for our other kids who are more like 11-9:00 types (or 11-10, in Alaina’s case), because this means we always have kids up with us. There is no such things the mythological, “when the kids are all in bed, it is ‘me time,'” thing I hear other people talk about. I also end up staying up later than I personally prefer in order to catch up on work or writing.

When I first started writing this post, he had four teeth, but now he has eight! He can walk backward skillfully and climb up on couches. Not only does he do the baby-buns-dip dance, he also stomps feet while spinning in circle at same time to dance. I’ve never had a barely one year old who could do that! (He did it at 11 months.) He can step up by holding onto a door frame or wall instead of having to get on his knees first. Though, lest I fall into a trap of thinking he is too much of a genius, my friend reminded me the other day that he also eats dirt. 😉

Like I remember with two of my other kids, his talking has diminished a lot this month. He’s reverted to grunting and pointing and making a pretty awful strained sound to get what he wants.

I am an official elimination communication and cloth diaper failure this time around. Too many things to keep up with and catching poop and pee has fallen off my priority list.

I mentioned that my weight has returned to my pre-pregnancy weight and I’m actually only three pounds away from my pre-pre-pregnancy weight now (pre-Alaina). Possibly related, but more likely related to the fact that mothering him is a lot more like having an 18 month old than a 12 month old, my period returned on October 22. This is the earliest moontime’s return that I’ve experienced in my maternal career!

I can’t believe he is one and yet, hasn’t he always been here?

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In this picture, Alaina said, “Mom! Quick! Take a picture before you forget how little he is!”

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(I do see how little he is, but I also see her!)

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Birth and Breastfeeding Goddess Christmas Ornaments!

October 2015 108I am beyond excited to share these with you! We are offering birth, breastfeeding, and goddess ornaments for your holiday celebrations this year! Perfect for nursing mothers, pregnant women, doulas, midwives, as well as for goddessy women in any stage of life, these ornaments are offered in four of our classic designs and in one mini-design. Each ornament is individually hand cast in clear casting resin from our original sculptures. Their beautiful translucency gives them the appearance of being glass or crystal, while still being extremely durable and nearly damage-proof (we have four energetic kids, so our products get a lot of serious product testing to make sure they can hold up to being dropped!).

Each ornament is about 3 inches tall and is $15. The mini goddesses are only an inch tall and are $6. Each is freestanding and can also sit on a mantle or table, or can grace your tree with abundance, empowerment, and bountiful blessings throughout the season!

These are extremely limited edition. We will be making them by hand from November 1-December 5th only. After that, they’re gone!

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