In Honor of All Mothers...
I wanted to write about how incredibly grateful I am to be raising my baby and older sons in a community where mothering is respected and supported. Let’s admit it, parenting in general is rife with challenges, and I can only imagine how even more complicated it must be for mothers who are forced to go back to work with their young infants not at or near their workplace if that is something they desire. In fact, my impetus for opening Nectar in High Falls initially, even though it is almost a half hour from our home, was to be near my sons’ school then located in Stone Ridge. I figured that being just around the corner from High Meadow would make it that much easier for me to see them at lunchtime some days, or easily pick them up at dismissal. I could generally be more involved when needed. That was wonderfully true, and for years, Aidan and Emmanuel did homework at Nectar after school or played quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) here while I worked until closing. That was a great set up for us, and I was so thankful to be a woman in a culture where I could not only own my own business, but run that business in a way that felt close to my heart without making compromises.
While much is often dictated to us about what is “right” or “wrong,” parenting has been the most important teacher for me about learning to trust my heart and carve out my life path, however unusual. For me, that has meant setting up my life so that my kids are an integral, daily part , in addition to being my greatest motivators for bettering my life as well as the community and world in which we live. Living according to my intuition and heart has also allowed me to trust and support the relationship of nursing each of my sons until they were about two years old, something I have always been a strong proponent of for its obvious and well documented health and emotional benefits to both child and mother. Working in proximity to one’s infant more easily facilitates this. My whole life I’ve heard personal stories from women raising even very young infants across the country, and how despite their convictions, they were made to feel embarrassed about this most fundamental connection. I have always been mindful of discretion while nursing, and yet I think everyone in our culture needs to know that women and their babies should be encouraged, be given examples of nursing mother role models, and be those examples themselves.Since I opened Nectar’s doors, rather than imparting judgment, most of my customers have been so incredibly generous, interacting with all my sons with such humor and kindness! Literal gifts have been bestowed upon them throughout the (almost seven!) years- words of wisdom, plenty of hugs, silly faces, and kooky songs offered up to the little ones. And by literally thousands of loving customers! Such validation that we indeed found and are helping to build our community! One of my favorites, a silver haired man with deep lines of kindness etching his skin, would come in just to hold baby Liam in the early months, saying with a shrug, “I’m here for my stress relief!” He would often lull my newborn to sleep, parting soon after with a blissful smile. And other mothers have always come here to shop or visit with their infants and children in tow, knowing they can feel comfortable doing so, even though there are precious items in their midst. How else will our collective children learn to respect beauty and fragility without moving amongst these things first hand? Or learn to be part of the world, and rather than fear all “strangers,” begin early on to appreciate difference and connection!
At one point in our recent history, being an “empowered, modern woman” meant simply competing with men for similar work roles, and this perspective seemed to undermine the inherent importance, strength, and creativity of being a mother and parent. The Women’s Movement initially didn’t seem to encourage trying to find a balance between work and home, but rather it seemed to send out a message that a choice had to be made. Women sacrificed their deep connections with their babies prematurely, and still do. Yet there has been and continues to be a backlash against this myopic version of “success.” Women all over the place are trying to find more of a balance, finding validation for being a nurturer, without total compromise to one’s personal life dreams as well.
Anyone who has visited Nectar in the last year and a half has probably noticed the growing, toddling, babbling small being, or his toys and detritus adorning the entryway of the store. Yes, however unorthodox it can seem in our culture to bring your child to work most days, and even how difficult that even sometimes is, I feel so thankful to have been able to stay truly connected to my still nursing 1 1/2 year old. To watch him grow in a daily, hourly way, and delight in those small and silly changes, rather than hearing about it second hand. That might seem like a luxury, but I can assure you it is very much a conscious choice for which I would not have compromised anything, even while sacrifices are also made sometimes in terms of productivity, revenue and focus. Yet to me, it is just that important. I hope that as more and more women see that choice in action, they might make changes in their own lives too that will also support this extremely fleeting and exquisite time. Liam is already beginning to spend less hours here during the day– he has dates with friends or he goes to the park or library. And soon enough he will be going to school!
Whatever choices are made though, we all need to be more compassionate about parenting– the way we do it, and others, offering up a matrix of support, because we all need more of that. To coin the now well established cliche, it indeed “takes a village.” But that village needs to be as loving as possible, as eclectic and multicultural, and open-minded, so that all our children learn to be better global citizens and human beings.