C O N T E X T
For the very first post, I thought it would be appropriate to include the full, unedited version of an article I wrote for a digital publication over a year ago. It illustrates how and why I started this company. So here goes:
It’s Monday morning, and the low rumble of scampering little feet and whispered arguments jostles me awake. Bleary-eyed, I fumble for my phone and check the time. It’s early. Too early. And already I am feeling unmotivated and inadequate. The evening before I had determined to wake up before the kids, hoping it would give me some time to exercise, eat a nice breakfast and set the tone for the day. Instead, I bury myself deeper into the repose of fluffy bedding and inactivity, hoping that I haven’t overplayed my I’m-not-a-morning-person card. It isn’t long until mommy guilt and the promise of strong coffee coax me out of inertia. I stumble out of bed and gather my bristly bedhead into a tangled heap a.k.a. classic "mom bun." Upon entering the living room, I am greeted with a high-pitched chorus of “Hiii, Mommmyyy!” followed by a barrage of menial demands. After a haphazard breakfast, I am quickly ejected into the cyclone of resolving partially-folded piles of laundry, refereeing sibling disputes, sweeping crumbs and wiping down sticky furniture, shuttling children to and from school and extracurricular activities, seizing teachable moments and managing bedtime routines. Whew! I blink, and it’s Tuesday, and the painstaking work that was done becomes undone. Back to square one.
My expectations for motherhood had been shaped by what I now know as ill-conceived assumptions. I believed motherhood to be instinctual - that my ability to care for a needy, defenseless human being (after years of caring only for myself and my own needs) would come naturally. Makes perfect sense, right? Wrong. A painful birth experience and the foggy, sleep deprived weeks of infancy that followed were enough to prove this theory as flat-out baloney. I learned very early on that being a mother isn’t a biological right, it is ruthless work, requiring a major shift in priorities. My wide-eyed presuppositions that parent-child relationships would be blissfully reciprocal was also quickly challenged. I found that the early transactions with my first child were grossly disproportionate. He could barely hold up his own head let alone fulfill my longings for affirmation and positive feedback. Sure, it was give and take, but I did most of the giving while he did all the taking. Nevertheless, I continued dutifully. I gave more and more and more of myself over to this new identity while the other parts of me slowly dulled by neglect.
Soon the physical and emotional strain of ignoring self "for the sake of the kids" took a debilitating toll. I was run down, depressed, anxious, resentful, unfulfilled. I made myself a martyr in the name of domesticity and maternal obligation. Then it dawned on me one day as I was unloading the dishwasher. I was rushed and careless. As a result, my most treasured, hand-thrown ceramic serving bowl slipped from my pruned fingertips, crashing onto the cold, unforgiving kitchen floor. I glared at the shards in disbelief. I loved that bowl. I used that bowl. In a strange way, I felt very much like that bowl - useful, delicate, dependable and now shattered. There I stood, staring into the tangible metaphor for what I felt in my spirit. It would have been convenient for me to sweep up the mess and throw it away. Instead, I found myself picking up the pieces and carefully putting them back together. It became whole again, but not in the same way. It had a renewed purpose, a new story of healing and restoration, cracks and all.
It was in the moments after I realized I needed the same for myself. So I paid closer attention to my desires and fed my curiosities. I took a pottery class. And took it again. I sought counsel and made mental health a priority. I spent more time with my girlfriends. I asked for help. A lot of help. I took an overnight trip with my husband, just us. I said "no" to commitments I didn't have the energy nor the resources to fulfill. I stopped covering up my imperfections and let others in.
Enter Clove and Whole, a passion project-turned-vocation born out of brokenness with a mission to do restorative work. It has been my therapy. It engages my creativity, resourcefulness and desire to do good. It's a shop and collaborative studio. It's a space to breathe and find support and healing. It’s fun! It's undeniably me.
The mommy guilt still bubbles up every now and then, especially anytime this job takes me away from my family. Self care is unfamiliar territory, and I'm still navigating my way through harmonizing my work inside and outside of the home. I'm discovering, though, that my creative undertakings fuel a greater capacity to nurture my children with energy and joy. In the same way, my experiences and repertoire as a mother influence and bring deeper meaning to my creative pursuits.
I am also finding there is no perfect way to be a mother. The parent-child relationship is much more dynamic than simply following a singular, foolproof method. It’s more about open dialogue than it is having all the answers. It involves humble apology as well as seasoned guidance. It is both a transcendent and humbling occupation.
For these reasons, I want to encourage you, dear reader, to forge your own path - to apply the same kindness and enthusiasm you have for your children to yourself. Let us consider using social media to make real connections and share meaningful work rather than as a barometer for parental success. Categorizing ourselves under "good mom/bad mom" columns is unkind and gravely simplistic. It only precipitates judgment and superiority upon an occupation that thrives under communal encouragement and edification. YOU are the most qualified parent for your children, because YOU know them better than anyone else in this world. And as much as a clean house, extracurricular activities and organic meals are important, what they need (and ultimately want) most is YOU. The best you. The well-rested, inspired and real you. As you fight the good fight to be the parent you want to be, embrace the parent you already are. You are wired differently, and the world is better for it.
If you made it this far, kudos! I am excited to see where this story takes us and the beautiful things we'll make together. Thank you for visiting and being a part of it.