I’ve been mother to many plants and animals, but I’ve never raised anything as exciting and precious as my own child. Matt and I prepared for this adventure for many years, planning and plotting, but one can never really know what parenting will really be like, and now that Graysen is here we are constantly adjusting our design.
The design began before I even met Matt, when I moved back to Anchorage 9 years ago, so that when I was ready to have children, I would be close to my family. I wanted to set down roots and begin contributing to my community so that I would be a good example for my children. Then there was a conversation with Matt when we were first dating about educating children. In response to my question about how you decide which parent will stay home and homeschool the children, he responded that it would have to be both, alternately, because one parent didn’t have nearly the breadth of knowledge and interest that both could offer.
We designed our business around the idea that kids need both of their parents around. We chose work that was based at home, flexible, and had aspects that were hands-on so our child could participate. I wanted to be able to integrate my baby into my work instead of sending him off to daycare. In permaculture, we call this designing from patterns to details.
The details of the design filled in as we prepared for Graysen’s arrival. We chose to have a home birth partly because it seemed the most natural way and kept the flow of energy on site. It also used fewer physical and monetary resources. We chose cloth diapers and relied on hand-me-downs to reduce waste.
Every design is a work in progress because we cannot know the reality of the situation until we are in it. I’ve found this to be especially true with having children since it is such a different experience from anything else I’ve ever done, and… Graysen’s needs are constantly changing.
Some parts of the design are a success. Matt’s flexible schedule allows him to be around the house much of the day, sharing meals and laughter with me and Graysen, and in the evening he can play with Graysen while I teach workshops. I take Graysen with me to garden consultations and he obligingly hangs out while I give garden advice. Matt and I both get to raise our child and do work that we believe in… an amazing blessing in modern times.
Challenges have been many. It’s often difficult for me to find time to do anything but feed, change, and play with Graysen, especially since he has gotten more mobile. It’s not easy writing workshop descriptions while your child is pulling himself up on the coffee table. Feedings (and bedtimes) don’t always line up with workshop times. And I haven’t made it to one consultation on my bicycle since Graysen was born.
Along the way we’ve made changes and adapted our design. With an earlier bedtime for Graysen, I take advantage of the long daylight to get into the garden. We also moved our workshops earlier so they wouldn’t conflict with bedtime. I scaled back the garden and am trying to be OK with more weeds and plants left unplanted. I’m realizing that mothering is more of a full-time job than I thought and I need to accept that I can’t do as much.
I had visions of myself gardening with my baby on my back, like African women working fields with their brightly colored cloths tying the baby close. This has been partly true, but we all know that reality is more complex than that. Sometimes it’s too hot, too rainy, or too buggy. But he is surprisingly content on my back, watching me work and enjoying the colors, smells, and sounds in the garden. It leads me to believe that we are at least on the right track in our design.