I've decided not to do a green challenge for December. I'm going to take a little time to take stock of where I'm at and digest what feels like a huge volume of information and inspiration that I stumble upon daily.
I've looked at the 'Moments for me' category of my blog - not much happening there.
I've also read some really thought provoking blogs recently that have got me pondering what motherhood, well, actually parenting means these days. This one - The Motherhood Equation - in particular got my juices going, along with a few hundred other people's! The comments, although mainly reacting quite negatively to the post, are an amazing sample of people's thoughts on parenthood in 21st century and well worth a read.
I've been talking to people too! Snatched coversations on the nursery run about how meal-times work at our various households, car-booting for Christmas presents, plans for returning to work, and skirting delicately around common 'cabin-fever' issues and what baby-sitting, if any, people make use of.
I've been both inspired and depressed by new campaigns and projects I've discovered as I've scratched below the surface of social media, or found a few moments to read beyond newspaper headlines. The depressingly frequently tweeted examples from @EverydaySexism and the ridiculous examples of gender stereo-typing spewing from companies scrambling for Christmas toy sales that have been flagged up by Let Toys Be Toys campaign (coupled with my three year old's saddening requests for lipstick) have actually shaken me up a bit. I get more angry by the day as Clean Air in London highlights evidence of dreadful air quality and government inaction and distraction tactics. And I've felt kinship when reading about the film-making dad (to TV besotted kids) behind Project Wild Thing.
I've been thinking about my own childhood - memories dredged up as I noticed that we had nearly every single Fisher Price toy currently listed as vintage on ebay!
And I've been bloody loving the Family Adventure Project...then failed to tempt little M to leave the house yesterday, let alone inspire her to be a mini-adventurer.
I've been thinking a lot about what family life means to me. And about how many parents I share common concerns with. Sometimes I feel surrounded by kindred spirits and quite normal, other times I feel depressingly 'alternative'. I've been thinking about the types of comments I share with friends, acquaintances and the ether. I definitely post my fair share of dimples and domestic drudgery comments (that I'm sure will encourage some people to at least hover over the unsubscribe / unfollow button) and very rarely here's-something-amazing-I-did or found type things.
It's pretty apparent from reading my 'about me' page on this blog that I have a few internal conflicts. I want to have it all...and without leaving a significant environmental footprint. I feel so far from cracking it. It feels like something that will be a lifetime's labour of love. But at the same time I want to have it figured out tomorrow. For my own sanity, yes. But also because I don't want to admit that living well, and lightly, is actually really tricky in today's society. It needs to be the norm. It needs to be easy. Not 'alternative', not something that is tying a practical, intelligent, and at times creative woman with 13 years experience as a sustainability professional, in knots.
This month I'm going to be reflecting on what it means to live well, and lightly, NOW, and with one eye on the future. My family's future, my future sanity and the future of our planet and society. I'll try to keep a bit of a check on sharing my feelings about sleep, nappies, snot, tantrums and domestic bliss (friends I'm afraid I may still indulge myself more than you would like - feel free to return the moans). But I do defend my right to share my experiences of learning how to live. It's an amazing / scary / inspiring / depressing / abundant / spread-so-thin-it'll-snap-any-minute / funny / sooo-not-funny (delete as appropriate depending on your circumstances and the day of the week) world out there and I, along with everyone else, am learning how to live in it.
I'm learning to live in a world where pink kitchen toys for girls, and science toys for boys are supposed to prepare our children for a future in the 'grown-up' world which, despite its imperfections, is actually much less restrictive.
I, like many other people, am learning to live far away from a handy family support network. I'm figuring out how to foster healthy relationships between my children and their far away, extended family (and my parents are on the verge of learning how to do video calls!). I'm learning when to ask for help and when to just try harder.
I'm learning to feed my family in a world where the supermarket shelves are full of ready meals because we're busy, where the farmers market is full of organic, dirty beetroot because bees are dying and we all love Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and where everyone is expected to know the best chocolate cake recipe ever but to look like we never eat it. Food, I think, in particular shows how times have changed. For a treat my mum had sugar sandwiches, my Nanna bread and dripping (lard if you need a translation!), myself Angel Delight and frozen Supermousse and my daughters pre-packed smoothies and copious amounts of stickers!
I'm learning to live in a big city where living space is tight and a world of experiences await outside your (shared) front door, having grown up with space to run in a quiet village.
I'm learning to strike a work life balance as part of a family where both parents work when neither myself nor Martin experienced this in our own childhood.
I'm learning to get out and about without owning a car, partly driven by cost, partly by principles, and partly by a desire to give my kids the skills to negotiate a world where, when they're grown-up, today's petrol prices will seem unbelievably cheap.
I'm learning to maintain sight of the horizon and the big picture, when my eyes are mostly drawn down to the beautiful baby clinging to my leg.
I'm wondering what languages my children should learn, Spanish because I love it, Chinese for obvious reasons, or nothing as the whole world speaks English now, right??? Or if not, Google will translate on demand.
I'm learning how to avoid dissappearing under an avalanche of material stuff that seems so hard to side-step in our affluent society, whilst not appearing ungrateful or turning my kids into odd-ball outsiders.
I'm learning how to teach my kids to respect all fellow humans, whilst dreading them seeing most news broadcasts or having to explain to them where many of their toys come from. I'm wondering when is a good time to shatter childhood innocence and explain the massive inequalities of the world (possibly with the aid of this intrigueing book).
And I'm learning how to hang onto the things that inspired me when I was younger, like music, amongst the whirl of sleepless nights. It should be easy, we're living in an era where music festivals are for families too and new music can be discovered at the click of a mouse, but I've mostly been listening to Rastamouse for the last few months!
I could go on.
For me now feels like a complicated thing. How about you?
I'd like to say to to the author of the Motherhood Equation that I'm not spouting off about minor hardships and expecting people to be interested, or desperately grabbing for the gin because being a mother is sooo hard. I'd like to say that I am 'just getting on with it'. Part of me that agrees with her. And I do wonder whether people made such a fuss about parenting in previous generations. I mean, more people are parents than not so what's the big deal? But actually that's not completely where I'm at right now. I am getting on with life, and I am trying not to bore my friends without kids (and with kids!) with stories of poonamis everytime they come around. But I'm also finding this whole business of learning to live now quite challenging. I seek information and inspiration from others, and so I'll continue sharing some of my own experiences, including the bad as well as the good. Times have changed since our parents, and their parents, and their parents brought up their families. Some stuff is easier now, some stuff is harder. But I'm sure of one thing - there is no auto-pilot.
The giants of the technical world will no doubt be battling soon to sell us their latest inventions - augmented reality glasses. What I'm wondering is when will someone invent parenting bi-focals - magical glasses that allow you to focus simultaneously on the minutae of life with little people AND engage in the big societal debates of our time. Or could help us simulataneously live in the now AND look to the future, keeping sight of adventures we can plan beyond the next few months and the skills and resources we'll need to live in decades to come as the world changes at increasingly breakneck speed. I'm sure some people manage this effortlessly. I'm hoping I'm not the only person who finds this challenging. Christmas 2013's top gift? For him or for her?
Who knows what tools our children will have at their disposal when they're making their life choices and learning to live well with them. We can be sure that, for them, some things will be easier than now, and some things will be harder. And they like us will probably be tying themselves in knots trying to reconcile their desires to be themselves, with their desires to be there for their families, and trying to equip their own children with the skills they think they'll need to live well.
No doubt I'll post some mundane, practical stuff this month as I look at what I still need to do to make the practicalities of life work. I'll probably also indulge in some soul searching and pontificating about what I'd like my children to turn out like, and whether I actually have any control over this! But you have my permission to give me a stern ticking off if, by the end of December (or definitely mid January), I haven't shared a some more inspiring 'moments for me' than are currently languishing in this category!
Right I'm off to tweet about unconditional love, tiny beaming smiles and poo.
Oh, and remind myself 'tis the season to be jolly!