Conscious Parenting In Real Life
There are three legs to my existence as stay-at-home mother of three young children—places I go for nearly everything I need. Being a mother with ideals weaving through and around emphasis on sustainability, community and learning, it is easy to trace them all back to my favorite resources: Google, Goodwill Thrift Shops and my Families for Conscious Living/FCL Community Group.
It feels like I can do anything when I sit in my home in front of a Google search box, but I realize it’s little more than a pretentious leap toward omnipotence. It has also given me two of my most revered and wellused software programs. The Google-designed photo editing software, Picasa, and their Desktop search engine have been much-loved (and free!) blessings to me amidst the Microsoft pit of despair, expense and breakdowns. The information easily accessed is also invaluable for all sorts of “educational experiences.” Once when I was trying peacefully discuss seatbelts with my children, I found myself trying to argue about why they simply can’t hold onto their little sister while I drive. Feeling wordless for the seven- and four-yearold’s maturity level, I put the conversation on hold until we reached the internet at home and Googled. It took about ten minutes of various crash demo videos and the pictures of roadside crashes to end the discussion. A picture is always worth a thousand words.
Goodwill Thrift Shops are another widespread recycling and model of community-based sustainability that have been changing the way people buy things for many, many years. Shopping at Goodwill Stores brings me and my kids back to the dime stores of the 70s and 80s where you could buy old-fashioned surprise grab bags for $1. There is always an excited anticipation about what great deal or valuable find you’ll discover today. With a working list of needs for my house and family in hand, regular visits produce most of the things I need at about 25% the cost of new. I consider it recycling, as I am always exchanging a bag full of unwanted items, clothing and gifts before I go in to purchase other people’s unwanted items. Our used purchases prevent hundreds of new items from entering the waste stream each year. We can also feel good that our purchases support my local disabled community members who work there, and the various enterprises Goodwill creates in the community.
Then there is FCL, which is both an online community center of folks with my same heady goals for raising children and the venue by which all my family’s social events are organized. Google and Goodwill are somewhat impersonal and therefore much easier to use; FCL is extremely personal, and so while it is always more difficult with its inherent mass of people, emotions and subjects, it is also more worthwhile to my efforts.
It’s always a struggle to live isolated from other families, especially when you’re attempting to raise them outside the mainstream commercial culture standards that usually seek to confine, manipulate or coerce children. But I have a secret weapon, and it has only been possible in the modern age of the internet: my FCL Community Group.
Families for Conscious Living is a national “by parents, for parents” non-profit organization that has been around a little more than a decade. I, and a circle of enthusiastic moms, run the Connecticut branch of around 100 families online and in-person. We have a modest website (www.fclct.org), but the real action happens inside our discussion forums. Similar to the boards found elsewhere in natural parenting groups on the internet, our discussion board are organized by topics, and accompanied by calendars of events listing our many local and growing groups.
Whether you are staying at home, or are out working much of the day, it is difficult to dress, drag and drive the family around too much, for lack of funds, fuel economy and sanity. This usually means you are raising your family in a vacuum that gets very lonely. The internet is my saving grace though, and I turn online to FCL daily for nearly every other need in my life, but especially the human needs for connection, community building, friendship and advice.
We talk about our experiences in pregnancy, birth and parenting; we discuss the best ways to be politically active; we organize meals for the babymoon period following a new birth or when a family is in difficult times; we talk in private forums of abuse and recovery, depression and divorce. There is also the host of events we get together for—from blessingways to family dances, women’s circles to Dads’ Night In.
There are buying cooperatives for purchasing in bulk, a family photo album to remember all the events we’ve held, a private Dad’s forum where they can talk about the crazy women they love who sometimes push them to discover ideas outside their own recollections of childrearing. I go there to make friends, check on and send birthing vibes to friends I am thinking of, or inform others of something I may have just learned today.
We are all in this journey together, and the only rule we have is one we instill in our children for their use in the world of the future: Respect. What works for me may not be right for you. No one has the ‘right’ or perfect way for anything. Each of us is the authority in our own family. I am always honored and humbled to be in the same ‘room’ with these men, women and families.
So there is the short version: I can’t live without the resources of Google, Goodwill and my FCL group in my life. And simultaneously, they are each a step toward a more sustainable future, full of understanding and respect, community and authenticity in my life and values. I hope we continue to invite others in and show them these easy ways to make life more simple, yet deeply full.