I’ve been spending a lot of time tending the fire, lately.
(both literally and figuratively)
On a good day, my two-year-old will occupy himself with a puzzle or some play-dough, and I pad softly down into our dark basement, feeling the heat of the smouldering coals prickle my skin as I descend. I take a quick mental note as I make my way across the room: the floor needs sweeping; the next daffodil bulbs are ready to be brought into sunlight. Opening the heavy wood stove latch, a rush of heat stings my eyes momentarily, and I push the embers around with a wrought-iron tool. I choose a few logs from our wood pile and push them into the fire, and, if my son is still happy upstairs, I sit cross-legged in front of the open stove, feeling the heat on my belly, waiting for the new logs to light.
I water the houseplants and check on the one that the kids and I have recently treated with a homemade pest-control after finding a colony of mealyworms.
I set out bread dough to rise, and help the kids make play dough.
I make cups of tea, break up squabbles, do school pick-up, flip through seed catalogues, and contemplate the merits of backyard chickens.
I still feel anxious, more often than I’d like, that my paid work – my coaching calls and breastfeeding support visits and writing and social media posts – feels neglected or pushed to the edges of the day as I tend to my family’s needs.
But my conditioning is deep. And so I have patience.
If I had told my twenty-five-year-old self that this is how I would spend my days at thirty-six
(and also that I wouldn’t feel like a total failure for doing so
and in fact that I would feel deeply in alignment as a result)
she wouldn’t have believed me.
Maybe the idea of spending your days like this – and being okay with it – is making you edgy too.
We’re deeply conditioned to believe that we do not have value unless we are doing.
That our place in in the world is contingent on our productivity.
We are conditioned to believe that the most valuable members of society are the ones that can do.
Many of us have deeply-held values the centre on “making a difference” or “changing the world.”
(more on that later, I promise…so much more)
We as women have had the way paved for us by our foremothers, who learned to navigate this world of doing over being by fighting for equality in the workforce. We have come to identify ourselves by our careers, first and foremost.
(I’m gulping now, as I prepare to write something that I know will not go down easy…)
But by fighting for equality, we’ve been fighting for the right to be treated like men.
We’ve been fighting to become complicit in the male hegemonic doctrine that got us here
Here: hovered over our inboxes on Saturday morning, investing categorically fewer dollars in female-led caregiving professions, anxiety-ridden, not enough time, not enough money, not enough.
We’ve been fighting for the denial of our own authentic ways of being.
(pause here for much-needed clarity: I talk about men and women, here, as a mashup of the archetypical and the actual, with the knowledge that not all women identify with feminine ways of being, and also with the knowledge that this identification may be authentic to them, or a result of bone-deep social conditioning. I know what this means for me, but not for you, and I implore you to explore it for yourself if you’re finding this concept prickly)
What I would like to tell my twenty-five-year-old self is this:
Each log I put on the fire
Each word I teach my children
Each mother I support in the art of nurturance
Each woman I coach to find her voice and claim her power and connect with her wild feminine
Each loaf of bread
Each newly-germinated seed
Is a radical act.
My tending is a vote for the kind of world I want to live in
and a stand against a world that would deny the value of my work, my gender, my childbearing, my intuition, my wildness.
My tending is my power.