Friday, 1 July 2011

How to be a Super Woman: Meet Alternative Mama!

1.Tell us about yourself
My name is Imogen and I’m twenty-three (going on seventeen). I am a mother, wife, struggling writer, blogger, occasional barmaid, tattoo-collector, hair-dyer and serial non-conformist. I have two gorgeous boy-children, Monkey and Squish (aged three years and 9 months, respectively), and I live with them and my lovely husband in a dinky house in a small Devonshire town. We subscribe to a lot of the attachment parenting philosophy – we co-sleep, babywear, cue-feed, and love (mostly) every minute of it.

Other than motherhood, my main vocation is blogging. I write mostly about parenting, breastfeeding and childbirth over at Alternative Mama. I am by no means an expert in any of those subjects, but I am passionate about them and love to learn as much as I can about them. I also freelance, writing web content and pretty much anything else I can get my hands on.

I also love to play the piano, go to the pub on the occasional girls night out, ride horses and go shopping (yeah, I know, baaaad crunchy mama ;) ). I love getting tattoos and piercings, and I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Dr Who.  

La Leche League breatsfeeding support
But mostly, I am passionate about mothering, breastfeeding and birth. I am trained as a La Leche League Peer Counsellor, and will soon be embarking on my application to become a LLL Leader, so I can help more mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals. I was once very militant about breastfeeding, but since starting the blog and meeting such a vast array of women from different walks of life, I have become so much more moderate in my views. I can see now that it’s not as clear a choice for everyone, and that bottle-feeding isn’t the Great Evil that some “lactivists” make it out to be. I’m not about pushing mothers into breastfeeding or making them feel bad if they don’t – I just want to help those who wish to do it.

2. Do you have a ‘grand plan’?  Do you think this has changed at all over the years?
Oh goodness, it’s changed more times than I care to remember. I am somewhat of a Madonna – constantly reinventing myself, my plans and my life (although this trait has settled down considerably since having the kidlets). Since I was at school, I have wanted to be: a singer, an actress, a writer, a midwife, a body piercer, a photographer, a doula, a traveller, a teacher, a librarian, a burlesque dancer, a DJ and a market stall owner. Out of all of those, the first five are the only ones I keep coming back to. Maybe one day I’ll be all five… watch this space.

In all honesty, I don’t think I could ever have a grand plan. I am just not one of those people who can pick a path and stick to it. I crave change; I need it. The only career I have ever wanted, that couldn’t possibly get bored of, is a career in the performing arts.  Singing is my first love, followed closely by acting. They are The Ones That Got Away, and although I love the life I have chosen, I will always wonder what would have happened if I had believed in myself a little more and gone after my dreams when I was a young ‘un.

3. What gets you up in the mornings?
I am usually awoken by a soft, warm little person either attempting to latch onto my elbow or hitting me squarely in the face. Either way, I open my eyes to a gorgeous, smiling little Squishy. I swear he is the happiest baby in the world. Occasionally my older boy, Monkey, is already awake and I will hear him chatting away to himself and his toys on the monitor. There have been times in my life (and I’m sure there will be more) at which I have struggled to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning but my beautiful, amazing, inspiring, exasperating children are the very best motivation.

4. Run us through a typical kind of day.
A typical kind of day for us is not overly exciting, to be honest. Life with two small children is far too busy for any kind of excitement or spontaneity!  We usually leave the house at some point – either for a playdate at a friend's house, a baby or toddler group, or just a mooch around town. Wednesdays are my favourite day – that’s when I volunteer at our local breastfeeding support group. I absolutely love talking to the new mums and helping them with their breastfeeding queries  - and having snuggles with their cute little babies, of course! Nothing makes me happier than knowing that I’ve made a positive difference to somebody’s nursing experience. However, I have to say I feel equally warm and fuzzy when a woman feels able to talk to me about the possibility of combination feeding their babies, or that she is considering switching to formula altogether. I know that making the choice to formula feed, partially or completely, is a weighty decision that can attract the kind of judgemental comments that no mother needs or deserves.  Knowing that a woman feels safe enough with me to be able to talk about that is very humbling.

5. When you experience a setback, how do you pick yourself back up again?
I think all you can really do is forge on ahead, regardless of how the setback makes you feel. I find that writing things down, or talking them through with someone really helps.  At the end of the day, all we can do is push on ahead. Time waits for no man. The thing that sets me back the most is when I allow my workload to get on top of me. The best thing to do in that situation is to write everything down that I need to do, and tackle just one or two points right there and then. Nothing makes me feel less overwhelmed than being able to tick a couple things off the list.

6. Who or what inspires you the most?
I never cease to be inspired by the women whose blogs I read on a regular basis. Their witty and intelligent work inspires me to try to be a better writer, and their eloquent, honest and sometimes hilarious stories of life with their kids, self-exploration and musings on various aspects of parenting inspire me to be a better person and a better mum. 

Away from motherhood and blogging, I am inspired by the selfless, patient, forgiving and limitless love of my husband. I never thought I’d find somebody who would take everything I could throw at him and still want to be around me regardless. I am a lucky girl indeed.

Alternative Mama as an innocent babe!
7. We all have bad days when we doubt our abilities and ourselves. How do you get through yours?
This is something I really struggle with. When I started out blogging, I didn’t realise what a thick skin you have to have in order to get through. Of course, on the blogs I follow I would see negative comments pop up every now and then but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that I would get negative comments. In my perfectionist manner, I just assumed I would somehow figure out how to please everybody and all would be well (I bet you can guess how that turned out!).

I’ve learnt now that, no matter how moderate and fair you are, you are always going to upset somebody so you might as well be true to yourself in the meantime. Being the sensitive person that I am, I will likely always take negative comments to heart - so I just try my best to remember that if you’re not pissing anybody off, you’re not doin’ it right (and that’s totally true, by the way). Talking it over with somebody helps to get a little perspective, but the best thing I think you can do is take a deep breath, physically ground yourself and just let it go as best you can. Surrounding yourself with positive people is always helpful – they will help you see the wonderful things about yourself when you are incapable of seeing them for yourself.

8. What do you feel are your greatest achievements and why?
My children. They are such beautiful little people. I suppose they aren’t really an achievement of mine, though. They are who they are in spite of me, not because of me. 

I know lots of people wouldn’t think of this as an achievement, but I feel pretty proud of how my home birth turned out. I know that Mother Nature is a powerful lady and sometimes even the best-laid birth plans go awry, but I am pretty proud of myself for squeezing out a human being onto my living room floor without any pain relief or intervention. That’s not to say that medicated or medically managed births are not something to be proud of – they certainly are!  Bringing forth life into the world is always something to be proud of, no matter how the babe makes their entrance.

It’s not really One Big Achievement but I do feel collectively proud of the achievements of our breastfeeding group. I was one of the first group of Peer Supporters trained in our area and we opened our town’s Breastfeeding Support Group 3 years ago. We have had so much positive feedback, and when women say that if it wasn’t for our group they wouldn’t have continued breastfeeding, it makes me feel quietly proud. Knowing that you have made a positive difference to somebody’s life (and the long-term health of a child) is quite an incredible feeling.

9. Tell us what you think constitutes a “Super Woman” and list 3 key ingredients for success.
I think all mothers are Super Women as standard. Before having children I had no. freaking. idea. how hard raising kids was. In my family, having children was always seen as the thing you did if you were too stupid or lazy to get an education or a Real Job. I felt a bit like I was copping out when I chose to have kids. Oh, how wrong I was. 

I think the three key ingredients for success (whether that is success in staying sane whilst raising happy kids, success in your education or in your job) are as follows – 

  • Determination. Never give up. I know it sounds really cheesy but it’s true. Never ever allow the word “failure” to enter your vocabulary or your mind. If something is important to you, keep trying. Sometimes you might have to remind yourself why your goal is important to you, which brings me onto my next point…
  • Support. It really does take a village. Allow others to help and support you in ways that are useful to you. That doesn’t mean letting them do the hard work for you – it means allowing them to ease the burden, freeing up energy for you to pursue your goals and do what makes you happy. It means surrounding yourself with people who believe in you enough to make you believe in yourself when you hit a wall and don’t feel as though you can carry on.
  • Always, always be true to yourself. Don’t ever try to live up to someone else’s expectations of you – and definitely never try to live up to your own, unrealistic expectations of yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else. You are beautiful, amazing, incredible, unique and wonderful just as you are. We each have a gift to give to the world and a legacy to leave – find yours.

10. Final words of wisdom?
Happiness and contentment are things that you will only find within yourself. Don’t rely on others to give you these things, and don’t expect any one thing to fulfil you completely. Recognise and embrace the fact that that you are unique, and not comparable. And when you figure out how to do these things, for heavens sake let me know ;)  

If you want to read more of Imogen’s musings, you can find her at her blog, Alternative Mama, where she rambles about parenting, breastfeeding, childbirth, alternative lifestyle and other topics pertaining to modern alternative families.  You can also follow her on Twitter, and join the conversation at her active Facebook community.

Do you know someone who fits the bill of Super Woman? Even yourself - don't be shy! If you would like to take part or recommend a friend, please send a message with the details to me at giveanearthly at gmail dot com.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much again for asking me to participate in this series :) I LOVED writing this post. :)


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