I am thrilled to be sharing a new interview series with you each and every week: #realmothersdiversevoices. In this series my intention is to reveal the endless ways our family values can inform our Daily Rhythm. The mothers I have interviewed lead diverse lives but they each have a huge sense of clarity about what their Family Values are (even if they change over time) and consciously and creatively strive to create a Daily Rhythm in alignment with those values.
It is my hope that through these stories more Mothers feel inspired to explore what their own family values are, to question them and bring them to life in their everyday experience. I know that seeing the world through another Mother’s lens will develop more empathy, understanding and compassion between us.
Today I am honoured to welcome Cat to Whole Family Rhythms community. Cat is a homesteader, gardener, maker of things, student of plants, knitter and failed artist. She and her family are trailer dwellers in the woods and she likes documenting their adventures at The Olive Trees and the Moon as well as on her beautiful Instagram page @theolivetreesandthemoon
Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family?
Hey there! My name is Cat and I share my life with Sam. We have been living in the very deep countryside for about three years now. We started off in a tiny abandoned stone hut on family land, where we ventured into animal keeping and garden growing. We also gave birth to a tiny human with curly hair during our stay. However, we lived very isolated – so are now transitioning into a new piece of land we recently bought, in the midst of a kind of community, and starting the homesteading adventure all over again. Sam works with a carpenter and I stay home with our little one and make things.
What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?
The love, all the love. And this joy explodes in tiny sparkles during the day, while I watch her play in the forest, see her own personality unfold, witness all the love she has inside her – the unexpected kisses she comes to give, or the caring way she holds a baby chicken or waters her own pot of chamomile seedlings. This sentence may be messy, but I hope you understand what I want to say.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother?
I wish this weren’t my immediate answer: not having much time for myself. There, I said it. I’m still getting used to this, one and a half years later. For me, creative expression (mainly under the form of visual arts and writing) has always played a big role in keeping me calm and balanced. I am learning, slowly but steady, to adjust my own needs to our child’s rhythm.
What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?
It means having a stable frame where pieces can fall back into sense. What I mean is, having a rhythm gives us predictable flows and moments. This is a wonderful thing. On one hand, because we are in a transition moment – still fitting into our new homestead – and this helps us ground, feel confident and keep balanced, even when the strong winds of change blow. On the other, because this helps us predict ahead the moments we can carve out for ourselves.
Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?
Joy, kindness, respect and community.
How do you hope to pass these values onto your children? Or in other words, how do you manifest these family values into your daily rhythm?
Practicing our beliefs is, for us, the better way of passing these values. So, because action works better than words, we manifest joy not only by smiling (we’re very smiley people!) but also by doing things that make us happy. Kindness by being gentle in our actions and words and encouraging J to do the same. We manifest respect by treating our child like the person with her own will that she is, not in a childish way; we explain things to her using our full vocabulary; and we show her that others deserve as much care as she does – whether it is a tree, a chicken or our neighbor. Lastly, we are inserted in a community, we do things together, we trade, we share meals and hard work – we think that by observation, interaction and being included she will understand how important this feeling of love and support is.
Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your child. Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare?
Our days flow freely in their majority, but there are a few moments that remain the same:
7:00 We wake up and make breakfast:
7:30 Sam leaves to work, me and J finish having breakfast;
8:30 We get dressed, I clean up the house and do the dishes while she plays nearby
9: We head outside. I am normally working on the land and either carrying her on my back or she is playing in next to me. Often, my work ends up put aside and we do some painting under a tree.
10: We have a snack – fruit, oatmeal…
10:30 J has a nap – this is my moment! I use this time for knitting, weaving dreamcatcher orders or reading.
11:30 I start preparing lunch, so it will be almost ready when she wakes up.
12:30 J wakes up and we have lunch together
13:30 We do something calm inside, playing games or reading books.
15: Afternoons are usually dedicated to community. We get on the bike with some food and go see our friends. Depending on who we get to see each day, J may spend the afternoon chasing ducks, playing with children while the moms enjoy some coffee and chat or helping out someone with a garden task.
17:30 We head home, and so does Sam. We spend family time together outside, talking and playing.
18:30 We start preparing dinner – J’s favorite task is to take all the kitchen scraps to the compost bin outside.
19:30 Dinner time
20:00 We get outside while there’s still light, and J is usually playing around us or with us.
20:45: Brushing teeth, washing hands, undressing and story time. We like covering books from Roald Dahl to Astrid Lindgren and even J. K. Rowling.
21:30 In a good day, the little one is already asleep by now. In an even better day, Sam is still awake by now and we can enjoy a good conversation, discuss our land works and garden and share some tea from something I’ve harvested before going to bed. I also like to use this moment to knit some more rows or read a few more pages.
When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter?
We tend to sweep this rhythm under the carpet when we’re away from home, either visiting family or in a van trip somewhere – and that’s ok.
Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?
Definitely! As we spend most of our day outside, and live on the countryside, different seasons mean different weathers and light hours, and also different types of work outside. She is growing up so quickly and wanting do to different things. For example, when J was smaller, I would spend so much time working on the garden with her sleeping on my back. That would be impossible by now, since she is much more active and participative, which makes a long session of garden work difficult. She wants to help, but doesn’t understand some things and her focus shifts often (not to mention she has a thing for picking and trying to eat all the unripe tomatoes from the plants, so we can’t stay near the plants for too long). We need to diversify our activities and involve her in different ways according to her age
. Now, she is very into her small pot of growing flowers, watering it daily with her tiny watering can. Later, we can try to upgrade what she is learning now into a garden bed just for her. By then, our daily rhythm will have changed again. Maybe we will spend more time working together in something instead of one-on-one play (which I love, no doubt!)
When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?
Two things make wonders for this. Usually, a good talk with a mother friend over a cup of tea will remind me that is normal to feel confused some days (we’ve all been there, and we will all keep on going there every now and then!). Exchanging frustrations, ideas and laughs is so spirit-lifting! If not, having some time alone working in the garden or going for a walk and some ethical wildcrafting, connecting to plants and to the soil fills me up with good energy and I feel refreshed upon returning Home to my family.
If you could recommend one book to ALL Mothers out there what would it be?
Shortly after J’s birth, I was gifted “Our Babies, Ourselves – How Biology and Culture shape the way We Parent”, by Meredith F. Small. I love how it presents an anthropological perspective over parenting, by describing the way different cultures approach childcare. I interpret that there are no right or wrongs in parenting, just different ways based on our cultural, social and economical values.