In this interview 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 Alyson Morgan to Whole Family Rhythms community. Alyson is an ecofeminist, writer, homesteader, maker, budding herbalist, mother of two. She spends time cultivating an enchanted homestead and is building an eco-collective curating voices and stories to inspire reconnection to the earth and each other to motivate people to make daily changes to fight climate change through intentional living. You can follow her Instagram profile alyson_laure and her blog maiaterraco.com.
Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family?
Hello, I’m Alyson. A creature of habit and home, a yogi, Taurus sun and moon who finds beauty and connection from the earth. I’m a California native getting acclimated to midwest living by living in tune with the earth’s cycles. My husband, AJ and I met at UC Davis where I graduated with a degree in International Relations with focus on climate change and global health, and AJ, a Masters in African History. Our studies left us acutely aware of global conditions of capitalism, climate change, and the current political system. We strive to align our daily routines with our values which led us to seek a slower, intentional life in the midwest. We work together to raise our multiracial family in rural Wisconsin with a global awareness. Together, we created two amazing human beings, Magnolia, four years old and Griffin, two years old. They are seventeen months apart and the best of friends. Their love for each other makes my heart explode daily. Our goal in parenting is to raise them with a mind and heart towards justice, equality, and empathy while maintaining a simple childhood. When I’m not mothering, I write and curate my blog as well as work part-time for a local solar company.
What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?
One of my greatest joys as a mother is simply holding their little hands in mine. I know this moment and feeling will not last forever. I love to watch them use their imagination to create worlds together only they know and the giggling that ensues. I love to watch them build their personal connection to nature. I am astounded when they’ve learned or absorbed something I hadn’t explicitly taught them. Children’s capacity for imagination and learning amazes me.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother?
One of the biggest challenges I face as a mother is how to make space for self-care, my interests, and my work without guilt. It can be difficult to remember self-care is not selfish, it is a necessity. I find the more I love, nurture and accept myself; the more I have to give to my family. I’m learning to balance the time I mothering with asserting my needs as an individual. I’m also a recovering perfectionist, so I struggle with letting go of expectations of myself and just accept the reality of raising two small children. I often wish the house was always clean but realize I’d rather spend time playing in the garden then mopping the floors. I’d rather be cooking meals from scratch then stressing over how clean everything is. I have to remember to savor these fleeting moments with my children rather than stress myself over maintaining a “tidy” home.
What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?
Rhythm in our home means having a somewhat predictable flow to our activities and our seasons. Magnolia attends a Waldorf school that has informed our rhythms and taught us that as a family unit, we enjoy predictability. We love to have fun and spontaneous adventures, but everyone is most happy when we move in familiar ways. So we really love food in this house and meals help define our rhythm. Breakfast is always a similar and nourishing meal. We try to eat at the same time every day. Naps and family walks are life-giving activities that feed us and help us be our kindest selves. Rhythm means similar beats at a similar pace.
Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?
First and foremost, in our home, we value our relationships with each other, the earth, love, and empathy. We value diversity: diversity of thought, spirituality, emotions, and experiences. We try to create a safe space to be angry, upset, sad, the full range of this human experience and still be loved and accepted by each other. We as parents make mistakes and need to apologize. We are human too, It’s important for our kids to know that people aren’t always happy, they make mistakes and that is how we learn and grow. We also value eating our meals together. We try our best to eat breakfast together and dinner always enjoyed as a family of four. Before each meal, we hold each other’s hands and say “Love you all, Namaste”.
How do you hope to pass these values on to your children? Or in other words, how do you manifest these family values into your daily rhythm?
Magnolia is enrolled in a Waldorf kindergarten and that experience has reinforced our family values of empathy, honoring the seasons, and attending to spiritual growth. In line with respecting the earth, we value eating organic, local foods when possible to support farmers and environmental health, although we are aware this is a privileged place to be. This spring and summer, it was my mission to grow a lot of the fresh food we ate to understand our connection to the earth and where our food comes from. I want to impart a respect for all living things with my children and give them the skills to sustain themselves. I think that relationship can start with food. We explored this relationship when we got chickens this spring. Magnolia goes to the coop in the morning to greet the chickens. She feeds them, sits and watches them lay, she lets them out and collects their eggs. She is learning the process of caring for another being. Participating in the giving and taking it requires to produce food and learning where her food comes from. Eggs just don’t magically appear on a grocery store shelf. Cooking and sharing meals together also reinforces this value, having them watch and participate in harvesting and cooking, they understand that food takes effort and time. Another value I hold is time for free play and imagination. I think its important for kids to be “bored” so I don’t like to schedule too many activities for our kiddos. I feel they will have their whole lives to be at a practice or participating in structured time. At their age, I really value free play. I love to watch the games they create and the stories they tell. It is important to give them space where they learn how to negotiate their wants and needs with each other. The social and creative aspect of creating and guiding their own play is invaluable.
Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your child(ren)? Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for self-care?
Our days of summer have had less routine than I’d like so this fall transition and the routine it brings has been much anticipated.
5 o’clock (NOT) My fall goal is to wake up before the kiddos to do yoga or meditation. At this point, it is not happening consistently but I’m working on it.
6-6:30 am Magnolia wakes up (too early for my liking), tiptoes out of her shared room with Griffin and crawls into our bed. Sometimes she creeps out to the living room to read stories or play with her dollhouse.
7 am Griffin wakes up. Sometimes they play together and steal frozen blueberries from the freezer. I usually roll out of bed first, then start up the coffee, matcha, breakfast, pull a tarot card and smudge to start the day.
8:10 am During the school year, Magnolia goes to school at this time and Griffin and I get some time to read or play outside. In summer months, this has been free time for the kids to play on their bikes outside and for me to weed or collect plants for medicine from the garden.
10 am I work in the kitchen or garden, Griffin/Magnolia play outside if the weather is nice or color, paint or spend time with the babysitter if I am working.
12:30 pm Lunch time
1 pm Nap time for Magnolia and Griffin, and sometimes me, if I’m lucky. Usually, I try to fit in meditation, writing or more garden time.
4:30 pm Daddy is done with work, let family time commence!
5 pm Usually we take s bike ride, a play outside and walk to the local co-op for last minute groceries for dinner or if I’m not feeling like cooking, tacos at the taco truck.
6-7 pm Family dinner. We almost always eat together.
7 pm A wind-down walk
7: 30 pm Family clean up of shared spaces, bath time, bedtime stories and goodnight song or sometimes if the energy is still high, a dance off!
8-10 o’clock AJ and I might finish cleaning, then read, time chatting or do something for ourselves as individuals. He sings in a local choir and I will host women’s moon gatherings or have a ladies’ night. I often use this time to catch up self-care with writing, meditation, taking an online course, pull tarot or go to bed early. AJ wanted me to add he loves video games.
How important are higher belief systems, stories, literature, art, family history and creative expression to your family? How do you weave these into your family life?
We don’t follow an organized religion but find spirituality and connection through nature, attention to the seasons and universal love. I identify as agonistic: I was raised Catholic and have studied Buddhism and yoga, so I try to incorporate elements into my parenting practice. I try to help our children tune into the seasons, the moon’s cycle, the environment through observation and activities. To pay attention to the shifts happening around us to understand helps illimunate our connection to all living things. Those outer changes affect our inner lives. A good deal of our children’s learning comes through storytelling and music. AJ is an avid reader with vast imagination to draw from. He makes up stories using animals that really capture the kiddos imaginations. We play and make up songs about our day. Along those lines, we use stories and books to provide diversity that is somewhat lacking in our immediate environment. My family lives in California and although we FaceTime with them regularly, I want Magnolia and Griffin to value brown and black faces that are not always present in rural Midwest, so we turn to books. Recently, my mother sent us a book that the kids and I hold near and dear to our hearts called Islandborn. It recounts the story of a little immigrant girl named Lola who is from the same island my mother immigrated from. Lola was young when she left her original homeland and for a class project, she is trying to piece together a picture of the island by connecting with her family and community. Through their stories, she learns her history and paints a picture from their memories. She ultimately discovers the island is always within her. My mother immigrated from Haiti when she was young, this book helped me understand her experience and feel comfort in knowing that even though I’ve never been there, the island lives in me. Now our kids know Mimi’s story through Lola. The power of storytelling!
When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter?
Our rhythms get thrown off when things change, inevitably. When we travel to visit family, when AJ goes on business trips, when we are sick and when the season change. We all become aware of the shift and look forward to getting back to equilibrium. This balance occurs through eating nourishing meals, family walks and reconnecting with each other.
Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?
Yes, the transitions from fall to winter and winter to spring are filled with so much longing and anticipation. We try to maintain play outdoors despite the weather (something Waldorf education is really good at) I honor this change by cooking with Ayurvedic principles to support our energy. As a family, we go through the house and switch out our wardrobes in preparation for the shift and donate or share items, toys, and clothes we have outgrown. These efforts help create space in our home and heart for the gifts of the incoming season. Another fun thing I’ve done to honor the seasons is to do an advent calendar with the children’s books. I keep the winter-holiday books in the basement until winter roll around and wrap them up in November. Starting December we read one book a night until Christmas.
When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?
When I get stuck or tired, I often need space to breathe to change my perspective and reconnect with the gratitude I have for my family. I need to nourish myself before I can give they way I want and the way they deserve. Nourishment comes in many forms: time alone in the garden, conversation with close girlfriends or my mom, twenty minutes of meditation, a shower, and even moments alone in a messy house goes a long way to regain pieces of myself. I have to remember these moments that seem huge and insurmountable will not last forever. One day, I am going to miss these full, joyous, messy, dirty, difficult moments with all my heart.
If you could recommend one book to ALL Mothers out there what would it be?
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes to rekindle the divine feminine within and help women remember who they were before the titles of Mother and Partner.