How’d I Get Here?––Herbalism, Feminism, Career, and Family

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The Real Herbalism Radio interview with Maria Noël Groves got me thinking.

I was raised in the first era of young feminism. Our older sisters were breaking glass ceiling after glass ceiling, crushing wandering office hands, and fighting for our right to a bonafide career complete with equal pay, dental, and vacation time. I was certain that career was exactly what I wanted when I set off for college.

A decade later, I’d changed my mind. It turns out as I unwrapped myself from those layers of what I thought I should be, I found I actually wanted to stay home and raise me a family. That, I have done, and I’m right proud of the job so far.

But, there are days when I look at my sisters, like Maria, who chose to go after that career. They’ve done good, good stuff in the world. They’ve earned degrees and certificates and creds, taught and written articles and books, been recognized in their chosen fields for their accomplishments, helped many, many people lead healthier, happier lives. They deserve each and every nugget of praise they get.

Honestly, I envy them sometimes. Stay-at-home mommying isn’t a respected career by a long stretch. Though we may turn out beautiful people, it’s rare we’re rewarded with much beyond the annual Mother’s Day pat on the back for all we’ve put into it. I knew that going into it, so it’s not like I’m shocked or even disappointed about it. I’m not even all that resentful. I just wonder sometimes if I might have done better to have tried to straddle the line by having a career and mommying or maybe just given up on the whole family thing for the career. I call those down-days, and I enjoy them in a cyclical fashion, usually just once per month.

Our visit with Maria happened to coincide with one of those days. Truly, how could I not question my own career choice a little next to her? She’s amazing. Warm. Kind. Intelligent and articulate. Fun-loving. She’s a really neat herbalist of the more sciency-sort who doesn’t make the intuitive types like me feel like fools. If I lived in New Hampshire, I’d be seriously tempted to see about going to a few of her classes. She’s got that incredible teacher-vibe that makes learning the hard stuff seem easy and fun.

I was honored to have her stop by for an interview and then take the time to have dinner with us and take a walk about a couple of the local parks. The whole time that little part of my Feministic brain that managed to survive the hormones of pregnancy, Moming through early childhood, and the ongoing tournament that is parenting an adolescent boy still hanging onto that traditional idea of what my career should look like kept reminding me I could be writing for national publications and teaching students and doing book tours, if only…

In the evening after dinner, we stopped off at Skinner’s Butte. We talked a bit about child-rearing and career. Something Maria said, coupled with the beautiful Eagle siting we had, finally kicked some sense back into me. I’d looked for herbalism for many, many years before my boy came along. I’d even read a few books and tried to find a teacher. I’d like to say I found the door, but it was locked. In reality, it was more like not even finding the door…knowing it was there somewhere, somehow but not being able to form the words to get the right directions to find it, in a word, Frustrating!

Then, the boy was born. With him, suddenly there were doors where there were no doors before. It was like my son had found the way to my Bliss and charged into the world oozing it from every pore. My first teacher, Dawn of Dawn’s Enchanted Garden, showed up along with the first herbal books that made real sense to me (Michael Wood’s The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines in particular), along with a whole Spiritual Path that unlocked all the stuff I’d been trying so hard to find. Without Finn, I would not be an herbalist today. I may be quilting, but I would not be a quilt or fiber artist. Nor would I have learned animal communication or connected the Shamanic stuff I was already doing with this reality in a way that didn’t sound absolutely crazy (at least to me!).

I’m grateful women like Maria are doing what they do so well. She and her sisters and brothers have helped open the field of herbalism to so many of us. They’re making a real difference in the world. I’m also thankful for women like Sue, my partner in The Practical Herbalist and Real Herbalism Radio, who’ve helped open the career doors in our field to latecomers like me who spent the better part of our young-and-hungry career-building years building family or other careers instead.

Possibly more than anything, I’m grateful for both my boy and the Eagle who reminded me of the gift he’d given me, a career as the perhaps slightly odd but none-the-less respectable herbalist and artist I’ve thus far become. On my next down day, I promise to come back and re-read this post to myself aloud, y’all, so you don’t have to go so far as sending a talented herbalist all the way from New Hampshire out to partner with a young Eagle-papa just to remind me the choices we all make, stay-at-home mums included, carry us exactly where we need to go.

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