Tagged childhood

A fresh look at philanthropy for the overworked parent

For the Love of Humankind: A Bit of Sanity for the Overworked Parent

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Philanthropy – a word from Greek origin that translates to “ for the love of mankind”.

A fresh look at philanthropy for the overworked parent

Philanthropists are generous, donating time and/or money where profit is not a motive. This idea, though still at the core of philanthropy, is evolving. Everyday people use their buying power to effect change when they support organizations that ‘give back’, are local (less environmental impact), support fair-trade, etc. I call it ‘conscious consumerism’ and you see it everywhere these days. Many businesses have it built into their philosophy where employees are paid to donate time for a cause, where corporate sponsorship, business-lead fundraising (think of 5km runs for cancer, walks for muscular dystrophy etc.) are the norm. So how does this relate to parenting?

It comes down to mindset. Who comes to mind when you think of a philanthropist? You may think of Andrew Carnegie for which Carnegie Hall in New York City is named, or Bill Gates and his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Both Carnegie and Gates were wise businessmen, set on amassing fortunes often before their generous spirit was sparked. The kind of philanthropy they and many who amass millions are associated with comes with brand or name recognition, and there’s nothing wrong with that, often a name helps attract and initiates further generosity, which is great. Carnegie believed his purpose (and that of industrialists) was to first accumulate wealth and to follow that by distributing the wealth to benevolent causes. In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Warren Buffet launched the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy. Though I have certain issues with the Gates Foundation (why not make computers that don’t become obsolete is what many argue and I would agree), the Foundation does amazing work in so many fields across the globe. But what about your neighbor, who picks up two other kids from your street afterschool and looks after them, free of charge, until thier working parents come home? Take a look in the mirror. What about you?

Since working on a book on philanthropy with Gena Rotstein of Dexterity Ventures (www.dexterityventures.ca) how I look at philanthropy and the work I do as a parent has been changing. I would’ve never thought myself a philanthropist before. Sure, I’ve donated dollars to support friends and colleagues in their donation pledges and I’ve run in a number of charity runs, but that wasn’t philanthropy, or so I though. It counts of course, but in my mind that wasn’t real philanthropy. The writing I’ve been doing with Gena Rotstein has been about actualizing what philanthropy can glean from a business – asking questions, having a goal and strong vision, being accountable – these are just a few business applications that are reshaping the landscape of philanthropy and have reshaped how I began to look at parenting as a kind of philanthropy. I’m donating LOTS of time and energy to raising a decent human being – one who is courteous, mindful, respectful, brave, thoughtful, inquisitive, playful, and innovative. This is not for personal gains alone. My son is going to outlive me of course, but before that his outreach is going to extend way beyond my personal world. Am I parenting so I can boast that he has manners and gets good grades? Not at all.

When you think about, it’s not a stretch, to see that when we engage in mindful parenting (and yes, that clause is important because I don’t think it’s applicable always, like when I let the TV run, I’m not being mindful though that’s ok too), aren’t we doing so “for the love of humankind?”

I’m not suggesting anything beyond opening up our minds to what parenting is. That in those tough moments when things don’t seem to being going right, when he’s not listening, when you are pressed for time and struggling to find patience to be kind when your kid is shouting no at you and you strive to look beyond the scene playing out in front of you. Think of me. Think of your neighbours. Think of your children’s future acquaintances. Go beyond that scene, take a breath and then respond. What happens when you think, this is not about me, or him, but how can I act here, now, that will change our future interactions for the better? This is philanthropy at it’s core – generating time, a huge dose of patience to practice asking how your actions can move beyond solving the immediate to solving the immediate AND effecting change in the future. Sounds pretty great doesn’t it? You act in a way that gets you out of a bind but is also generous to everyone else around you by engaging with your child in a way that suggests accountable actions (both yours and his) in the future. It’s a pretty great investment. It’s hard to see it like that sometimes, but it’s helped me in some of those moments and I offer it here, as possibly helping you step beyond a tense scene for a great cause: for you, your child, for me. For the love of humankind.

 

*For more doses of the philanthropist mindset Kim is starting a Daily Donation on her blog WhiteSpaceBlackArt.com where you can find generous spirit motivators useful to parents and non-parents alike and information on various charities doing work in all realms of outreach that have to do with our future: children.

 

How do I know it is time to wean?

On Breastfeeding, Bonding and Weaning

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I’m eating cold chicken fried rice from a takeout container in the light of the fridge; door left open with me staring into the shelves like some culinary masterpiece will present itself. It’s almost midnight and I’ve just been lying on the grass outside with a dear old friend who is visiting from Israel. I get to see her once a year, her arrival marked in the calendar as soon as she books her flight. Tonight was just about us – I left my two-year-old at home with papa for the routine of bath, books and bed. I was free from that and free from the more-usual-than-not back and forth my son and I have over breastfeeding.

How do I know it is time to wean?

Like teenagers, my friend and I lay in the grass watching the clouds pass overhead, stars twinkling above us, not a care in the world. Since we both have children this is far from our reality. We care, about so many, too many little things. Tonight thought, was soul nourishing – conversation that had nothing to do with diapers and education and the potentially controversial topic of my breasts still being used to nourish and soothe my son.

I feel aligned with photographer Jade Bell, in her strength in allowing the relationship with her son prevail over anything else. I tell myself that my son and I will be done with the “booboo” routine by the age of three and the pictures of Jade nursing her 3 year old son don’t confirm or change this thought, I’m simply thinking (as perhaps Jade did too) that for sure by then the dance will end.

Days can pass without nursing my son. We get through bedtime without him asking, he cries and he’s comforted simply with a hug. But just when I think we are done with it for good, he asks for it. I rationalize. I debate. I suggest alternatives to him but so far, I’ve continued to concede to the desire of my 25-month old. Some days I love it. Some nights, it drives me mad with rage that he’s asking. Shouldn’t this be done by now? I want my breasts back! Am I preventing independence by indulging him?

Weaning comes with variances and styles. Phase the breast out, offer milk. Have someone else do the nighttime routines. Just stop. The first day will be hell, really hell, but by day three you’ll be laughing. Go away for a few nights – he won’t want it when you return.

I’ve spent a great deal of time wondering what the ‘right’ method is and I’ve come to this: I will only know when I know. When I’m either too tired or mad by the idea of breastfeeding or when I do take that 48-hour self-care reprieve I so desire, it will end. Some may argue that it’s laziness or co-dependent to let our breastfeeding routine continue and the truth is it’s personal and quite frankly, nobody’s business. It’s not ‘right’ to wean at 3 months or 6 or 12 or 18 months. It’s not ‘wrong’ to be breastfeeding a child at three. The more I’ve had to sit with this, this who-knows from one day to the next if he’ll ask, the more I’ve actually let go of any rules I read about parenting and really tuned into the personal needs of my son. He will succeed at potty training when he does. He moved into a bed from a crib easily at 18 months. Some days he likes broccoli, most days he does not. I’m not being entirely indulgent with him. We talk about it ending; I think he understands that it’s winding down. Like Jade Bell I don’t breastfeed in public anymore, it’s just not something I want to do.

I also understand that he’s my little guy, and he doesn’t take a soother or suck his thumb and maybe this is just our little thing, our gift of lingering in the tender skin on skin moments that trace back to his first breathe in this world. I feel lucky (and a bit surprised) that I’ve been able to continue to breastfeed.

After I finished eating cold take out I stayed up and wrote until 1am. The alarm went off at 5am in my bedroom, my son coming to cuddle shortly after that. The visit with my distant girlfriend is so cherished, lying on the grass that evening even more so. I won’t forget it for a long time – it was so freeing to lie there, late as it was. Admitting to being famished afterward and standing in front of the fridge simple means I’m human. I feel similarly about breastfeeding – me eating cold take one night and me ‘extended breastfeeding’ my son is so very private, and makes me neither a terrible or grand person. My son will one day know when he’s done, I trust that with our continued discussions and his emotional growth, it will one day be like watching the clouds pass over the stars and the feeling of grass on my back on a warm July day – an image that brings happiness. Ruminations of bonding with my son. Tender and loving. I won’t remember the exact day he stops nursing, unless I mark it down, and I doubt I will. That’s too methodical. I’d rather mark the milestones of growth with sweet nights that pass into memory with fondness.