Beyond selling baby products, I am interested in motherhood around the world. I love looking at it through a different lens. This often happens when I view motherhood from the perspective of a person, time or place other than myself. Motherhood is dear to my heart because I am a mother of two children, and because motherhood has been, for me, an amalgam of heartbreaking moments, humbling hurdles and incredible joy. More than anything else, motherhood has asked me a thousand questions I have yet to answer.
Why did I have children? What kind of mother do I want to be? What is good mothering? Why do I feel so isolated in a role that is often portrayed as inclusive? Would mothering be easier in another country? Would mothering be harder? What is the meaning of community, and how does it apply to motherhood? Do all mothers battle over issues like meals, bedtimes and play dates? Is everyone else missing baby cuddles? Do other mothers simultaneously long for another baby while being grateful for a full night of sleep? What do women in China feed their babies? How do European women feel about breastfeeding? Are manners a Western concept applied to children? Is everyone else co-sleeping?
The list goes on. I am compelled by all of it, and I hope that a blog format will allow a community discussion of not only these questions but also the many questions we have yet to ask or even wonder.
I also want to tell the story of my time in China, which was spent over a two year period from the summer of 1999 to the summer of 2001. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer and taught English to college students in a small teachers college north of Chengdu. In what is my typical pattern, I both loved it and hated it. I had some of my lowest moments in China, and I had some of my highest. I tend to go for that sort of thing, for extremes. I am willing to suffer the low to experience the high. I feel that motherhood in general has quite a bit of that. There are those awful nights, when teething takes hold and you spend hours in a rocking chair, beside a window, and watch moonlight creep across your baby’s face. Rocking. Hours of rocking. That moment itself was both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The exhaustion was debilitating. But the memory of my daughter’s tiny hand gripping mine as she finally slept stays with me today, a decade later. I find myself grateful I sat and held her, even if I thought it would kill me.
I think often about what motherhood looked like in China. I was very young then, only 24. I know that I didn’t see motherhood clearly then, because I wasn’t looking for it and hadn’t experienced it myself. I have been back three times since Peace Corps, and each time I go back, I see something new. I love going back for the shoes because I get to be around mothers, grandmothers and babies. It’s a different experience than when I was 24. Holding a baby now means something different to me than it did then. There is an extra weight to it. When I hold a 7-month old baby of any background, I am holding hours of feedings, diaper changes, soothing, playing, laughing and crying. It isn’t just a cute baby with fat cheeks and squishy limbs. When I hold a baby now, I think more about the mother than I do about the baby, and as I stood in China, rocking a baby on my hip, I was so grateful to those women for sharing their stories with me and letting me into their world even for the briefest time.
My desire to travel the world and seek out unique and handmade baby products (which, by the way, is my desire) isn’t born so much from a desire to become a businesswoman or marketing expert. I really just want to explore cultures and people, and when I see some adorable item I think the world might want to know about….I’ll bring it home to share. Along with that item, I’ll share the story.
Because for me….it’s really all about the story.