Sunday, April 24, 2011

Do your children know who you are?

Before you start feeling guilty about the images you didn't put into scrapbooks about your kids this winter, I want to give you a fresh new project to think about.

For Mother's Day this year, I'm preparing a photo book about ME to give my kids.

Before they came into our lives, we dreamed about what kind of mother we wanted to be -- what kind of child we might have. Then our child was HERE and we love them and nurture them and pick up after them and earn money to feed them and clothe them and we warn them about dangers like stairs, sockets, sharp things and strangers.

In an instant, it seems, the philosophy of parenting -- what is the wisdom I want to share with you, my beloved child? -- slips further away as we concentrate on the day to day.

This year, however, I'm digging out my old notebooks, kept in the years leading up to Motherhood for me, and the photos of me from my 20s and 30s looking bright and thin and adventurous. And I'm compiling them in a Shutterfly memory book that is all about their Mom, the kind of life I led before they came into my life...and what I hope for THEIR bright future.

Making it easier, I found a list I had made, just post-divorce in my early 30s, titled "What do I know?", written six years before I became a Mom. It includes nuggets like:
• I don't like people who don't respect and accept individual choice
• I love music and I love to dance
• I admire calmness, wit, confidence, intelligence and grace
• I don't like the spotlight but do insist that I stand apart from the norm
• I have confidence I will land on my feet eventually, whatever the situation

One of my notebooks contains lengthy journal entries from trips I took in Eastern Europe, Madagascar and Australia. Others are notes for novels I have nursed.

I also -- from a time when I was especially finding my way to a new stage of life -- have quotes that will very much be part of my special Mother's Day book to my children. Such as:

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" -- Anais Nin

"I learn by going where I have to go." -- Theodore Roethke

"True life is lived when tiny changes occur." -- Leo Tolstoy

"Discovering in every man that which distinguishes him from others is to know him." -- Hermann Hesse

"Develop interest in life as you see it, in people, things, literature, music -- the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself." -- Henry Miller

I will pick a few images and photos to make my own personalized Mother's Day card from me to them. And I will even make a special thank you card to my own mother this year, for helping me become the kind of Mother I am.

What insights do YOU want your children to know from you?
For this Mother's Day, write it down.
Even if your children aren't here yet, or are well gone.

-- Mikki
P.S. If you blog, Shutterfly is offering 50 free cards for people who mention their special photobook and announcement projects. Click here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Special resources for the Choice Mom community

As we develop more (largely FREE!) e-books and other special guides for the Choice Mom community, I thought this would be a good place to list everything so far available. This list will grow, so keep checking back.

Choice Mom Guide to Donor Sperm
The 28-page guidebook offers Q&A about key sperm bank policies... suggestions on how to make contact with donor families... resources for talking to your child... explanations about washed v. unwashed and more... expert insight on genetic testing... and a checklist of questions to ask your sperm bank.

Do I Have a Dad? CD tracks
This special 50-minute audio compilation features interviews with four experts (including two therapists from the Bay Area) about talking to our children about "daddies" and donors. It includes conversations with six Choice Moms about the kinds of questions and concerns they face as their children start using the daddy term or connect with their known donors. And it includes the insight of an anonymous donor who has had contact with grown offspring.

Choice Moms Guide to Fertility
Excerpt, from Choice Mom Cathi: "I never knew what a dolt I was about female fertility until I tried to understand my own. I wish it was as easy as coping with a bad golf game or quitting smoking. Practice doesn't help, and there are no tasty spearmint Bun-in-the-Oven gums to chew. No, there are long uncomfortable minutes with your toes in the air (I seem to recall that some don't conceive this way, but I'm having trouble remembering the concept). I tried ovulation test strips. These are great because I never get tired of peeing on things, especially my own hands."

Choice Mom Guide to Adoption
A 100-page compilation of expert insights and personal Choice Mom stories about the myths and realities of: building transracial families, negotiating open relationships with birth parents, the cost and accessibility of adoption to single women, bonding with your adopted child, parenting over 40, foster care options, and much more.

Choice Chat podcasts
With more than 34,000 downloads, these popular conversations cover everything from negotiating with a known donor, to everything you might want to know about at-home insemination, to profiles of women on the Choice Mom journey.

Choice of Choice Moms: 2010
Our top tips featured on in 2010, featuring everything from Organization to Building a Support Network, Q&A to Commentary.

Top 10 Choice Mom Profiles: 2010
A compilation of some of the best personal stories shared on in 2010.

Voices of Donor Conception
Whether you are married or single, understanding the ramifications of using donor gametes can be scary. Here are unique perspectives shared from donor-conceived offspring, an anonymous donor, and the co-founder of Donor Sibling Registry.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Conscious Conversations #2

Here it is...the end of the month when we focused on Conscious Conversations, and it took me weeks to get to THIS conversation with you. Isn't that the trickiness of our lives? How to make time for what matters, when the minutia of everyday gets in our way.

My daughter is nearly 12 and we've been having the most fascinating conversations lately. Nothing about the lack of a father in her life -- other than her recent thought that if I had a husband I wouldn't have to work so hard. Nothing about the donor who helped me create her life, someone she knew once upon a time when we all lived in the same city but who she has not been curious about since she was seven.

We've been talking about things like how to pick your friendships. How to engage emotionally with friends, when your natural inclination might be to protect yourself from having them know how you really feel. Politics. Religion. How to make a difference in the world. Whether to sell the house and -- now that I've largely decided NOT to move to a smaller place, why I'm making that decision, based on logic, not simply emotion. Why it's okay to not be perfect. How to avoid being bossy. Career options (she's currently leaning toward forensic anthropology). College options (she's currently leaning toward Cambridge in the U.K.). The fear that overwhelmed us when a classmate she knows was reported missing, from the end of the school day until she finally returned from a friend's at 10pm.

And this is just in the past two months.

What we haven't yet talked about is the time I sat down with a man we've been spending time with, who asked for her weekly help teaching computer skills to the elderly in an adult education class. About how I had to consciously ask him questions to ascertain why he is an unmarried, childless man in his 40s who loves working with kids.

I haven't yet talked to her about what I learned in a PTA-led discussion with a police detective, after a released sexual offender moved a block away from my son's school. Including the fact that statistically the highest prevalence of sexual abuse comes when a single mom gets a boyfriend who becomes entrusted with care when she's gone. Or about my own history with date rape.

These are all big, scary conversations. And as she gets closer every day to the time when she will socialize with adolescent boys, what is her model for how to interact, and protect herself, and focus on becoming true, trusted friends before anything else happens?

What might be of interest to some of you -- especially Thinkers and Moms of young children who are starting to ask questions about "dad" -- is that most of the conscious conversations we have with our children have nothing to do with their origin story.

It's an important conversation to have regularly, of course. But what it all comes down to, really, is that we build the kind of relationship with our kids that enables us to HAVE these deep conversations. It starts with those "simple" origin stories -- why are you here, why did I make our family the way that I did, who matters to us. But then we graduate on, with that openness and honesty as backdrop, to the bigger questions that concern our kids as they get older: who am I, and what do I require from the people I choose to be in my life?

-- Mikki