About a month ago I had a very long and interesting conversation on Twitter with a few people whom I respect and admire. At the end of this convo (which, in case you are wondering, was about gender equality and relationships), my Twitter pal @DebMerriam invited me to a fabulous local event. The Good Hundred Experiment.
In the words of the day's organizers, it was "An unsectored gathering of Edmonton’s savviest do-gooders, with the objective of connecting with future partners & collaborators, getting meaningful & actionable feedback on your project (from people who know what they're talking about) and being inspired by some of YEG's most bad ass do-gooders."
I was honoured to be invited and also wondered if in fact, I was sufficiently qualified as a do-gooder to attend this event. I mean, one look at the list of attendees and I was inspired (and somewhat intimidated) just reading their bios, what on earth would it be like actually being in a room with all these folks!
Well, I can tell you.
IT WAS AMAZING!!
Do you have any idea how many awesome people are doing good things in our city?
Let me give you a couple of examples.
There is Catherine from iHuman, a fabulous non-profit organization helping at risk youth through the arts. And if you head on over to THIS LINK, they have partnered with Telus Empower You and every Facebook Like and Share and every Tweet is a further $2 that Telus gives to the iHuman program. Get clicking people!
Then there is Joey from Knottycase.com. Joey and his brother are the amazing and HIGHLY energetic team behind this fantastic company and they make beautiful, unique and environmentally sustainable iPhone cases from salvaged and reclaimed woods. And the best part--all the manufacturing is done right here in Edmonton! The energy that flows off of this man is infectious and his intensity makes you believe wholeheartedly in what he is doing and then some. Not only is he an environmental do-gooder, he is a true DO-ER!
For me, though, the person who made the biggest impact on me (and what I see my role is as a do-gooder) was the one and only Brittney Leblanc. If you don't already know or follow Brittney on the tweeter, then get on that. This 26-year-old woman is smart, funny, civic-minded and so, so darn cute. And she is on a mission. Well, actually, she is on a couple of missions, but of everyone there I think I learned the most from her. Not necessarily about Brit (cause I kind of have the great privilege of knowing her already), but about what it means to be a woman who wants to make a difference in this city, and by extension, in this world.
Throughout the day's workshop we were discussing some of the BIG PICTURE themes that kept coming up within our smaller groups and not surprisingly, women's issues and women's engagement were biggies. The last round table discussion at the end of the day was to find your theme and discuss what is being done, what needs to be done and how to collaborate together to get things done around those themes. Seven women and two men sat at the Women's Issues table and what happened next was... well... to be perfectly honest, less than stellar. The conversation quickly moved to women's rights in regards to reproduction and birthing and all things mother-focused. And across the table from me, I could see Brittney bristling. And I knew why.
Brittney is not a mother. And neither were a couple of other folks at the table. And all we were talking about at the table were issues that may or may not affect mainly mothers. All day long, my 30-second pitch to people was about how I want to help women to embrace all sides of themselves and break out of the "I am just a mom" talk that we do oh, so, well, and here we were at this table, discussing birthing options, infant feeding options, and the usual rhetoric that ensues whenever someone brings up women's, or as it turns out, MOTHER issues! And for all the talking that we did, we did not even get close to answering any of the what needs to be done or how to collaborate questions and this was frustrating for a lot of us.
Later that night at the #good100party at the very cool Kazbar, Brittney, the incomparable Jennifer Banks and I sat down, had some super yummy hummus and had a chance to discuss this topic some more. And what Brittney said to me was this. "As a young woman, I want to have women in my city who are visible, who are making a difference and who I can look up to as role models."
And that is when it hit me. HARD.
I talk about being an advocate for women, but in reality I have been primarily using my voice as one for mothers. I seem to have forgotten the main tenet of my do-goodery, that before we are all mothers, we are women first! And Ladies, we are SO MUCH MORE than the sum of what we can do with our uteruses and our breasts!
Motherhood may be one of the most rewarding and at the same time difficult roles of all time, but to think that all that we are, all that we have learned in this life as a girl and then a woman, serves only to prepare us for that role is completely narrow-sighted (and somewhat patriarchal too). If we forget what we have accomplished or can accomplish and reduce ourselves to being "JUST a mom", not only does this do a disservice to us, but it also does a disservice to the generations of girls following us who need role models and strong women to look up to and see that being a voice for ALL of our community is possible, that being a woman means more than just getting paid the same wage as a man and that our opinions in all things, be it work or home or politics, MATTER.
Later that night, Jen sent me the link to this TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. Now while this talk is primarily about women in the workforce and why we don't see more of them in C-level jobs (CEO, COO, CFO, etc..) I believe the themes are kind of universal. Women need to step up more and sit at the damn table!
What became very evident for me this past weekend is that I myself have been limiting myself and my voice. Lately, I have said (more often than I would like to admit) to people who ask me what I do, that I am a 'Mommy Blogger'. Now, you all know how I feel about these kinds of terms, but with the name Natural Urban Mama, it is kind of hard to escape this kind of labeling.
In my opinion, the #good100 experiment was a successful day on many levels. So many connections were made in that room and I foresee a lot more do-goodery forthcoming in our beautiful city. I know that another workshop is being planned for the spring, and I hope that I get the privilege of being invited once again.
Personally, my take-aways from the day were three-fold.
1 - I really need to open my eyes to all of the good things that are happening here and be an advocate for the city that I have called home for every one of my almost 41 years on this Earth! Like Brittney very eloquently said in her recent Pecha Kutcha presentation, I need to bragg more about where I am from! It's EDMONTON y'all and it is AWESOME!!
2 - I need to broaden my definitions of what being an advocate for women and children means to me and to those around me. I need to use my voice and my passion to inspire and empower more women to get involved and to be heard and to break out of their own self-imposed insular lives of 'just' this or 'just' that. My hope is that one day, maybe I will be one of the role models that the female generations to come are looking for and looking up to.
3 - I may need to rethink my personal brand. Is Natural Urban Mama all that she can be? Is this name, this site, still a true reflection of me and what I need to be to do #2. This is something that I am seriously pondering people and I may need to get your input about this in a future post.
So, that was my weekend. My brain is still spinning from all of it and I can't wait to follow up on the connections I made and the ones I want to make for some of the people who were at this great do-gooder event. I highly encourage everyone to look for the good things being done in your own communities and find a way, however big or small, to contribute.
"Do your little bit of good where you are;
it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world"