Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Unfriendly Skies

The plight of the breastfeeding mom thrown off her flight for refusing to cover up with a nasty old airline blanket has come up a lot around here lately. Most moms who find themselves within these four walls support the mom and are outraged by what happened to her, so it's all the more surprising to me when I hear a dissenting opinion. But I know that the number of people who think she should have just covered up is larger than I care to admit. Never mind that she was in the back of the plane, in a window seat, flanked by her husband. I've nursed when flying solo and sitting in an aisle seat over the wing, and that doesn't give anyone else the right to refuse my child her right to eat, or be comforted in a strange and potentially stressful situation. I understand that some people don't want to see mothers nursing. I also understand that most of those people are equipped with eyelids and functioning vertebrae. Don't want to see it? Look away.

I of course resisted saying that to a group of customers talking about the situation, but I couldn't resist the impulse to condemn the airline employee for such ridiculous action. I again quelled the urge to editorialize when a mother came in looking for a nursing drape/poncho because she was about to fly with her baby. But it killed me to think that one mamaphobic flight attendant has now scared a generation of new moms into thinking that stepping onto an airplane puts their nursing rights into question. For me, flying was always one of those times when I was 100% happy to be a nursing mother - no bottles to carry, no water to run out of during a three-hour delay, and now, no mixed formula to dump out at the security checkpoint - so I can't tolerate the idea that anyone could consider an airplane to be a boob-free zone.

I know there are nurse-ins being staged at airports around the country, but I've got a better idea. Next time you fly, grab the iPod and upload a few minutes of your baby at her very unhappiest, squalling and fussing and ramping up into a full tantrum. Plug in some external speakers and let the whole plane enjoy the noise. And when someone asks you to turn it off, say, "I'm sorry, the Off button is in my bra, and I'd hate to accidentally flash someone trying to make it stop."

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Next Chapter

As the fourth year of Mothersville's presence in Memphis comes to a close, I'm filled with so much happiness when I see the community of parents who have found a place here. It is my daily privilege to help your families find the products or resources you might need to make these first hectic years of parenting at least a little bit easier.

The primary mission of Mothersville is to support mothers in their efforts toward peaceful, natural parenting. In order to reach this goal for myself, I have decided that it is time for me to turn Mothersville over to the next mothers who believe in this mission as well.

The ownership of Mothersville has taken a non-traditional path to this point, but that path has worked well for the women who have kept the store running. Kristy Dallas Alley conceived of Mothersville and opened the store at its first location in January, 2003. When she decided to return to teaching, Uele Siebert and I formed a partnership and took over the business in January, 2005. Uele left the partnership to pursue her own passion, Groovy Foods, at the end of 2005, and I have been operating Mothersville solely since that time. And now, due to a combination of my own personal and professional factors (namely, a baby on the way and the unexpected success of my side business), I feel that I can no longer give the store the full-time attention it, and the Mothersville community, deserve.

I am not in an urgent rush to leave - in fact, it's still hard for me to seriously consider not being here every day - but I wanted to get this message out as early as possible so that any of you who may be interested in pursuing ownership have some time to think over your options. For those who may consider continuing the store as a for-profit business, I'd highly recommend a partnership or group ownership scenario, which would enable a more manageable division of time, financial investment and responsibility. There's also the option of converting Mothersville into a non-profit entity, which would require a board of dedicated mothers to take the lead in this new direction.

The start of a new year is always a good time to begin new endeavors, but if that's not possible, I am able to stay with the business through a later transition. If, however, there is no expressed interest in buying Mothersville before the end of our current lease term (in mid-2007), my most likely course of action will be to close the store permanently at that time. This is the absolute last thing I would like to see happen, so I deeply hope that there are optimistic, community-minded entrepreneurs among you who are willing to see Mothersville through this next stage of its service to Memphis.

I've included some links below that may inspire thought and planning. I'm of course willing to discuss the finer details of the business and its current situation with anyone seeking more information. Thank you all for your support of Mothersville.

Memphis Business Opportunity Fund

The Business Enterprise Resource Office (BERO) provides technical, financial and management information assistance to small, minority and women owned businesses.

Links to Resources for Small, Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses.

Tennessee Small Business Development Center

SCORE: Counselors to Small Business
provide free advice, in-person counseling, business templates and many other valuable resources from the Small Business Association

Starting a Non-Profit Organization

The Non-Profit Start-Up Resource List