Monday, November 23, 2009

Movie Review - Who Does She Think She Is?

On November 8, I had the opportunity (with some fabulous women) to see a documentary about five women who are mothers and artists, called Who Does She Think She Is?

The film synopsis sets out that "In a half-changed world, women feel they need to choose: mothering or working? Your children's well being or your own?" The story focuses on five "fierce women who refuse to choose."

This got me thinking (not only about doing a documentary on the school). All of us associated with Wellspring are all women (and men) who refuse to choose. We all practice conscientious parenting from the heart. Some of us have careers or causes or spiritual lives or creative projects --or a school-- in addition to families. Some of us have and do all of the above.
The women of this documentary are artists who have children, and all are navigating the confusing waters of society messages, personal well being and sustaining positive relationships. They struggled with giving themselves "permission" to be artists in addition to being mothers. They worked so hard on working it out, trying to find ways to be creative and nurturing and whole inside of the demands of family. It didn't always work out. In some cases, things got pretty messy for a while.
I went away from this documentary thinking that Wellspring Community School is not only about education. It is, of course, in many ways-- we are deliberately setting up a space where children are celebrated and encouraged for who they are, for their strengths and their growth and their whole selves. And though it seems quite natural (to us), it is also serious business.
And yet, the whole story of Wellspring includes the people who create it, work in it, believe in it and come to it day after day. We have all stepped up to make something that serves a greater community. We are in a time of higher and higher regulation, and more and more standards, which means more and more opinions, judgment, assessment. Just by existing, this school pushes against that grain. And it takes a lot to hold that space for the children and ourselves. Just like it takes a lot for the five women of the documentary (and all the others) to have families and carve time out for their art.
These intersections of parenthood, creativity, and well being are interesting ones. Sometimes I think it's my own personal growth work to co-found a school, and sometimes I think it's for my children, and a lot of times it is (or feels) much, much bigger than that.
Here's the really interesting part. Each of the women in the documentary said in their own way that overall, they believed their children benefitted from seeing their mothers pursue creative work. That in spite of the messiness that often arose for the women for "not choosing" between motherhood or work/art, their children had these "fierce women" who wanted and had and claimed for themselves both.
This is not a new struggle for women, or for that matter, for men. Were any of us encouraged to follow our interests (much less our bliss) in school? Most of us developed our self-image at least in part having to do with our scholastic aptitudes. Wellspring holds a space where children can not only develop skills necessary for life, but also, and equally importantly, learn about themselves. By doing the work of the school, our jobs, creative work and families, we ourselves are role modeling the tricky and uneven game of pursuing more than one aim. And the space we are creating is not one of probability, but possibility. Now that really inspires me!

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