Mully: As I was handing over the gas station, my friend Leah came to me about the Children’s Center, “They had gone through three directors in the first two and a half years, and they needed a new one, would I be interested?” I had been missing working with children and the opportunity just lined up at the right time. So I interviewed and started as the co-director at the Children’s Center, and the rest is history in that regard.
So when you ask the question, “What was my work?” My work was really about women. It wasn’t just about children per se, although people perceive me that way, and I loved that part of it! I believe strongly that women deserve high quality affordable childcare for their children while they actualize themselves in the world.
That was my belief even before the economy required two working parents. I never thought babies would go to childcare. It never entered my mind, but they do now. That is the culture that capitalism on top of the women’s movement created. Women in the workforce are still oppressed.
Even for the women who become professionals there is still the glass ceiling. Everybody is excited when a woman goes to law school or medical school. It’s fabulous! I couldn’t be a lawyer fifty years ago. But I also wonder, “What do you lose when you put on a man’s suit?” The system is still male dominated and so you have to work harder to adapt and succeed, and not cry.
There was this big thing about how Hilary Clinton cried in the Senate hearing but she maintained her composure. She showed both sides of herself. It was great! But what would be said of a man doing the same thing?
We threw out the traditional roles. We, as women, said we did not have to be limited to the home. So unless you were raised in a very traditional setting, home became a lost art. Now everything is fast, fast, fast.
I don’t know what to say about home. In my home life, in my childhood, it wasn’t healthy, so part of me has always resisted being home. Not knowing how to be at home, have a nurturing home for myself. It’s something I am still learning. I loved being home with my children before I was a single mom and had to work so much and the children went back and forth equally to their dad’s. It was a challenge to keep the hearth going in the absence of children and with the added demands of working more than full time.
One of the things I have learned and seen over the years, knowing women who had the luxury of being home with their children, is that they are incredibly loving, rich, giving women who are making a difference in the larger world now. I might have poo-pooed them in my twenties. So one never knows when you are going to be doing that thing, whatever it is, that we call “our work.”
The movement in my mind and heart is that women and children deserve really good support. That is what they, we, need and deserve. Childcare was an outgrowth of that belief.
Yes, I believe children need a happy childhood and that all children are at risk. That has been a body of work for me, a distinct body of work, a large part of my “career,” but my beliefs, my strongest passion, is empowering all aspects of who we are as women; mothers, activists, wives, professionals, artists…
I have never said it quite like that before.
What I would really like to say, and I can’t say it enough. People, especially women, just have to follow our instincts and our hearts. That’s what a woman does.
Some of us are more clear about who we are going to be, but most of us aren’t. I remember marveling at children like Aleah, who just knew she was an artist since she was tiny in my class at the Children’s Center. That’s really rare. Most people don’t know. They just don’t. I think this must be even hard for you, Eliza.
I was fortunate that I ended up doing early childhood. It worked for me. You couldn’t have told me that was what I was going to do in my twenties though. You couldn’t have told me any of the things I did.
I dropped out of college. I don’t do well out there competing and trying to “make my mark.” I didn’t go do any of these things so someone would think I did something important. I am a “do-er” and a “be-er.” You just have to “be” with children. After I retired from the Children’s Center, people would say, “Look at what you have done!”
To me, I was just trying to make things happen and to support my own children and help women. I wasn’t looking back on it. I just thought, “OK, now we need a new toilet and this and that.”
When I don’t know what to do, I cast around, just like I did when I was in high school. I go to every smoking shop, and just go see how it is there. Since I retired, I have been reclaiming my relationship to the earth as a farmer. I love growing food and caring for the goats: milking and making cheese.
Nature was one of my original motivations for coming here. Buddhism is a whole other body of inquiry and arena of growth, but women’s issues; music, empowerment, raising healthy children, and history are important to me. Developing myself spiritually and fully as a human is my passion now, and always being able to give what I have to those who want or need what I have to offer, is where I am most comfortable.
Eliza: Thank you so much! I have just one more question. Do you have any advice for my generation and the generations after us?
Mully: Yes, get a good pod of people! Follow your passion. Follow your impulses. Follow your instincts. Trust and get friends of like minds, like hearts. It is so complicated out there, don’t do it alone. You are always alone but you don’t have to do it by yourself. Get a supportive group. Look at what we have here on the island. I would say that each of us, who have each other, would say, “How could we have done it without each other?”
Also, self-nurturing is critically important and NOT something I did well. I am just learning how to now. It’s a really good thing to learn because you will be a much better parent, partner and friend. Nurture yourself and follow your instincts and heart connections. It’s hard to find out what you want. We are truly fortunate if we can go where our passions lead us.
Thank you for a lovely morning! That was a lot of fun!
Eliza: Thank you for sharing!!
Note from Eliza: Mully and I have had such an amazing time in the process of editing this conversation together that she has requested to include a final reflection from her perspective. Click here to read it!