Before launching On Being Mom, when I was still dreaming of sharing this space with a community of like-minded mothers, I knew that I wanted a staple feature of this blog to be the sharing of other mother's voices. I find myself wildly inspired by other mothers, artists, activists, makers, earth-lovers, and home-dwellers. I love listening to other people's stories, hearing their perspectives, what makes them feel ragged and wilty, and what fills them with peace and contentment. It's in the sharing of our stories and voices that we connect, grow, experiment, settle-in. I so very deeply desire that for myself, my daughter, my sisters near and far -- and so it must be a feature here. To share with you other mothers: their truths, struggles and triumphs.
And so with that said, I wanted to share this mother with you first. I'd been following Ali on Instagram (@ali_dover), and then discovered her woven wrap company. I was moved by the images she shared, her passion for babywearing, her courage to create and share her talents and perspective with the rest of us. It was an unwavering gut instinct pressing me to invite her to lead this interview series. And much to my delight, before I'd even launched, she agreed without hesitation! I've felt such a palpable testimony of the building up and support of other creative women and mothers from my interactions with Ali. My interactions with her alone have been a blessing, and I trust what is said below will be to you as well. Enjoy!
Introduce yourself, Ali -- you know, the general rundown. Who are you and what are you about?
My name is Ali Dover - I’m a photographer and woven wrap maker, passionate about freedom, fresh air, learning and personal growth…
What is the topography of your family? Can you give us a little bio on each member?
I live with my three children Billy, James and Lucy and their father, Jim. Billy is 18, a pretty cool guy into skateboarding and guitar. He has spent the last year immersing himself in the world of the electric guitar, learning many other things along the way, and is now quite accomplished. He has a weekend job working at a local motocross park. James is 9, mad about cars, bikes, anything with an engine really. Out of all my children, he is the most like me, both to look at, and in personality (we're both sensitive and love peace and quiet!). Lucy is 7 and constantly full of energy - like a coiled spring. She has been keeping me on my toes since the day she was born, and I’m sure she was sent to me to teach me all sorts of things! Jim is 60 - we’ve had our ups and downs over the last 21 years but I think we’ve finally found a place where we sort of just rub along together.
I know you were a single mom for just over a decade — how did your time as a single mom inform your approach to mothering? What advice might you have for other single moms attempting the same sort of mindful, attached parenting model as you have?
None of my children were actually conceived when Jim and I were living together and in some ways, I found single motherhood quite a calm position to be in. It’s during these years that I realized how important it is to listen to our gut instinct and having three children brought me a strength I didn’t know I had. Physically it can be hard on your own and I do feel it's important to create a support network (but that goes for all of us, single or not!). I found baby slings utterly invaluable - I could carry Lucy on my back whilst bathing James, for example.
You’re talented in so many ways — photography, branding and mentoring, woven wrap design, and so on… What are you most focused on right now?
Thank you - I’m not so sure about talented, certainly multi passionate - there are so many things that I love to do and my mind jumps around a lot depending on inspiration. But right now I’m focussing on my woven wraps and babywearing photography - I have two new striped designs coming out in the next couple of weeks, and a jacquard design at the end of April/beginning of May, thanks to the fantastic folks who supported my recent Kickstarter campaign.
I know you are building a beautiful woven wrap company at present. What are you trying to convey with each wrap you create? What do you want the woman wearing your wraps to feel? Or, what might they embody?
There’s a sort of underlying gesture with everything I do surrounding encouraging mothers to have the confidence to find out who they really are and what they're capable of as human beings, to believe that they have a right to do that. Motherhood often brings with it an identity crisis - we’re not quite sure who we are anymore - but if we’re supported and encouraged, it can also signal the beginning of something amazing, a real discovery of who we truly are. When I design my wraps, this is always something I feel very strongly about and the wraps’ names often give a sense of this. For example, the next two striped designs are called Dream and Spirit…
What role has babywearing played in your journey as a mom?
When my first son was born, I certainly felt inclined to carry him, but the only product readily available was a Baby Bjorn. It was so incredibly uncomfortable after about half an hour’s use that I put it away after my son was five months old. Several months later, I bought a framed back carrier, but quickly discovered its incompatibility with my own slight frame. The fact that I wanted to carry Billy gives me an insight into the glimmers of beginning to listen to my instinct despite the overriding fact that I spent far too much time listening to so-called ‘experts’.
I have the internet (and an unwitting if very kind health visitor) to thank for developing my knowledge about the wonderful world of wraps and ergonomic carriers. When James was born, I bought a ring sling and a stretchy wrap. I didn’t really know how to use either, nor did I know where to find help, so I struggled on in ignorance. It wasn’t until he was 7 months old that the health visitor thought he might have ‘clicky hips’ and referred him to a consultant at the hospital. There was a four week wait however, which gave me ample time to research the condition. Through that research, I discovered the Ergo baby carrier, optimal positioning in a carrier and my babywearing journey took off at full flight. My confidence as a mother mirrored this flight - I felt like I had used my own power and authority to help my son (it transpired his hips were fine). He never again went in a pushchair/pram/stroller - that research took me on a journey I could never have imagined; from one article or book to another, I discovered not only the benefits of co-sleeping and attachment parenting in general, but the real me that had struggled so hard to emerge with the birth of my first son.
Tell us an unexpected high and low of motherhood to-date.
Discovering that labour and childbirth don’t have to be painful - I studied hypnobirthing ready for Lucy’s birth, and it was revolutionary.
What gets you through the low seasons when you're *IN* them?
Even if it’s hard in practice, knowing that I have the power to choose my thoughts gets me through the tough stuff.
What do you think of this concept of women/mothers "having it all" and finding balance in all the roles one may assume?
The saying 'it takes a village to raise a child' is as true as it ever was. I've realized that it shows strength, not weakness, to ask for help and I wish for a society where all mothers feel the same; not to ask out of desperation, but to ask before we get to that point and it be considered natural that help is forthcoming. On that basis, I honestly don't think women can expect to 'have it all' - it's unreasonable in the extreme!
What book, film, or piece of art has impacted you as a mother?
The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff - revolutionary, truly.
Tell us a bit about mothering in the past, present, and future. What went well/was difficult? How do past parenting experiences inform your present and future?
In some ways, my eldest son has been the one from whom all ideas have been borne, and in that sense I do feel he has suffered in ways that my other children have not, because my parenting has naturally evolved with each child. It was because Billy’s early school experiences were so dire that I took the decision to take him out and allow him to follow a path of autonomous learning. But I have struggled with feelings of guilt that he ever went to school at all. Each of my children is so different, with very different needs on a personal level, but I have never regretted our educational decisions - it’s a constant joy, a daily adventure and I am always excited about the freedom we have to learn at our own pace in a way that suits us all - I know that travel is on the cards :)
Whether she knows it or not, have you had any mom-mentors who you've been significantly impacted by? Who? How/in what way?
I have a wonderful friend, 6 years my senior, who is the calmest, wisest person I know; she’s quite the goddess. She always knows just the right thing to say to help me on my quest for spiritual and personal growth and is a great source of support and encouragement.
What are you currently reading?
I’m fascinated by health and nutrition and how it helps not only our bodies but our souls - currently I’m reading ‘Clean’ by Alejandro Junger.
What are you currently making?
Lucy has a little sewing machine and she loves to make cushions out of wrap scraps; at the moment I’m helping her with those :)
Introduce us to one brand or product that is a part of the joyful fabric of your mom life?
There are a few, but right now it has to be the NutriBullet - it’s a fantastic way of ensuring the kids and I get a healthy dose of vitamins and nutrients and the kids love making their own concoctions.
Your go-to dinner at present?
There's one meal in particular that everyone in our house loves and it’s so simple and quick to make - brown rice with baked salmon fillet and stir fried leaks, red pepper and wilted spinach on top.
What is one word or image that centers you?