The Call of the Mother’s Land by Jocelyn McKenzie
Firstly I’d like to acknowledge my own Mother, and my Mother’s Mothers, because it is their Mothering that has shaped me. I also wish to acknowledge all of the other Mothers that have contributed their stories through this website, I have read each of them, and something in each one has resonated with my own experience of Motherhood.
Although originally from the North of Ireland, for 13 years now I have lived in Aotearoa- New Zealand. 10 years ago my partner and I started on the biggest project either of us had worked on prior. We bought 10 acres of land and have spent the last decade developing it along permaculture principles: developing veggie gardens, fruit orchards, building earth dwellings, rearing a milking cow, preserving food, wine making, and managing a coppicing wood lot, to name just a few of our activities. We have also both developed passions which have become our professions and vocations. I have trained and worked as a counsellor (narrative therapy and creative arts therapy), and Michael has crafted incredible skills as a baker of sourdough bread and French patisserie.
For 6 years we have both worked in our respective professions, and also together developed a bakery-café business, Michael hand crafting (singlehandedly) every item that went on the shelves, and I managed the running of the café whilst counselling part-time.
Life was already quite full when our daughter was born 20 months ago. We birthed her at home, within the walls of our earth home, nestled in among beautiful native bush. Her placenta is buried just metres from our door under ancient trees, where native birds serenade us, even as I type. Paradise. We are blessed here in our rural setting to have strong community and beautiful friends.
My daughter is many things to me: an incredible teacher, a joy, a wonder, and significantly, a catalyst for change! I am in a position to choose to be full-time primary caregiver to our daughter (who still breastfeeds) and this is something I wish to continue. At this time, despite having strong, supportive friendships, a missing factor in our lives is having family close by. I was raised with my Grandparents being an intrinsic part of my life, and I want this for my daughter also. As well as this, having 10 acres of constant work, and a business which was growing beyond our capacity, we began to reflect on what is really important for us at this stage in our lives as a small family. Having time together without feeling completely burnt out is paramount!
So some huge changes are happening. We have ended our very successful bakery-café in our local village, and have just sold the beautiful land which we have called home for some time. We’re leaving our hand-built life for now and plan to return to the North of Ireland within the next months. This is a change I could never have foreseen, or even conceived of before entering the powerful ocean of Motherhood.
Many new perspectives are available to me, and of course, the support of family more welcome than ever. I know to some people such a change in direction might seem foolish when our business was going so well, and our home so abundant, but for us, it’s about putting our daughter in the centre of the picture. As a feminist, I am grateful to be able to fulfil my Mothering choices.
Moving from this place that really has my heart (and our dear friends) is not an easy thing, but I have a strong sense that life is making the decision for me, as all the doors to making this happen have opened so easily. It’s a feeling of stepping into the current of life and seeing where it takes us (and we have no idea what that looks like!). New Zealand will always be one of my homes, and returning to the North of Ireland feels more like an adventure into the unknown than a homecoming. Having been away for 18 years, I’ve lived as much of my life outside of Northern Ireland as I have there, and of course, a lot has changed in that time. We’re looking forward to seeing what opportunities we might find and connecting with others in our fields of passion in the Northern Hemisphere.
I guess if Motherhood is growing anything in me, it’s the ability to be open to change and having the courage to take the steps in that direction.
Words and images by Jocelyn McKenzie