Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise Shabana Buwalda

Unpacking, Owning and Leveraging Privilege

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise Shabana Buwalda

Photo credit: Shabana Buwalda

I have the privilege of Caucasian skin tone

I have the privilege of Canadian citizenship

I have the privilege of roof and shelter

I have the privilege of mental health

I have the privilege of physical health

I have the privilege of a conventionally abled body

I have the privilege of literacy and language

I have the privilege of education

I have a privilege of geography

I have the privilege of stable employment

I have the privilege of 5 physical senses

I have the privilege of stable family

I have the privilege of heterosexuality

I have the privilege of species

I have the privilege of not knowing my other privileges

I want to say that I have the privilege of being a woman and mother, but these are not privileges in the sense of the word ‘privilege’ here.

Instead, I will cast them this way: I have the immense benefits that come from being a woman and mother, of mixed ethnicity and Indigenous descent. While these are not privileges in the contemporary sense and certainly not in every space, place and forum, they are gifts for the awareness, compassion, understanding and open-mindedness they cultivate and require to survive and thrive in spite of these dimensions of being that are unjustly devalued. I own and cherish these aspects of myself that bring challenge and struggle, but I also own my privilege. I have to admit, own, and dismantle the unfair benefits I reap from my many privileges. I have to leverage my privilege to the benefit of others, not myself.

Unchecked privilege permits us to look the other way, to be silent, to be too tired or too busy to act. Please understand that if you feel as though you can dismiss this, then you are privileged.

I am privileged. Let’s stop being afraid to say it! I am privileged.

But, let’s be afraid, ashamed and embarrassed when we do nothing with our privilege but serve ourselves. I can’t change most aspects of my privilege, but I can change how I use and leverage it.

Privilege is a form of domination. While it is impossible to exist outside domination (power relations) – and, all of us, in one way or another, dominate someone or something — we need to recognize, call out, and awaken ourselves to domination. We need to dismantle it whenever we can. We need to shift and share power. (For those of you afraid to share power, please remember: Power is like love. When you give it away, you don’t have any less of it, in fact, sometimes it grows.) Don’t be afraid to share power, be empowered to.

The fact that we can’t step outside domination, does not validate any and all forms of domination. Do not let anyone persuade you to think that because domination is ever-present that it is also necessarily right or justified or that it can’t be diminished. I dominate grass when I step on it. I dominate flowers when I pick them for art-making and home décor. I dominate pears when I choose to kill and eat them for my own survival. These are not the same as other forms of domination, but they are domination and I have to admit and own that. (And, one of them is absolutely unnecessary). I have to ask myself how I can shift, share or relinquish power in these and other instances? My relationship to the pear, should awaken and inform me about my relationship to all others, human and non-human.

Once you’ve checked your privilege (is it white privilege? it is religious privilege? is it gender privilege?) please remember this is only the beginning. Acknowledging privilege is step one. It’s not a test you pass and then you’re done. It is ongoing: it is daily work, attention and care. Does that sound exhausting? It can be. But you know what? When we all work together, we can do hard things. Let’s support each other in the work of unpacking and dismantling privilege.

So, you’re working on deconstructing your white/male/religious/… privilege? Great. You’re not done. Next, please acknowledge that you have many dimensions of privilege and work on the rest of them. One of the biggest blindspots in discussion of privilege is species privilege. We must as a species acknowledge and dismantle the unfair advantage we take from nonhuman animals, plants and ecosystems. We are not better or more important than them. We simply aren’t. If that makes you uncomfortable, sit with that. Privilege isn’t all fun and games.

Finally, please don’t wait for the perfect time, place or way to start talking about privilege. Perfection is an illusion and excuse. We need to challenge cultural expectations of perfection and flawlessness, so that we can move forward, do the work and make important, overdue changes. Please do not let perfection paralyze you on this topic, or in life in general.

What are your privileges? And will you leverage them for the benefit of others?

And, please, feel free to tell me which privileges of my own I’ve not woken up to. But it’s not your job to educate me, I know.

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise Shabana Buwalda

Talking Work-Life Balance on Roasted

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I was recently interviewed by Michelle Little of Roasted about how I bring balance into my busy life. It was a great opportunity to reflect, thank you Michelle.

Below you’ll find an excerpt, to pique your interest, but make sure to click over to Roasted to read the whole article, or to surf around her cool website all about raising kids and getting the most out of your city, being creative and entrepreneurial, all with a special focus on one of my favourite cities, Montreal.

Michelle: Do you have any time for yourself?

Danielle: I don’t have what is commonly considered “me time”. This is mostly my own choice. I am very happy to give my free time wholeheartedly to my children. I think the notion of ‘me time’ comes from a need to restock our energies and do something for ourselves. As mothers and parents, some of us are not good at giving this to ourselves. For me, what restocks my energies is being with my children. I have never, honestly, ever had the feeling of needing a break from my children. I’m not a high maintenance person, I don’t need to get away to have my nails or hair done or to shop. What fulfills me is being in their presence. Learning from their perspective, being reminded of how simple happiness and fulfillment are for a child. All I need is that childlike wonder to remember that no object or time alone will ever be what I need to feel complete.

Read the whole interview here…

Special thank you to Amanda of Luv Mother, our mutual friend, who connected me with Michelle.

You might also like my post:

image   Mindful Picking, Making a Flower Crown

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset   Inspiring Mother: Bree Galbraith

Processed with VSCOcam with g1 preset   The Mathematics of Love

image   Love Your Mother in Luv Mother

The Mathematics of Love: My Love More Story

Sen and Ro Chassin by Natasha Moine

Around this time last year I was asked to contribute to a collection that would be titled “The Love More Stories.” I don’t often write about myself or share personal stories because I tend to shy from the sort of attention this could bring. However, over the last year I’ve had a nagging feeling that I should share this story more broadly. The story captures a number of key themes in my life and the tension between them. The desire to have a large family and the desire to be responsible in our family’s use of the earth’s resources. The pull between personal interest and the greater good.

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Growing up I always knew I wanted children. In fact, I knew I wanted a big family. Seeing my mother skilfully raise the three of us, knowing she always wanted a fourth, I thought to myself that four was the perfect number, at least as a minimum. And so, my heart was set on having four children. As I later learned, these were certainly the idealistic musings of a young person who hadn’t put thought into what their life partner might want and who didn’t consider the environmental impacts of raising children in the first world.

Today, I am a mother to two children. First, there’s my kind-hearted daughter, Ro. She’s the creative type, always dancing, singing or drawing, and usually doing more than one of these at once. Ro is highly intuitive, deeply loving, naturally funny and the definition of a social butterfly. Then, there’s Sen, my wild little boy. He is head strong, while also being a very sweet and calm child. He loves climbing, dancing, and pretending to be a ninja. Together these two are the best of friends and siblings. Most days I dream of having their level of connection with another human, their love for each other is so fierce and all-consuming, it has taught me so much about the powers of love.

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I am always a mother first, but I am also a wife and friend, and I work full time outside of the home. I work professionally to provide for my family, but my passions lie in the arts, in writing, in photography, in adventure, and, of course, in nurturing my children. My aim is to develop deep and genuine kindness in my children, not only toward their family and friends, but toward all humans and toward all life on earth. This is why we spend most of our free time outdoors connecting with each other and with the abundance of animal and plant life around us, cultivating a love and reverence for the earth.

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And then, there’s Matt, my husband and partner in life, a highly rational and deeply principled person. These two things I love most about him, but they also make life with him hard. There’s no being flaky about your values around Matt, principles should be lived by. Fun or not. Easy or not.

We knew soon after we met that we were a perfect match; we didn’t share any hobbies, but we agreed on the big stuff, like politics and ethics. We married a few years later. We both wanted to have children while we were young, at least by today’s standards, and so soon after we  married we had our first, Ro. It was like a cliche seeing my child for the first time and having so much intense love instantly, and over the first year seeing my love for Matt grow and mature seeing him become a parent, and seeing his love for his daughter. When Ro was nearing one year, I felt ready and excited for a second child. I talked to Matt about having our second, we were both in graduate school at the time, and so the timing of the birth was not inconsequential.

And so, I started the conversation on a very practical point: timing. Since the question of having a second child or not, was already answered in my mind, and presumably in Matt’s too. Now, Matt is someone whose heart strings are perfectly aligned with what he believes, with his principles and ethics, and so he replied with “We shouldn’t have a second, it is not responsible, it is not right to take more resources from the earth to satisfy our own cravings to have children. One child is the right number.” Now, as you can imagine, I didn’t accept this without presenting a few counter-points, strongest among these was that “surely, the world needs more children like the ones we will raise, they will be role models in caring for the earth.” But, to be honest, I knew in my heart that this was pretty presumptuous of me and motivated by self-interest. In this instance, loving meant not only loving our kin, not only loving humans, but loving all life. If I were to truly act lovingly toward all life, toward the earth, then I wouldn’t have a second child. So, I accepted, very reluctantly, that Matt was right.

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise

But my heart still wanted that big family, so I began to talk about adoption, which I thought Matt would agree to since it wouldn’t bring new people into the world. And this is when I got an answer I never ever expected. “Danielle, I love Ro so much it hurts. I love her so much there is just no way that I could ever love another child this much. I would never forgive myself for having a second child in the family that I didn’t love as much. That child would know, they would feel the lack of love. And if by some crazy stroke of fate I did love that second child as much as I love Ro, then I would certainly have to rob Ro of some of my love.” I could see the calculus of love floating in thought bubbles above his head. Like any resource, there is a finite amount. In a family you only have so much time to share among its members, there’s only so much food in the fridge and bedrooms in your home. Who was I to say, naively, that there would be enough love to go around? When I thought about the woman living in the apartment below us, who had 19 children, I thought Matt’s right, there is no way she loves any one of those children as much as we love our one child. This was without any poor judgment of her, it was pure math, pure logic. And so, once again, I conceded to Matt’s view. It would be one child for us. Logically, I knew he was right, but I’d be lying if I said my heart was happy about it.

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And so, for the next four years we carried on pouring all our love and energy and resources into our one child. Then one day, as I carried Ro on my hip to go downstairs for breakfast, the same as I did every morning, she excitedly said something very peculiar. “Mama, you have a baby in your tummy!” To which I replied “Oh no, sweetie, there’s no baby.” And she replied with complete confidence, “Yes, there is. I know it. You smell like mummy milk, you smell like you did when I was a baby.” What a quirky thing to say, I thought to myself, and with that we prepared breakfast and carried on with the day.

A week later, having forgotten my conversation with Ro,  I started to experience symptoms of pregnancy. I ignored them for a few days, and then decided to take a test just to rule out my worries. Worries because I believed in Matt’s reasons not to have a second child.  I was in complete and total shock when the test came back positive. And then like a tidal wave, Ro’s intuition washed over me. She had known. The sensitivities and keen perceptions of a small child are truly astounding.

Now, for us, while we had agreed one was a responsible number of children for us to have, there was never an option to not carry a pregnancy through. We respect all life and couldn’t end a life prematurely, and so eight months later we welcomed our son, Sen, at almost 10 months gestation, into our family, born at home into his papa’s arms.

Matt Surch and Ro Chassin by Natasha Moine

Living life, living in a family, there are many lessons in love. We learn that there are all sorts of love: love for a child, love for a partner, love for a friend. We learn that love evolves and matures. One of the great lessons in love we learned from our second child is that love is not a finite resource, as we had naively thought. When we saw our son for the first time, we had that same overwhelming feeling of love, of the biggest, most intense love, the same feeling we had had with Ro, and that we still had for Ro. There was no diminishment in our love for Ro or for each other, and yet we had as much love for Sen. In fact, our love grew. Seeing Ro love her brother instantly, our love grew for her. Seeing Matt hold his son, my love grew for him. Even though everyday I think that I can’t possibly love my children more than I do, I somehow love them more than I did the day before. Of all the lessons in love, the one I think of most is that love obeys no rules of math or logic. Love does not diminish when it is shared, rather it grows. You can always love more. Love is infinite.

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You can find the full Love More Stories collection for purchase here

You can also read an interview with Amanda who started the Love More Shop, where she talks about her motivation for starting a shop focused on loving more and how she gives back to the community.

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Hippie in Disguise ro and sen Chassin Rideau Canal

Talking Motherhood and Minimalist Fun with boy+girl

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In the news! I was interviewed by boy+girl as part of their series on motherhood. I loved doing this interview, because they asked really great questions that got me thinking more deeply about life and career and pushed me to open me up more on the topic of motherhood and my own struggles. You’ll also hear about my personal style, the aesthetic of my home, where I want to live internationally and lots more. Please check it out. And a few excerpts to whet your appetite…

On motherhood:

“Feeling in a deep and embodied way what unconditional love means: it is a gift. The challenge that comes with that is the vulnerability you feel knowing that unconditional love ultimately means loss. Motherhood has given me the gift and reason to live life fully.”

On personal style:

“My style is classic with bohemian mixed in, and, as much as possible, sustainable. I avoid fashion trends because fast fashion leads to waste.”

Advice to my 20 something self:

“Follow your passions and don’t worry about being practical!”

I hope you’ll skip over there to have a read.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset   You might also like my post: The Love More Stories

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Hippies on Nordstrom

As Mother’s Day approaches, Nordstrom is publishing a series of interviews with moms on what motherhood means to them and what they’ve got on their Mother’s Day wish list. When Nordstrom initially emailed me I assumed they had the wrong person or had accidentally sent a bulk email. Oops. But no, after I had a few conversations with the lovely Nordstrom Blogs team, I realized that they wanted to represent a range of moms and perspectives in the interviews. The series does have one common thread and it has something to do with children’s art…I will leave you with that teaser, in the hopes that skip over to the blog and have read.

Thank you, Nordstrom, for including me in your mix! I love an opportunity to talk about my thoughts on fashion and acquisition, and, of course, my kids and their art! Link to my interview here.

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On doing things imperfectly

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise
Quality is important, but seeking perfection can lead to paralysis. At least it can for me. I have wanted to start a blog for a long time, but the perfectionist in me prevented me from actually doing it. It had to be perfect, if I were to do it at all.

Perfection can also paralyze people from pursuing change. That is, some people won’t try something if they can’t do it purely or perfectly. Myself included. I’ve heard this excuse many times in response to people telling me why they couldn’t be vegan. “I would totally  go vegan, but I just love cheese/sushi/lattes.” To which I usually respond, “Well, why not be a vegan who eats sushi?” It might not be purist or perfect veganism, but it is a lot closer than not trying at all. I encourage others to find comfort in imperfection, that is, to permit themselves to do things imperfectly. (After all, there are very few things anyone can do perfectly, all of the time or ever.) And yet, I rarely afford myself this same latitude.

And so…after many rational, and many more irrational reasons, for delaying the launch of my blog — yes, mostly related to getting it perfect — I am going ahead now, knowing it will never be perfect and that is perfectly  fine.

For the past two years, I have shared bits and pieces of our family life through my Instagram account @hippieindisguise, and while I think Instagram is an excellent social media platform, I have often wanted more space to write and provide greater detail on our activities, based on requests from my kind and curious friends and followers. On this site I will document the moments I share with my children adventuring around our city to rivers, fields, parks, and pools, visiting galleries and museums, seeking out public and street art, crafting with natural materials, drawing, painting, and cooking — the everyday moments that make up a childhood and connect our family.

I will also share interviews with people who have inspired me as parents, as artists, as entrepreneurs, as people. I think it is really important to honour our inspirations. I want to create a space where I give people credit for the good they put out into the world. Stay tuned, I will post my first interview later this week!

Finally, while I am pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, paring down my possessions to the essential, I will from time to time share products here that I believe are worth choosing, if you are in need, because they are organic, fair trade, or handmade, for example.

So, that’s the plan, it’s not perfect, but I’m okay with that.

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Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places:

Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off, you can read more about it here

…in development…

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise
Welcome! I am currently developing a blog about my adventures with my husband, Matt, and two children, Ro and Sen, pursuing a minimalist lifestyle focused on collecting moments rather than things.

I hope to have the blog live January 2015, so please subscribe or come back soon. Thank you for stopping by.

If you are interesting in collaborating with me please email me at hippieindisguise1@gmail.com. Thank you.