In Concert and Open Space

Last night, I was invited to come along with my high-school-aged daughter to a house concert hosted by one of the female mentors from her internship. It was to be a night for women and music. I have been working so hard lately on the Essex Hub that I haven’t had much connecting time with my kids and, honestly, when she asked me to go, my first inclination was not one of desire to leave our comfy house at 7:30 on a Saturday evening to drive to Burlington… But all things considered, I said yes, and though a bit late, we made it just in time to participate in the round robin camp song before the “formal acts” started.

We walked into the small apartment, and there I was with my daughter in a room full of women in their twenties, honoring their need to come together in community, to hold space for each other, and to share their art and vulnerabilities with each other, to be appreciated, acknowledged, and celebrated. 

Last October, I walked into another unknown space, a room full of women business owners, at a conference in Montpelier. The information I heard there fell on me and catalyzed my thinking about what I was doing, what I felt needed to be done, and how to do it. And then, after the election, I knew there just was no time left to pretend. I knew there was something I had to embark on that brought my whole life experience together in an opportunity to be of service to women who needed to be supported in new and creative ways, honoring and allowing them to become visible in a space just for them.  

As I sat and listened in both of these venues, I heard the stories, the trials, the longing for voice, for visibility and for appreciation. I heard the uncertainty in the umms and the and yeahs. I listened for the nuanced language that comes from being uncertain and surrounded by the male gaze or the lens of patriarchy. I heard gorgeous voices of women, their raw femininity, their desire and longing for love and hope and peace. I heard phrases like non-dude space and coded in metaphor. I listened to the stories of inequity and potential and economic impact.

In just the last few weeks, I have been told that I am likely limiting my audience by creating a space that specifically caters to women. That by having the tag lines “for women & business”, we perhaps will not attract the individuals who work in particular fields to our more female-oriented space. I have had women ask if we are exclusively for women, or if men are “allowed”, to which my response has been, “We are a community of women and friends. If you are friendly, so are we.” And we do have men in our community who are stepping up every day to keep the issues of women at the forefront of their business practices, who are doing amazing things to help open space for women’s voice and equity. That kind of open space is what we hope women who come to the Hub feel, that there is space to be expansive, innovative, creative, and generative. That being surrounded by language of abundance and collaboration rather than scarcity and competition will allow us all to show up to do our best work. To take on the challenges of being closed out of the conversations or shut down by the traditional language of work or business or innovation. Our goal is to create space for the rich, raw, and feminine voices of song that can transform our communities and our economies. 

I left that house concert feeling reconnected to being a young and aspiring woman and to my daughter, realizing that the path I’ve chosen to take and to follow as a strong, independent woman unafraid of using her voice to advocate or to sing, to fight or to love, is exactly the work I need to be doing in the way I envision doing it in the space we have created for it to be done… 

And to those gorgeous voices I heard last night in song … be on the lookout for some intimate Living Room concerts in the house, some pop-up parking lot concerts this summer, and conversations about holding space for women to grow, learn, and lead! 

 

Kristin Humbargar 

 

Strollers and Structures of Support

My plane landed at 9:58 pm and as I went to get my bag out of the overhead compartment I realized that a mother and her 2 young kids were sitting in the row just across the isle and one seat up. I quickly remembered the experience of traveling with my once tiny children and I thought “wow, they did great”… knowing full well that the flight could have been a disaster for her if her kids weren't feeling well, were tired, were hungry, or any number of things that made it so their needs were not being met.  Two little kids waiting at the gate check door, wanting to get their stroller back, starting to melt a little and their mom, held them close, kept their agitation down and managed to keep it all together until they could finally “go see daddy”  

This was the perfect punctuation point on the end of a trip taken to Memphis to participate in a Communities of Hope convening on the theme of sustainable communities conducted by Casey Family Services. I had the honor of being invited as a guest attendee by the Vermont Promise Communities, to gain some perspective on child and family services and how the work we are doing at the Essex Hub through our co working space and through our W@W community engagement and story finding campaign might intersect.

From the beginning of this Essex Hub story we have been very aware of the need to support, encourage and help women get the best access to critical information to allow them to grow their businesses in between the responsibilities of everyday and family life. We call this the “gatherer model of business development”. Many women and other primary child care providers   have a very different sense of time, which means that they must collect critical information to keep until a free, or appropriate time to implement the next piece or step of their business. This is very different than what we call the “hunter model of business development”  the more traditional 9 -5 or we might say masculine model that allows for an entire day to focus on the “work”. 

In our conversations with many women the issue of child care has come up, for some the concept of day care, or preschool but for others just the need for an uninterrupted block of time on a daily basis or 3 or 4 times a week would make all the difference in what they could accomplish in that side gig, or part time endeavor, their Etsy shop or on that $1,000,000 idea.

But the first thing to fall off the kitchen counter without that time is the running, expansion or development of that business… because the kids don’t feel well, or need undivided attention, or are hungry, or any number of things that require having their needs met. So women frequently need a whole other level of support. And that support is important for a whole host if issues around the concept of wellbeing, everything from elevation of ones spirit, to physical, intellectual, creative, relational and emotional wellness. These are the areas that are evidence based as critical to human thriving.

And as it turns out, the evidence on sustainable communities also point to relationships in a list of critical components. In fact its looking at the relationships, at the big picture that allows communities to be sustainable. Relationships help us ask the constant question “what will make it better?”, “what will allow us to be flexible”? and “how can we see this with new eyes”?

As women we are very versed in understanding these complexities and these aspects. We ask these questions of our families and children to inspire them to be engaged in making things better and being flexible. Here at the Essex Hub we are applying the same ideas to our community and asking the same questions “what will make it better” “how can we create flexible opportunities” and “how can we disrupt and be innovative about creating new structures of innovative support”.

The stroller finally came through the gate check door, that mom clicked it open, put the littlest in the seat while the toddler climbed up on the little ring pad in the rear and off they went with that innovative structure of support that allowed them to all have their needs met…. as they moved forward into the future.

by Kristin Humbargar

Essex Hub Instigator & Connector