"What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” -Shakespeare
The process of choosing a name for this new venture was both exciting and daunting. After all, first impressions are important. Names can shape identity and affect professional opportunities (perhaps less and less so these days, as people are becoming increasingly more creative in their naming habits). Naming rituals around the world vary. However, wherever you are, the act of giving a name is deeply symbolic.
As a flower lover, I began researching flower symbolism in hopes of finding something that fit what I wanted this project to encompass. The azalea symbolizes caring for one’s self. In Chinese culture, the flower is a symbol for womanhood. Azaleas are also synonymous with The South, the most beloved shrub of the region. Plus, they’re simply lovely. Azalea.
Won’t people be a bit confused about exactly what you’re doing, what you’re offering?
Valid concern. However, adding, for example, “doula services” to the name would have inevitably excluded the side of my work that is very much focused on the child beyond infancy. Similarly, “educational services” would fail to acknowledge my work of supporting new families during this time of immense transition. Alas, I settled on a name that represented the characteristics of the space I hope to create, one of cultivation and growth and beauty.
Including “Arkansas” is mostly just a way of showcasing pride in my home state. Arkansas is where I spent my formative years (and then some!) and, as a result, its scenic beauty, hospitality, and relaxed pace of living have become an indelible part of my being. As much as I love it unconditionally, Arkansas is also a place with low levels of educational attainment, high levels of poverty and crime, and one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country. We have a lot of work to do.
Even during my graduate studies and Montessori teacher training, I knew that serving families would ultimately be my life’s work. My passion is working with and advocating on behalf of mothers and children. They are, after all, the most vulnerable members of our communities. Discouragingly enough, I have found that the discourse regarding issues affecting mothers and children in our communities (e.g.-maternal health, maternity leave, access to quality Pre-K, food security, etc.) seems to be polarizing. As though saying, “Our mothers and children deserve the best” is somehow a radical idea or some partisan issue. It’s not. In fact, the essence of this conversation could not possibly be more about traditional values. This is about the American family--that which lies at the very heart of our society (and all societies, for that matter). If we do not help families succeed, we are failing as a nation. Period.
My hope is that Azalea Arkansas will ultimately offer high quality postpartum care and parent education workshops that will reach members of our community who might not otherwise have access to good information or support. I truly believe that if our goal is to create a more just, more peaceful world, we must focus on the children and if we are to truly change the lives of our children, we must make it a priority to empower their caregivers with information and nurture them with nonjudgmental support.
This project is a culmination of my experiences as a woman, a student, a teacher, a daughter, a traveler, and an activist.
Thank you for taking the time to read about this journey of mine thus far and stay tuned for ways you can help make this vision a reality!