Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm a natural parent, but you'd be surprised

Welcome to the "I'm a Natural Parent — BUT..." Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.

Mikko's first visit to fast food. This was before I started blogging,
but even then taking this picture made us feel both sheepish and defiant.

There's no one definition for what makes a natural parent, which can leave most of us feeling like everyone's probably more natural than we are. Well, I'm here to relieve your minds that while it might be true for me, the reverse is likely not true for you. Read on for Hobo Mama's shocking (!), shameful (!!) confessions…

Probably the biggest area where I differ with a lot of my crunchy friends is in the subject of food. People devote so much energy to what they can and can't eat, and what their kids are allowed. I admire this energy. I don't have it, though. We eat a pretty normal diet. (Purists would call it a SAD diet.) After listening to umpteen friends share recommendations about the best gluten-free bakeries and which stores sell items that are dairy- and soy-free, I'm avoiding any form of food intolerance testing, because I don't want to know. I'm currently looking forward to Sam bringing me home from the office some Junior Mints that he squirreled away for me at Christmas, and I will promptly eat the whole boxful. Sugar haters, look away!

Then there are the areas where I'm just so. much. lazier with my second child. I prefer to think of it as "relaxed," though. Elimination communication? Eh, when I think of it. Mikko was so particular about his elimination that he kind of demanded it, but Alrik's so easygoing it's simpler just to change the diaper when he's wet and be done with it. I still love EC as a practice and a philosophy, and I'm trying to incorporate it into our routines more, but I'm not beating myself up about days when I've missed every single pee for the salient fact that I never brought out the potty.

This is related, too, in that Alrik is a much better sleeper than Mikko was. So since I don't have to change him or potty him in the night to get him back to sleep when he wakes to nurse, I … shh … used to put a disposable on him. Those things absorb. Holy moly. They'd be twice the size and three times the weight when he got up. Now that his peeing frequency has diminished from newborn levels, we have enough diaper service diapers and backups from my stash to double-cloth-diaper him at night with a wool cover, which relieves my green guilt a bit and keeps him just as comfortable — actually more so. But I'll never forget the pangs of guilt I felt at carrying disposables to the checkout line.

I've lost all our reusable shopping bags. Every one. Where are they? Please, if you see them, tell them to come home.

Speaking of plastic-bag atrocities, that's what we use as wetbags when we're out. Sam heard that the city of Seattle has voted to ban plastic bags, and his first impulse was to hoard as many as possible so we don't run out. I've decided I need to make us some wetbags.

I keep seeing and hearing about labor conditions in China and really do feel distressed that not all my clothes are sweatshop-free. I haven't quite figured out where to go with this one in terms of budget, selection, and time (for shopping secondhand stores or sewing new outfits).

I chose a non-VOC paint for our kitchen cabinets, since I was pregnant when we began painting and for the general environmental aspects. I felt so superior to our neighbors, whose stinky paint choice had wafted through our unit for weeks. Then I read more about latex paint and cabinets and realized we'd have to seal them all with polyurethane, the cans of which sport bold labels warning of dire birth defects. Sigh. Alrik seems all right so far…

I love diet soda. Love. There are days where the sweet caffeine and carbonation make life worth living.

Again with the being more relaxed this time, Alrik has an assortment of pacifiers, which started for use in the car when I was driving and he was screaming. They have since morphed into being used for weddings, church, and, most notably, calming him at night when I don't want to be or am not attached to him at the nip. Sam has this routine perfected where he gets him to sleep on his chest. It's amazing, really, and makes me wonder why I didn't let him try out his super dad powers more on Mikko. Speaking of which, Alrik takes a bottle, for occasional errands and outings I make without him. This doesn't happen often, but it happened a grand total of zero times with Mikko, until he started preschool. I feel surprisingly unguilty about this change from exclusive at-breast feeding. There was a lot of baggage I was dealing with from Mikko's horrible start to breastfeeding, so I know why I felt such an antipathy at the time to bottles. I have to say, I'm enjoying the fact that I can go out with friends or with Mikko alone or take a class or whatever and not feel bad about it, knowing my son or sons are being cared for well by their father or my sister-in-law.

We tried to be perfect baby-led-weaners with Mikko, to the point where I felt like I was cheating if I gave him something like yogurt or mashed cauliflower that was already pureed. I'd still do it, because it was so much easier for him to eat, but I'd feel guilty. You know what? Enough already with the guilt, and the slavish adherence to what someone else says is the only right way to parent. (Yes, to anyone, even to me; you are free to disregard anything I say that doesn't resonate with you, promise.) I don't like gagging in babies who are learning to eat solid foods. I know it's not the same as choking, but I don't like it. So I usually give Alrik teensy pieces of food to eat. His sporadic manual dexterity would generally just knock tiny pieces to the ground, so I pop them in his mouth for him. I still follow BLW in spirit, I believe, because I'm very conscious of not giving him anything he doesn't want, of following his cues, of offering whole foods (in the sense of the types of foods, not in the size of the bites), of giving him pieces of what we're eating as a family, and letting him experiment with holding his own larger-size pieces of food when it's convenient and feels safe. I also even bought him some purees of veggies that have iron (like spinach), because I wanted to be sure he was getting iron in his diet, and meat's tough for a little guy with only one tooth. So far, so good. He eats like a champ — enthusiastically (much more so than his much larger brother ever did) and still on his own terms.

Speaking of that much larger brother, once Mikko was a year old, thirty-five pounds, and showing no signs of walking yet, we reluctantly began using a stroller in addition to babywearing. He loved it. Kind of like that scene in Away We Go. Since we had bought the cheapest umbrella stroller merely as a backup, we got a better one off craigslist when he was three and showing no signs of outgrowing riding in one. We finally just kicked him out onto his own two feet after he turned four and I had another baby to carry around.

I'm going to write about this a little more soon, but I am also a no-'poo dropout. I'm back to my old hairwashing routine (admittedly, with just organic conditioner), and I am so much happier. Whew.

I use family cloth, cloth menstrual pads, and cloth diapers — but I have yet to switch over to hankies.

I would love to have two shelves of natural, open-ended, wooden playthings. Instead, we have a riot of plastic nonsense, much of it battery-operated. So it goes.

My housekeeping is dreadful. Although I do mostly use vinegar. When I clean. Which is almost never. Dirt's natural, right?

I love my kids and unschooling and taking them to fun places. I also love writing and being a blogger. This means I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, and my kids see that. I admire people who use the computer only when their kids are asleep or away, but I am not that person.

In related news, I prefer to be indoors most of the time.

I get uneasy with how much TV my son watches, though I have to say two things about that: (1) TV isn't called a babysitter for nothing. Oh, the stuff I can get done while he's glued to the set! and (2) I love TV myself. Love it. If you combine my passions, there's nothing like relaxing on the couch next to Sam with a show on Tivo, a glass plastic cup (reusable, at least!) of diet soda, and a box of Junior Mints. Even better if I can transfer a sleeping Alrik to Sam's lap so I have my hands free to get something bloggy done and, failing that, eat my candy faster!

There are a ton of ways I am natural and crunchy and attachment-minded and whatever, so I won't list them all here to try to redeem myself at this point, but that doesn't mean I do everything by the natural parenting book. And I'm ok with that.

What are your natural parenting confessions? Spill. Spill.

I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that "natural parenting" means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 26 with all the carnival links.)


KPP said...

I needed this. I have a two-year-old that I worked very hard to raise naturally, but with my second child, now two months old (almost), I simply don't have the energy to repeat all the things I did with my first. And I just do not feel guilty about it! I'm too EXHAUSTED to feel guilty. It makes me feel better to know the natural mamas I look up to aren't flawless in their adherence to The Laws of AP.

Anonymous said...

I cannot even express how much I love this post. Ah!

Megan said...

This is great! Our natural parenting has gone downhill when our second was born. I still consider myself to be a natural mama, but yeah...we use paper plates right now and disposables and I simply do not have the energy to get worked up about anything new. I just don't care if now the natural peanut butter I thought was better is still going to kill me. Don't.Care.
There's a lot of things about natural parenting that I miss...but oh well. Not going to happen.

Christy said...

LOVE!! I do almost everything on your list too hahaha. It's so freeing to know that other crunchy mamas, mamas like you whom I admire so much and picture so perfect, do the same things as me.

Unknown said...

haha! I love that we all have so many "confessions" to make! Even Lauren, one of our fearless leaders at NPN! :)

See, "mainstream" parents. . . we natural parents are normal people. . . we just love to parent naturally in the ways that we can! <3

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Oh.My. There is a reason we are friends - I LOVE me some Junior Mints. Ask Tom what I get any time we go to a movie - Junior Mints. Every time. And I have lots of reusable bags, but I keep forgetting to put them in my car. Eventually!

And yes, dirt is natural - you're back in the club ;)

Emily said...

mmm...junior mints....i may have to have some of those with my coke at the theater later :-)

Anonymous said...

Your list is great! We do so many of the same things as you. We try, really, we do, but somethings just don't work out. I did the no 'poo thing too and I hated my hair! I'm trying to figure out how to do better than regular shampoo and conditioner though. I'll be watching for an updated on your no 'pooing.

Unknown said...

You're fabulous! I think it's so great that we all have our own individual priorities about which things are most important to us, and we're letting the other things fall aside in the name of balance. IMHO, there's nothing "natural" about being totally overextended and still feeling guilty and shameful about eating take-out or using a disposable diaper or one-use paper product in the name of sanity or ease.

I also love watching TV, and I can totally relate to not wanting to know about possible food took me a long time to get there for me, but that doesn't mean you ever have to be willing to give up things you like eating (sugar, wheat, soda, etc).

Anonymous said...

Are you my twin sister??? Seriously everything you wrote was/is me!!! Thanks for such a great post!!

Laura said...

Okay, I was totally with you until you said Junior Mints. The combination of chocolate and mint is just nasty! ;) Other than that, RIGHT ON!


Unknown said...

I aspire to be a natural parent in many ways. But I get sabotaged on a daily basis.

Take the diapers. Because my body is the way it is (chronic pain), and it limits my energy, I had to use disposables. There is no diaper service here.

When it comes to food, I buy organic when possible. I do my damnedest to limit sweeteners and other 'not so good' stuff. But my husband is ignorant, so he buys it anyway.

I was never a good housewife, but at least I'm transitioning towards natural cleaners. A good saying I found once says: Good Moms have dirty floors and happy kids.
The house is messy, but never disgusting.

Since I'm trying to do this alone, I'd love advice that helps. And before you tell me to talk to him and tell him how it should be. It doesn't help. It goes in one ear and out the other.

I Thought I Knew Mama said...

This is awesome. You've probably just allowed thousands of mamas to take a sigh of relief ;-)

My son also sees me in front of the computer way too much - so much that we pulled out an old broken laptop for him so he could push buttons like mama ;-)

Unknown said...

I'm gonna go with yes.

I'm personally very cafeteria with my daily life. Some things are important to me. Something things in a similar dogma may not. I roll with that.

And seriously; I love television and I hate weather.

Unknown said...

I'm gonna go with yes.

I'm personally very cafeteria with my daily life. Some things are important to me. Something things in a similar dogma may not. I roll with that.

And seriously; I love television and I hate weather.

Unknown said...

My daughter got an old laptop when she was three :) She rarely uses it, but when she does, it's for educational games, artwork, and watching videos.

Cassie said...

Oh my!!!
Lol just kidding. You are so funny. I love this. People are so caught up in how natural someone is. I think it's like really stressful to do that. It's good to realize no one is perfect and that IT IS OK! Thanks for sharing I really enjoyed reading :$

Cassie said...

Oh and one more thing. It really helps to have a second kid. Then things are such a moot point it doesn't matter. I can't wait to see how relaxed I am after a third kid.

melissa v. said...

Ohhhh, you are SO AWESOME. I laughed especially hard at the sugar/soda confessions, and the plastic bag bit (especially Sam hoarding them) HAHAHAHAHAAAAA, so cool. So hilarious, us humans!

I also like diet soda like nobody's business. I even (gasp!) drank it when pregnant. Mostly because I just wanted something SWEET DAMMIT, and had diabetes.

Great confessional. You rock. This whole carnival rocks! And yesterday was verrrry fun, meeting IRL. =) You have a gorgeous family, and your relationship with Sam is very cool to witness. You caught yourself a keeper, there. ;)

Unknown said...

I wish I could have more, but I can't. I don't have enough energy to do it all for another kid.

Rachel @ Lautaret Bohemiet said...

Loved this. I know people who actually ruined (or allowed to be ruined) relationships with friends and family over food, and it just kills me. People that are so uptight about what their kids eat that it overrides everything else, including relationships? No way. I love your approach. By sewing grace, we reap it.

Naturally, I didn't get a submission in on time, but I wrote a post (sort of for the carnival) here:

Inder-ific said...

I love this. Like all parenting "ideologies," AP or "natural parenting" can seem intimidating or exclusive at times.

Like I'm pretty sure I lost my AP cred because I give Joe time outs once a week (usually when he kicks the dog for the guzillionth time and I'm just on my last nerve! aaaarrggh). The standards are just set so impossibly high. Thanks for the awesome and hilarious reality check.

I have a second one on the way and I can already feel my standards relaxing ... if this one takes a pacifier, I'll just thank my lucky stars. And that is all. :-)

Luschka said...

HA! I'm crunchier than you! *said in a sing song voice* ;)

Actually, the only one on your list that bugs me in my life is the TV. Until I fell pregnant and became sick, Ameli never even saw a kids program. For about four months we got away with just 'pre-approved' DVD's but then she spent a few days at my in-laws and they had kids tv on all day every day :( Since then ... it's sad, sad, sad. I'm hoping once this baby comes, we can withdraw from the tv again - and summer's coming so we can be out more.

Great post Lauren - awesome confessions!

Lilac said...

Love! Especially at the end. I, too, am a poo-free drop-out...I just missed the suds SO much! My son uses a stroller for most walks. I only carry him when it's convenient...those things get heavy! I often feel guilty about how much TV he watches, but I'm in the same boat as you. I would even add that much of his watching is educational. He learned all the letters and their sounds before age two because he was in love with Word World. Our eating habits are abysmal. We frequently eat out. And, although I make an attempt to buy "The Dirty Dozen" and milk in organic...our cheese and meat rarely are and we eat many a frozen pizza, non-whole-grain pasta, white bread, and sweets. Food is a big thing for me because my crunchy friends like to hold pot-lucks and I've never attended because I don't feel like the food I would bring would be acceptable.

I know I'm plenty crunchy and I look for new ways to increase our crunchiness that fit with our life-style (we ditched paper towels), but it's a slow change. Trying to be instantly crunchy-perfect isn't going to happen!

Unknown said...

Dude, my 4yo yelled at me for buying tissues when I caught our first cold of the season. He insisted on using a hankie or towel. So, I laughed when that was one of the few disposable towel products you use, because I did too until a 4yo lectured me "This is garbage, this we can wash!"

Kerry McDonald, M.Ed. said...

Love. This. Post. Seriously. You are such a great writer and a joy to read!

-Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling

Unknown said...

I love you!! Really! I'm about ready to drop my membership in the Holistic Moms Network because it's just too much stress and I'm just not crunchy enough. I should have known at the first meeting when I walked in with my Starbucks and my 'designer' Hooter Hider and pulled out the disposable diaper, albeit Seventh Generation, to change my daughters diaper. When we went around the room and said what we did that was 'holistic' and after me was the woman who stated with pride and a tad arrogance that her family does not consume anything processed and were even trying to mill their own grain I should have just stood up and walked out. Sigh.

I use plastic bags instead of a wet bag. Simply because I can't bring myself to buy a product just to 'up my crunchy cred' when I have perfectly good bags (plastic) already that are just sitting here not doing anything. At least they get used to death and then recycled!

I generally use cloth diapers, but when there is a rash, I switch to disposables to keep her extra dry (I have two large scars from horrid diaper rash myself, so I am extra cautious). I normally cook from scratch using as much organics as possible but I will eat out and grab 'fast food' or something quick at the store to make life extra easy at least once a week. I use natural personal products and natural cleaning products whenever possible, but sometimes I need something a bit stronger and that is all OK.

At that first HMN meeting I mentioned above, the speaker for the night was a Naturopath who stood up and gave me reassurance. She said that a study done in London looked at 3 types of families: 100% mainstream, 100% organic/natural/crunchy, and 1/2 and 1/2. They were studying quality of life/happiness that sort of thing and they found the ones who were most satisfied with life and less stressed were the ones who were 1/2 & 1/2. It made me feel SO much better about my lifestyle.

Terri said...

Just wonderful. You said it perfectly with 'Enough already with the guilt, and the slavish adherence to what someone else says is the only right way to parent.'

As for me I never even tried or considered EC or BLW. No patience for such practices however awesome they may be. The kids are now using one sposie per night as the 3am waking up to pee-soaked sheets from the cloth dipes, having to change all their clothes, waking them up and not being able to get back to sleep for an hour was making me a mental wreck.

I'm a family cloth user but I still use tissue for the nose and paper towels to drain oil from the food we fry!

I too feel awesomely crunchy as I spray vinegar about to clean the place but I completely ignore the dust under the chairs and the huge cobwebs in every corner of the house. I hate housework with a passion and hey the spiders need somewhere to live.

I've also been known to shoo my kids away while I type and check twitter and regularly breastfeed and check my email at the same time.

Us natural parents hey - we're not all we're cracked up to be :-)

Jen said...

I really don't know how anyone (who isn't rich) could have a totally sustainable wardrobe. The idea of where you would even begin to buy everything sends me into a panic. So yah...right there with you on that one. Too bad there aren't more options that are cheaper and readily available.

Unknown said...

Im right about in the same place food-wise as you. Its a learning process and a day to day thing.

Jenni @ Monday Morning Coffee said...

I absolutely LOVE this post!! Thank you!

Olivia said...

I'm not even close to being a "natural" parent even compared to you. We used cloth diapers, but disposables every night for the absorbency (my daughter has never been fussy about a dirty diaper), and whenever we were out of the house more than a couple of hours. She's almost 3 now and has resisted using the potty, so I'm actually buying pull-ups, which I swore I'd never do. But I needed a break from washing diapers before the next kiddo is born and she can at least put them on by herself.

I also did a lot of baby-wearing, but used the stroller for exercise walking because I could go faster.

Olivia said...

I want to add that limiting tv time is difficult for me, too because I love it so much. Since my daughter is in full time daycare I don't worry about it too much now, soon she won't be in daycare anymore and I am going to have to change my ways.

Christine Wang said...

this is so me! i naturally lean towards the crunchy side but there are parts to it we just don't do. we use disposable diapers because they are easy and we are lazy...ugh. many of our meals come out of a box. ugh. my son watches some tv in the mornings. i do like that we do extended bf, co sleep, baby wear, wear hand me down is all a balance and not stressing about the things we do that aren't NP. oh and i only clean with water (except for the toilets) and i love how i never have to worry about my son eating off the tables or floors. i guess disposable diapers are our biggest vice but no guilt, right? onward! :)

mudpiemama said...

Nice - love all your confessions:) I had a paci for #2 and #3 for car rides as they both cried - I mean screamed their heads off otherwise and stopping on the highway was just not an option...and the dad super powers of sleeping - way is that we only discover that with baby #2???

Jen said...

Love it!!! I am guilty for all of the same things. A happy medium I like to say!

Tat said...

Your list includes items I wouldn't have even thought to include!

Like strollers... I still remember the back aches when each of my children was about 1 (and my kids are tiny, I'd hate to feel what mothers with heavier kids are feeling). No mother should have to suffer through it!

Tree said...

Hourah you're normal. What a relief!
I was starting to think you were all 'super natural women' and that I wouldn't fit into your eco blog because I use Pampers nappies for my babies. They just make life easier, and when you have 3 little ones, you need all the help you can get.
Thanks for sharing and making me feel that I've not lost my way because I can't live up to some natural parenting extremists.
Amy @
PS, still not getting what the whole crunchy thing is about?!? xx

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