Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Natural Parenting Village

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners!
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing about how a co-parent has or has not supported us in our dedication to natural parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I am super excited that my blog is participating in February's Carnival of Natural Parenting, courtesy of Acacia, who wrote a terrific guest post! Acacia (and pea in the pod), her husband and son live in the Brookside/Waldo area of Kansas City, MO. She is currently a part time stay-at-home-mom who teaches yoga at the Yoga Patch and paints pregnant belly castings and children's murals through her business, Art, Body & Soul. She believes in natural parenting & living and actively being present to her life. You can learn more about Acacia and her business at www.artbodysoul.com. Rumor has it that she may have her very own blog soon- I'll be sure to let you know when that happens! I am hoping to post my very own update one day soon. --Jamie

From the beginning, I was attracted to Natural (aka “Attachment”) Parenting. It creates an environment of security and empowerment for children while they learn to satisfy their needs on their own. But there are criticisms of natural or attachment parenting: it is demanding; it takes too much work; it imposes unrealistic expectations; and it inflicts anxiety on a whole culture of mothers. Sociologists, psychologists, doctors and writers all share the same criticisms.

Natural parenting is not synonymous with parenting alone. It implies nothing about being a supermom, single or not, that takes the world of parenting on her shoulders. After all, who of us gets what we need from just one person?

Natural parenting finds its roots in some of the oldest cultures around the world, many that follow the well-known philosophy “it takes a village to raise a child.” The origin of the saying is thought to come from tribes in Africa like the Nigerian Igbo. Their proverb “Ora na azu nwa” translates to this statement. The Igbo also name their child “Nwa ora” which means child of the community.

Natural parenting calls for this philosophy here in the US, as well. I boldly believe that it is because we often isolate ourselves and take the world on our shoulders with our other responsibilities in life (e.g. work) that the same expectation is assumed to be extended to parenting. What is natural about that? What could be any less fostering of a secure environment that provides for our needs than a parenting philosophy that asks us to do it alone? What favor would we be doing ourselves to take on parenting alone when we are trying to embody an AP philosophy to pass on to our children?

Within my own family, I have the blessing of being supported by generations of natural parenting, back to my grandmother. In the 1960s, before natural childbirth was again breaking into the walls of hospitals, she was demanding natural childbirth. She had three children, and by the time my mother was 9, my grandmother was divorced and raising them alone. She chose breastfeeding while she stayed home but switched to formula when she had to return to work. She raised her children to be independent and strong. Not necessarily with the same gentleness and nurturing as AP encourages, but she was often natural-minded and knew she wanted something different from the norm.

While my grandmother did the groundbreaking for this natural parenting village of ours, her children, including her step daughter, set a strong foundation for an AP legacy. Growing up in my immediate family of four children, we breastfed until we self-weaned, wore cloth diapers and co-slept. My mom stayed at home with us until my youngest sister was 3 years old, and she guided us with open communication, gentle discipline and lots of nurturing. We grew up very secure, loved and fulfilled not just by my parents, but by each other.

Two of my aunts have birthed babies at home, breastfed, cloth diapered, co-slept, and used natural medicine with their own children. Now for my growing family, they have been wonderful resources. I have called on them for advice on homeopathy and, most recently, home birthing.

The way I was raised has been equally extended to our son as it was to me growing up. He sleeps with them when my husband and I are away; his diapering and feeding is the same as we would have it. Breastfeeding was a given when he was born, and supported until we were ready to move on. My parents have been irreplaceable resources for help and advice in all of our parenting challenges. It has been so comforting to know that their advice will often be just what we need because we share the same parenting philosophy.

When my sisters and brother come over, I witness them parenting Everett just as we were parented. I hear them encourage and praise his independent moves but hold him when he needs to be held. They gently discipline when he needs to be disciplined and model behaviors we want to see him express.

Although not part of my direct family, I include my husband’s parents in our natural parenting village because of how they have contributed to Everett’s parenting. They didn’t employ attachment parenting with my husband, Erik, but have been very supportive and respectful of our parenting decisions. They often extend themselves to include our choices into the way they care for our son when he is with them. They provide him with wholesome meals or snacks that are naturally minded (as much as you can expect from a grandma!), they communicate with us on ways we discipline or talk with him, and they have had many an afternoon of holding him through naps because he is so used to sleeping with us.

My biggest supporter above all has been my husband. Erik attended midwife appointments and natural childbirth classes with me. He massaged, soothed, and protected me in the hospital when our son, Everett, was born. We agreed that Everett should not be circumcised, and he supported my choices for selective vaccinations. He supported full-term breastfeeding and snuggled up to our son as much as I did at nighttime. He wore Everett in slings, used nurturing touches, and rocked and cooed him to sleep. I have never seen a more playful and loving side come out of my typically subdued husband.

Erik has managed our finances and worked hard at his jobs so I could stay at home with Everett and afford local and organic foods. He also strives to create balance between work and home. When I had to work a couple days a week for a school year, he stayed home one of those days. “Dad’s day adventures” continue to be a favorite of Everett’s even though Erik works full time.

Erik continues to stand by my side and model the same gentle discipline methods we have begun since Everett was young. We encourage him to express his desires and needs with his words and respond sensitively. We have patience as he makes changes to his behavior that we have modeled, and empower him with choices where it is appropriate. And with each other, we have communicated throughout our parenting journey to decide on what feels right for us and for our son.

I do have to admit, my situation is unusual. It is rare to find so much support in one family, among so many generations. There are natural parenting families all around that do not have such supportive networks, and those same families can feel very successful in natural parenting. But those families also can be looked at as my family, three generations ago. Starting with my grandmother, one woman who knew she wanted something different for her family, we have grown into a village of families that can be counted on for help and support in natural parenting.



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

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

(This list will be updated Feb. 9 with all the carnival links, and all links should be active by noon EST. Go to Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama for the most recently updated list.)


  1. I am so in agreement with you that natural parenting was never meant to be done in isolation. What a wonderful tribute to your supportive family this is! That last paragraph gave me chills (the good kind!). How encouraging to think that I am starting a trend. I think about this a lot, when I'm not feeling supported — I ask myself how I am supporting others, and then try to be the one who starts the change. (P.S. I'm not perfect at this yet...)

    Thanks so much for writing, Acacia, and thanks so much, Jamie, for hosting!

  2. Acacia - What inspiring role models you have! And I absolutely love the summary of your article - it is comforting to know that I will be someone else's role model for responsive parenting someday.

    Thanks again for hosting Acacia's guest post, Jamie. You couldn't have asked for a better submission :)

  3. It is so fabulous that you have the support of your extended family. I agree, isolating ourselves in the way that we do is NOT natural, and I think it contributes to many problems that we face. How fortunate that you have such a large support network to draw on.

  4. I'm so interested to learn the origin of that phrase. You sound like you have a great village!

  5. Great post! It's a wonderful thing that you have a supportive extended family. I love that there are generations of natural parenting in your family. That's what I'm hoping to create for my family.