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.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- A Thank You to my Husband — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl thanks her husband for keeping her grounded and giving her unwavering support in the face of discouragement from within and without. (@lactatinggirl)
- My Reverse Traditional Husband In the Wild — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries gives us a lesson on how dads in the wild parent their young. Can you guess which male animal actually nurses its young? (@babydust)
- February Carnival of Natural Parenting — TopHat at The Bee in Your Bonnet tells us how the patience of a partner can make a difficult breastfeeding relationship succeed. (@TopHat8855)
- Parenting Together — For Alison at BluebirdMama and her husband, parenting is simply an extension of the way they live. (@childbearing)
- If We Had A MIllion Dollars — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and her husband would both agree to be crunchier parents if they had a million dollars to ease the way. (@bfmom)
- February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Co-Parents — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has written a letter to her husband, thanking him for his incredible support in every aspect of their natural parenting journey. (@CodeNameMama)
- Natural Parenting Fathers — Sarah at Natural Parenting is balancing being all there for her son with being present for her husband. (@considereden)
- Just Wonderful: Love and Partners and Natural Parenting — Zoey at Good Goog let her husband lead her to babywearing and cosleeping. (@zoeyspeak)
- All that stuff I don't get comes so easy to him — The Grumbles is taking this opportunity to say thank you to her husband for his mad parenting skills. (@thegrumbles)
- The Power of Having a Supportive Co-Parent — Chrystal at Happy Mothering and her husband started with vaccinations and moved on from there. (@HappyMothering)
- February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners — Lauren at Hobo Mama makes do with babbling incoherently about how her husband practices natural parenting in such an effortless fashion, with bonus video. (@Hobo_Mama)
- Love and Partners — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her husband's moving account of her birth story, and his testament to the power of a woman. (@myzerowaste)
- labor support... — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children is thankful that her partner has provided her immeasurable labor support through each of their last three unassisted homebirths (and will again for their upcoming fourth!).
- What co-parent? On prams, routines, ideals, sickness, and finding my way alone. — Ruth at Look Left of the Pleiades describes life without a present co-parent: making new choices and taking care of things herself. (@brightravenmum)
- Parenting With Support — How many people can say that their husband talked them into cloth diapering? Darcel at The Mahogany Way can! (@MahoganyWayMama)
- Co-Parenting Support — Summer at Mama2Mama Tips knows the importance of being supported in the face of criticism. (@mama2mamatips)
- Natural Parenting Carnival: Love and Partners — pchanner at A Mom's Fresh Start has been blessed with an incredibly involved partner. Her husband loves to take part in every aspect of parenting! (@pchanner)
- Daddy's Little Girls — Kate Wicker at Momopoly finds her husband right at home in a tangle of girls. (@Momopoly)
- How do I love my parenting partner? Let me count the ways. — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker is thankful that she and her partner co-parent fluidly and gracefully. (@mamamilkers)
- Interview with a Daddy — NavelgazingBajan brings us a highly amusing peek into her husband's perspective.
- Being Supported in Natural Parenting — Sarah at OneStarryNight has witnessed both ends of the parenting spectrum, and is grateful she found a father who is comfortable with natural parenting. (@starrymom)
- Moments in time: a love letter — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick will make you cry with the beautiful way she describes the complete relationship between father and child. (@RaisingBoychick)
- Natural parenting converts — Jen at Recovering Procrastinator brought her reluctant husband around to cloth diapers, bed sharing, and time-ins as a discipline method. (@jenwestpfahl)
- Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel)
- A Natural Parenting Village — Acacia from Art, Body & Soul, in a guest post for Jamie at Suddenly Stay at Home, broadens the term "coparents" to embrace supportive extended family on both sides. (@SuddnlyStyAtHme)
- A Natural Dad — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest doesn't have a husband who merely supports her — she has a husband just as dedicated to natural parenting as she is.
- Love and Support From My (sometimes pantsless) Man — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma describes life with the sometimes bumbling but always lovable Pantsless Man. (@kitchenwitch)
- G-O-T-E-A-M! — Jessica at This Is Worthwhile made sure her future husband agreed with her parenting choices early in their dating. (@tisworthwhile)
- how we come to parenthood — Michelle at womanseekingmother dances with her husband around the subject of cosleeping. (@seekingmother)